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Lessons from Vacation: Focus

Driving_Trail_RidgeWhen vacationing out West, there's one thing virtually everyone can anticipate: driving in the mountains. My experience was no different, and we ventured over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Outside of snow and rain, the biggest challenge to driving was the wind. Driving in a fairly solid SUV, we were able to withstand most of the cool mountain breezes 50+ MPH wind gusts, but there were points in the road where we were unprotected on both sides, leaving us vulnerable to crosswinds. Despite being in a heavy vehicle, we felt like we were being tossed around a bit.

To remedy the situation, I had both hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 with a Vulcan Death Grip that would have made Spock jealous. I kept both eyes on the road at all times and kept child-induced distractions to a minimum as we lurched our way around the rugged terrain up and down the mountain.

Driving_DownhillSometimes we have the same issue on our projects and our accomplishments. We have a goal at the end of the road, but there are crosswinds trying to knock us off course. We label these crosswinds "issues" or "scope creep" but we don't give it the recognition it deserves: something is trying to keep us from reaching our accomplishments. In reality, this trip reminded me there are always techniques for dealing with them:

  1. Stay focused - when your eyes are on the road and you watch where you're going, it makes it easier to see where you're going and not worry as much about the things trying to knock you off track here and now.
  2. Keep a grip (but not too tight) - granted, it took a firm grip to keep the car on the road, and as project managers, we need to keep a firm grip on our accomplishments. That being said, we also need to know when to loosen the grip and let gravity and the car have a little room to run.
  3. Speed up a little - we were generally fine when faced with wind from one direction (i.e., having a mountain cliff on the other side of the road to protect us). There were a few places on the road where we were unprotected on both sides. It was in those places where I sped up a bit rather than slowing down. In the same way, hurrying to get to the next milestone and post an easy victory might be the best strategy when your detractors are coming at you from all directions.
  4. Downhill is not the time to relax - in mountain driving, I've almost found going downhill is more stressful than going uphill as I have to manage the speed using the brakes more than the accelerator. When nearing the finish line of our accomplishments, we have to know when to feather the brakes, when to pull off and give the car a rest, and when to coast. At all times, reading the road will help your decision-making discernment.

We made it up - and down - and enjoyed some beautiful scenery in the process. What are YOU doing to manage the mountain driving of your accomplishments?

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