As I get ready for 2019 and reflect on 2018, I realize that I was very intentional on preparing my family, and my life, for our personal off season. I took deliberate steps to ensure that the time that all three of my kids were home would be uninterrupted and free of distractions to take advantage of the small chunk of time we had together. I made a list of three things that I consciously did that I feel contributed to the success of our families off season. And then I took it a step further and thought about how I could use the same three steps to make sure my professional off season is just as successful.

Schedule It

One of the first things that I did was figure out and schedule what dates all three of our kids would be home. I put this in our calendar in big red marker and highlighted it. This time was blocked off. Nothing else was going in this window of time. When people would ask me to do things like attend schedule birthday parties, or go golfing,  or anything else during that time, I could confidently look at my calendar and give them a hard no. This time was blocked off and reserved for family time, and nothing else was going in this space. I was more than happy to schedule outings and work meetings and other things before or after this specific block of time, but I was unwilling to compromise my time with my family for other things. As a successful businessman, I live by my calendar. I keep my calendar handy on my phone at all times and look at it multiple times a day. It helps keep me organized and focused. Anything that is important and needs to be remembered goes in my calendar. So my personal off season went there as well.

Busy business leaders live by their calendars. Whether it is an app on their phone or good ol’ fashioned pen to paper, a calendar keeps meetings, deadlines, goals, and important information organized. Your professional off season needs to go in your calendar. Right now. Go write it in there. If you don’t, there is a chance that something ‘“more important” could get scheduled in that space and your off season could be pushed back indefinitely. You can tell a lot by a person by looking at their calendar. Things that are important to you going to your calendar. Your off season needs to be there too.

Warn People

Another thing that I did, almost subconsciously, was warn people about my personal off season. I let the people in my inner circles know that this specific time was going to be spent with the four people I love the most in the world. I let them know that if I didn’t respond to their texts right away, or was a little off the grid, that it was nothing personal and they had nothing to worry about. I was just being present with my family. I learned that by warning people ahead of time that I was going to be unavailable for other activities, that I got a lot fewer interruptions. It also helped to quiet that nagging voice in my head that tempted me to reply to work-emails or return non-urgent phone calls during this time.  It even sparked conversations with friends and acquaintances about the benefits of an off season.

I heard from multiple people over the holidays that printed out the free off season planning page, and they were all impressed at how a single resource could help them take the first step towards a successful off season.  I actually heard from someone over the holiday break that they implemented an off season into their life after listening to our off season audio download. They are excited for 2019 and report that it has changed the trajectory of their life. That is a big deal!

One of the biggest distractions from growth and development during your professional off season is your inner circle. You love these people, care about these people want to spend time with these people. These are your golfing buddies, your family, your neighbors. These people may see your professional off season as a “break’” and unintentionally interfere on this important time. Before you start your off season, tell the people around you. Explain to them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it so that they can give you the creative space you need without interruptions. Warn people ahead of time that you may not answer texts as fast as you normally do, that you may be “off the grid” for a short period of time, but that you’re fine. More than fine, actually. You’re devoting your time and energy on things that will get you to the next level.

Practice Saying No

Believe it or not, even though my off season was scheduled in big bold letters in my calendar and I told people about it, I still got invitations for outside activities during this time. However,  over the years I’ve learned that saying yes to something means saying no to something else.  If I were to say yes to these outside invitations, I would be saying no to fishing trips with my kids, late-night chats by the pool, and other precious memories that I wasn’t willing to give up. So I said no. And I said it often. More often than not, people completely understood my reasoning for my personal off season and respected my boundaries. I saw the power of no reflected in my kids as well. There are a hundred of other things that they could be doing during this window of time when they are not in school, but it made my heart happy to see that they felt confident saying no to those things as well. And not because we were bugging them as their parents, but because we’ve instilled in them the importance of family time and creating memories together.

People understand personal off seasons. They get that you want to step away from work and spend time with your family. However, sometimes they don’t understand a professional off season. They don’t get why you would step away from work, to work on work.  People who don’t intentionally schedule off seasons into their lives typically see any time away from work as a vacation. Help them to understand the benefits of a powerful offseason, but continue to say no. The time you have to focus on your business, to analyze and plan and brainstorm and create and focus on your vision is very limited, and saying no to outside interruptions will help you maximize this time.

My personal off season with my wife and kids meant the world to me we are sad to see them go. But I feel refreshed and ready to get back to work after this priceless family time. As I sit at my computer to jot down my thoughts, I am excited to get back to work. I’m excited to work on the one thing that I am so passionate about: motivating and inspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs to get to the next level.

I sincerely hope that your holiday season and personal off season has left you feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to take on 2019. One of my favorite Bible verses talks about how there is a time for everything; a season for building and a season for tearing down. Your season for building up great things and breaking down bad habits is now. I’ve also put together a few off season resources to help you plan a professional off season that will make you feel the same way.

Cheers to more family time, productive off season, and growth and development in 2019 like we’ve never seen before!