What I did and Learned on my summer stay-cation

Posted 09.14.2015

In case you haven’t noticed, summer is more or less over. As we look back fondly on the somewhat lazier days just ended, it’s a good time to ask, “What did I learn this summer?”

One of my big lessons learned is that stay-cations can be fun, mind-expanding and energizing. That’s what Diane and I decided to do the last week of August. The calendar was completely clear which gave us time to catch up on some projects that required extended blocks of uninterrupted think time. Around mid-afternoon each day, we set out for a new neighborhood, walked around looking at stuff and wrapped up with dinner at a restaurant we hadn’t been to before.

It was the perfect balance of think time and fun time. One project that totally hit the sweet spot for me between think time and fun time was putting together a short highlight reel of a big keynote speech I gave on Overworked and Overwhelmed back in March. This was one of those projects that’s kind of been hanging around in the corners of my mind for the past four or five months saying, “You really need to do something about me. I’m still here.” (You have those kinds of nagging projects, right? I seriously hope I’m not the only one with little voices in his head!)

So, on one of our stay-cation mornings, I set my MacBook up under an umbrella on the patio and started reviewing the hour-long recording of the keynote. As I watched, I wrote down time cues for segments that could be candidates for a three minute reel. About four hours later, I had a list of 15 minutes worth of segments. Way too much. After lunch, I edited the list from 15 minutes to about six. Then I thought through what the order should be for those segments. My iMovie knowledge was below basic at that point but I figured out how to dump those six minutes into a working file and got a very rough cut of a reel. Then it was time for fun with Diane and dinner out.

When we got back from dinner, I showed her the reel and she was very kind in the way she told me to cut it in half. I went back and cut it down to just over three minutes in another hour or so of editing. And, here comes a good example of why you don’t want to a lot of heavy duty think work a few hours before bed. I woke up around 3:30 am thinking about how I could improve the video and could not get back to sleep. I decided to just get out of bed and finish it. The only problem was I didn’t know how to do title cards, add music, and make clean transitions in iMovie. YouTube to the rescue! I watched a great tutorial and got to work.

To make a long story short, here’s my new highlight reel:

In addition to the basics of video editing, what did I learn on my summer stay-cation? A bunch of reminders and ah-ha’s about the value of uninterrupted time to think without the deadline pressures of getting ready for a particular meeting. They include:

1. It’s fun to learn new skills and create something that you’re interested in.
2. You can be more creative when you have open blocks of uninterrupted time.
3. Your brain works much more efficiently when you’re totally absorbed in a project.

So, this year’s summer vacation or stay-cation season is over, but my video project experience has left me hungry for more time to go deep on some other projects. It’s a little harder to find that time during the normal busy flow of business but I’m also reminded of the power of choosing to leave time open for things that are important to you – renewal, time with friends or loved ones or going deep on projects that are important to you but not necessarily urgent.

It leaves me with the question, “What would it take to create mini stay-cations throughout the year?”