7 Habits of Highly Effective Vacationing

Beach House

Rick Coplin Beach Family VacationSummer vacation time is here! Are you ready to leave work behind to enjoy time away with your family and friends? Vacations are key to my productivity; I return to work recharged and ready to go. Working while on vacation is an easy trap and sometimes expected, but is that why you take time off?

Make family
time the highest

I've implemented my 7 Habits of Highly Effective Vacationing to ensure work does not overtake vacation. The Habits involve my approach to work before, during and after vacations. I am invigorated by the freedom the 7 Habits provides and enjoy our family time together to the fullest.

Please Email Me a PDF of “7 Habits of Highly Effective Vacationing”

Family Beach AlligatorHabit #1: Put Family First. Make family time your highest priority. My family won’t care about work that draws me away. They will remember the conversations, meals together, side trips, hugs and high fives we share. The result is I am present; our teenagers look forward to our family vacations and plan to enjoy the same with their future families.

Habit #2: Get More Sleep. Beginning several weeks before vacation, I work at getting extra sleep. My goal before vacations is to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. The result is that I’m rested and able to fully enjoy vacation.

Daniel Coplin FrisbeeHabit #3: Avoid Deadlines. Pick a time that is not close to company year ends, budget cycles etc. Avoid scheduling deadlines on either side of a vacation. The result is little hangs over my head while vacationing; I am not compelled to “check in” and my coworkers don't expect me to be available.

Habit #4: Schedule Wisely. Minimize the number of pre-vacation week meetings to ensure adequate time to work and leave behind no loose ends. There is no unfinished business I feel obligated to finish. The result is a less stressful pre-vacation week and preparation time for returning.

It’s not too late
to implement
a habit or two
this summer

Habit #5: Resist Voicemail. Do not check your voicemail unless a high priority contact calls (boss, key coworkers and key partners only). My voicemail message indicates I return calls following time off. If a message is urgent, I take care of the interruption quickly, being careful not to interrupt or delay family activities. The result is I don’t get “new work” during vacations with artificial deadlines.

Habit #6: Skim Emails. Skim email late at night or early mornings to weed out messages not requiring attention. Anything needing a response is simply marked unread. The result is that messages are easily managed upon returning. Plus, I’ve mentally prioritized those requiring “immediate attention”; I get back to Inbox Zero in short order.

Rick Coplin Beach House  Birthday PartyHabit #7: Plan for Recovery. Schedule few meetings the first week back from vacation. I block out my calendar to talk with colleagues, return voice mails, handle emails, and prepare for meetings. The result is I am not juggling commitments, working into the evenings or feeling overwhelmed post-vacation. This simple habit has reduced the stress of returning from vacation immensely.


Bonus Habit: We have someone stay in our home, whether for 1 or 14 nights every time we leave town. With our social media active family, our absence is clear. Having someone we trust taking care of our home and pets puts our minds at ease. Their family enjoys our home and pool; picks up our mail and ensures the generator is running in case of any power outages. The result is peace of mind.

Some of the 7 Habits may be obvious or seem difficult to attempt. Choose just one or two habits, experiment and enjoy the payoff. Implement another habit before your next vacation and so on. It’s not too late to start implementing the 7 Habits for this year.

Rick Coplin Family Beach HouseIt took a couple of years to adopt all 7 Habits of Highly Effective Vacationing and the hard work it takes is worth the effort. I'm more productive both before and after vacations and I'm a better husband and father during vacations. My anticipation of vacations is better now than ever; our family priorities and traditions are a model for our kids, creating lasting memories for our family.


Please Email Me a PDF of “7 Habits of Highly Effective Vacationing”

I’m interested in other habits and strategies you use to maintain balance while vacationing. A positive habit can make a big difference in the balance we experience integrating work and family. Please share what works for you!

Rick Coplin





This post was adapted for summer vacationing from a December Holidays post: Holidays and Work: Maintaining Balance.

EntreLeadership Leads to Awesome

EntreLeadership 1 Day Conference

Are you a leader people willingly follow? Does your company embody a team-oriented culture working toward a common vision? Are you mentoring others, empowering them to drive growth and innovation? Do you lead your team based on clearly defined and communicated principles?

If you're thinking “that's what I want in my company” and you see room for improvement, then EntreLeadership is for you. I experienced Entreleadership 1-Day in Cincinnati last week and returned home energized and full of new ideas.

Defining EntreLeadership

EntreLeader QualitiesEntreleadership embodies the combined character qualities evident in a Leader and in an Entrepreneur. Look over this list; you likely see characteristics you identify with and some you aspire to improve. Although not definitive, this list is a solid foundation of key EntreLeader characteristics.


“The road to

Leaders inspire those around them and Entrepreneurs create and build ventures while assuming & managing risks. The combined characteristics of a Leader and an Entrepreneur produce an individual capable of leading an organization to growth and prosperity. In an organization led by an EntreLeader, people (employees, customers, vendors, competitors and all their families) matter and are treated as valuable partners. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31) is the guiding principle.

Creating an EntreLeadership Centric Business

In addition to people being the substance of success, several other principles are the foundation of an EntreLeader's organization. Dave Ramsey taught an excellent session on creating and growing a business on proven principles of success. These include:

  • Teamwork – intentional unity is key to success.
  • Culture of excellence – weak spots can limit the entire organization.
  • Intentional hiring and firing – hire slow and purposefully; fire fast with dignity and with clearly communicated reasons.
  • FInancial principles predict success – debt dramatically increases risk and magnifies mistakes. Lack of attention to cash flow and proper accounting procedures are deadly to a business.
  • Knowing your “Why” is key – “Why” matters more than “what” or “how”; it is the core of team motivation. “Why” reflects EntreLeaders as persons.

Building an Awesome Business

Jon Acuff, author of several books, most recently Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters led a session on the 5 seasons every business leader can experience. These seasons will likely occur multiple times as we move through various careers and passions. Jon's five stages are:

  1. Learning – Start is every day; dream, discover, explore & experiment.
  2. Editing – Make decisions on what is important, what to drop, what to pursue. This is a time when your “Why” gains clarity with intentional editing and you decide what really matters to you and who you are.
  3. Mastering – Focusing on the edited set of priorities, gaining knowledge, experience and credibility. You become the best at what you do.
  4. Harvesting – The decisions made in the earlier seasons begin to bear fruit. Intentionally doing what matters will produce the best fruit.
  5. Guiding – Mentoring and encouraging others as they move through their own seasons.

Rick Coplin and Jon AcuffAlthough these five seasons are traditionally linked to being your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s respectively, the reality is we can enter any of the stages regardless of our actual age. For instance, I'm Harvesting and Guiding in a couple of areas, and I'm Learning & Editing in several more areas, laying the foundation for Mastering, Harvesting and Guiding in my near and not-so-near future.

I enjoyed the opportunity to meet Jon at the conference and offer a high-five for the overall excellence of Start. Jon graciously signed my copies of Start and Quitter and these will proudly be added to my library of signed books.

Leading an Awesome Team

Chris Hogan led a session on understanding the personality style of yourself and the styles of your team using the DISC profile. DISC uses a quadrant to place you in a continuum of four distinct personality types.

  • Decisive: These individuals are drivers who are more task oriented and focus on problems to solve now. Typically they ignore details and are direct, forcefully overcoming opposition to win.
  • Interactive: These team members are sociable, fun and outgoing. They prefer to influence their environments through persuasion.
  • Stabilizing: Typically calm and cooperative, these team members are stable and loyal, usually avoid conflict and work within a current reality to complete assignments.
  • Cautious: Detailed, analytical and factual, these team members relish details and collect information. They can seem rigid and rely on procedures to move through life. They are usually private and focus on quality and accuracy rather than timeliness and task completion.


“One of the
best things
is being
by like-minded

They key value of an EntreLeader's use of DISC is that it becomes clear that each personality type is necessary in a venture. Understanding your tendencies helps clarify potential tension points and magnify opportunities for working together. Understanding how team members deal with the world and with each other reduces tensions and increases trust throughout the organization. This will be particularly true when a team aligns around common goals. Think of DISC as a communication and team effectiveness enhancing tool in your organization.

I fall somewhere between the I and D and plan to take the assessment to gain a better understanding of myself. I have often invested time in understanding myself and my teams through the lens of the Myers-Briggs profile (I'm an INTP) and am looking forward to utilizing DISC to better understand and value those around me.

Stepping Up to Awesome

If you want to take your business to the next level, then EntreLeadership 1-Day Conferences are a great place to start. One of the best things about attending is being surrounded by and meeting like-minded entrepreneurs. We're all in various seasons and have widely varied passions; what we have in common is a strong desire for improvement and intentionality for a better future.

Prior to attending, invest time reading or listening to EntreLeadership. Dave Ramsey's book will help to frame the experience and prepare you as a leader to absorb the teaching and take it back to your business. Upcoming 1-Day conferences are:

  • Orlando, Florida, September 17, 2013 Register
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado, October 9, 2013 Register
  • Los Angeles, California, October 16, 2013 Register
  • Birmingham, Alabama, November 13, 2013 Register

EntreLeader 1-DayThe Dave Ramsey team offers multiple options for EntreLeaders. You will gain actionable insight to take your company from where it is today to where it can be with intentional leadership. Invest a few moments investigating other conference options.

If you have attended an EntreLeadership 1-Day, I'd love to learn about what you learned and how you implemented new insights in your business.

Rick Coplin





Are You a Networker or NetStalker?

“A reliable mark of a NetStalker is that multiple event encounters produce identical results, and you soon want to avoid them.”

In my position with TechColumbus, I get to network with Central Ohio's community leaders, innovative entrepreneurs and business leaders frequently.  In the past year, I’ve attended over 80 events – breakfast meetings, luncheons, evening mixers – you name it and I was likely speaking, hosting or simply there to learn & network.  These events led to numerous additional conversations and meetings. Not bad for a serious introvert.  I love this part of my job (they pay me to work here? Cool!), as I am either meeting new people or catching up with good friends regularly.  The business purpose my networking serves is integral to keeping pace with innovators in Central Ohio and helps me to identify entrepreneurs and business concepts that might benefit from TechColumbus’ technology focus and phenomenal team.  I meet all kinds of people, and what I’ve observed is there are three basic types of networkers.

The first is the natural networkers – you know the type, easily navigating a room full of individuals, outgoing and conversant in nearly any subject. They attend events for a variety of reasons, and enjoy being there. If they own their own business or work like they do, they'll leave with a handful of cards, having met several new people. Naturals learn quickly during short conversations and then use that knowledge to benefit themselves and those with whom they have networked. They'll follow up seeking to cultivate the connection and/or to introduce their new contacts to people they should know; both actions nurture a new relationship.  I make a point of hanging with Naturals because I learn from them through observation and because of their innate connection skills.

The second group of people are the reluctant networkers, not quite so outgoing and somewhat less conversant than their natural counterparts. They attend events more out of obligation than enjoyment. If a Reluctant practices basic networking principles, they’ll follow up with new connections just as the Naturals do.  The Reluctants typically build fewer relationships at a slower pace than their natural counterparts. That said, their discussions can be as engaging as the Naturals’, and in fact the exchanges tend to “go deeper” on a first pass.  Why? Because Relunctants are not Naturals; they tend to self select into more one-on-one conversations and move through a group less rapidly rather than excelling at introductions and starting conversations.  The networking value of Reluctant's connections is about the same as a Natural's.  I also make a point of hanging with Reluctants, making connections along the way with them.

I believe Naturals and Reluctants make up at least 98% of people at networking events, and together they make the networking world go 'round.  The third group is a bit different…

“Study the good networkers; hang with them for multiple conversations. Watch how they engage others”

The third type of person we encounter is the “NetStalker”.  I’m sure you know this type well, even though they are small in number.  NetStalkers map out who they want to talk to and memorize a few surface details as conversation starters.  They purposefully work a room, systematically checking off their to-do list at our expense.  They’ll bounce between conversations talking about their interests and sometimes trying to convince us to buy or try their thing. When our eyes glaze over and we show a lack of enthusiasm to engage at this level, NetStalkers do one of two things. They either press in, continuing the “must convince” approach or they'll quickly gravitate to another person and conversation, repeating their process. The particularly persistent do both. NetStalkers know their dialogs may be short, so they exchange cards when greeting you. I usually put their cards in a back pocket, keeping them but generally not reaching out. NetStalkers will follow up quickly, adding you to their mailing lists, and sometimes hunting you down on multiple networking sites – all with the goal of turning you into a customer or worse, leveraging your contacts.  A reliable mark of a NetStalker is that multiple event encounters produce identical results, and you soon want to avoid them.

What's missing from the NetStalkers efforts? Simple – a real relationship. That’s why I “back pocket” their cards.   Frankly, who wants to put effort into a one sided relationship? When I'm networking, my goal is to first identify connection points and then build a real relationship.  It takes time and effort to do this, on both parties' parts.  There are hundreds of connection points – kids, careers, sports, hobbies, food, current events etc. and all play a role in building and maintaining relationships.  I've had the great pleasure of meeting about 1,000 people in the past couple of years and have established some solid relationships, renewed old ones and gained quite a few friends.  I have yet to establish a real relationship with a NetStalker beyond the status of acquaintance.  This is a shame, because the NetStalkers have just as much to offer from a relationship perspective, but their social tactics limit their potential and diminish the value of our networked community as a whole.

So, which are you? Odds are, you either a Natural or a Reluctant and you’re in great shape.  If you’re a NetStalker, you can improve your networking skills and reap great benefits personally and professionally.  No matter which category you are in, basic networking principles apply and establishing real relationships is key to success.

Here's my 5 simple recommendations for being an effective networker:

  1. Study the good networkers, whether a Natural or Reluctant; hang with them for multiple conversations. Watch how they engage others.  Observe their body language and facial expressions. Watch how they start conversations, how they welcome additional people into a conversation circle, and how they move from person to person or from group to group without seeming disinterested or disingenuous.  Learn how they handle NetStalkers as well – gracefully and with respect is the rule.
  2. Engage in conversations to learn and to build relationships.  Assume you are the novice in the room.  Invest your time listening, asking questions and committing details of your conversation to memory.
  3. Listen more than you speak. Far more.
  4. Think proactively.  Who do you know that would be a great introduction to your new connection?  Make an introduction at the event or as a follow-up.  Expect nothing in return; you’re simply practicing good networking.
  5. Buy lunch.  Invite a new connection to join you and continue the conversation when you follow up after the event.  Use this time to make personal connections, strengthening your relationship through personal as well as professional connection points.

The blog at Incept, based in Canton, Ohio has some great pointers in “Top 10 Ways to be Conversational” that addresses telemarketers and how to have a conversation rather than coming across as a robot.  Most of the principles Stephanie lists are applicable to in-person conversations as well.

A great site for networking insight is Smart Networking by Liz Lynch.  Liz has written  Smart Networking: Attract a Following in Person and Online (I haven't yet read it) and is the founder of The Center for Networking Excellence.  Be sure to check out Liz's Smart Networking Resources page and take the quiz, then read The Smart Networking Blog. I first became aware of Liz Lynch via friend Lewis Howes, who has co-written the excellent Linked Working: Generating Success on LinkedIn the World's Largest Professional Networking Site.  I've read my autographed copy a couple of times, use it as a reference and highly recommend Linked Working.  I have great respect for Lewis as a person and an entrepreneur who has overcome adversity and created his own career path centered on networking.  Lewis also is partners with ProBlogger author Chris Garrett on Shy Networking – Connect with Confidence.  You can draw on Liz and Lewis' networking expertise to hone you own.

“Listen more than you speak”

Chime in! What networking recommendations do you have?  How do you handle NetStalkers without offending?  What good ideas on networking do you have?

How’s your Balance? Is it possible to have both a business AND a life?

>How's your life balance?  If you are like me, you have a somewhat clear picture of how things are, and a somewhat clear idea of how you want things to be.  I'll bet you feel, as I often do, a tinge of guilt from both sides of the fulcrum – your inner voice says you are short-changing you employer or business, and by default, your career by not being “all in, all the time”.  You are feeling guilty for arriving late or missing important events with your family, or just as bad, by being physically present and mentally absent thanks to your Blackberry.  “What's everyone cheering about…Oh, wait, did he make that basket?!?”  I say “somewhat clear”, because on either side of the scales, our emotions cloud reality and lead us to believe a personal narrative that may be less than accurate.

Work-Life balance is a battle we are in the midst of constantly.  The nature of your career and the size of your family have no bearing – there is constant tension.  Work demands productivity, excellence and continuous vigilance for personal and organizational competition.  The demands of our personal lives are similar, but we wrap them in different words – quality time, down time, vacations, etc.  For most of us, there is little margin around either.  The majority of our energy is spent fretting about our equilibrium – pushing back when career interests become demanding or pushing back when family needs are high – rather than actually rebalancing.  It is in rebalancing that the battle loosens its grip on us.

I had a conversation with a good friend a couple of weeks ago.  She was worried about balancing the demands of her rapidly growing business and the needs of her family.  She’s pushing hard into her career and it is paying off.  At the same time, the guilt we all feel is tugging at her – she wants her daughters to be more independent and simultaneously worries they don’t need her as much as they used to.  The busyness that is normal life is leaving little margin for error or unexpected business and family demands.  As we talked, I suggested that maybe her business is in a “not yet” timeframe.  Her kids, like mine, will be off to college in the blink of an eye.  What if she continues to work hard and grow the business, just not as fast?  Essentially, it is putting some margin around her business and family that protect the interests of both.  Rebalancing is the key here – making a few changes based on carefully considered priorities.

I rebalanced slightly last year.  My career involves a lot of early morning and evening events – over 80 last year, plus a regular work schedule.  I missed a few of my kids’ games and school events.  Sometimes I was there physically, but not mentally.  As I watched my sons play soccer early last fall, I realized my oldest would be at college in 4 years.  I considered how quickly his first 14 years had passed, and as I watched my son push a play downfield, I determined I would not miss these years.  At one soccer match in particular, I had chosen to miss an “important” evening event.  It was an average game – and as usual, I loved it.  Instead of riding home with a friend, my son rode with me and during that 45 minute trip we had a pivotal conversation that has strengthened our already strong bond.  I realized I could have easily missed the opportunity without ever knowing.  So, I rebalanced, weighing the importance of career, activities, kids and commitments.  The changes have been slight, but meaningful.  The changes are also ongoing – testing what works, how to best accomplish slight changes etc.

The key to rebalancing is to assess what is important, carefully consider how slight changes can be made, making those changes one at a time, and assessing the impact on both sides of the fulcrum.  Rebalancing is paying dividends – the balance battle has lessened; it is still there, but by setting priorities in advance, the decisions I make around time commitments are based on priorities and fretting about time commitments and lack of margin is diminished.

Fellow Denison University grad Dr. Richard Swenson has written an excellent book about the need for maintaining margins in our lives, appropriately called Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.  I highly recommend it.

Another great resource brought to my attention by a good friend is Andy Stanley's “Choosing to Cheat – Who Wins When Family and Work Collide“.  It hits the nail on the head. You can't possibly do it all. In nearly any given moment, something must be “cheated” … someone will feel like you're giving less than you could. And the question he answers is how to make that choice effectively and without remorse.

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, you are fully immersed in the work-life balance battle.  I recommend you check out the International Bootstrapping Association.  The April meetings are about work-life balance: Thursday morning, April 8th at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center and Wednesday evening, April 14th at TechColumbus. We all struggle with the need for margin and balance; it never quite goes away.  So join fellow entrepreneurs and business owners to learn how your peers are working for and maintaining a healthy work-life balance – registering is easy.

I am interested in what you think about the challenges of balancing career and family and how you maintain balance.  What are doing about it?  What's your biggest struggle?  Have a recent victory?  We're not alone in facing the challenge, so please let me know what you are thinking and doing, and what kind of results you are seeing.