Last month I took a road trip. I’m so grateful to be getting back to a more normal summer! And a road trip is one of the most iconic summertime activities. My parents and my 17-year-old daughter and I went from Minnesota through South Dakota, Wyoming’s Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, and Idaho, and then spent 8 days in Oregon before driving home through Utah. Besides having a lot of fun and feeling the stress drain off me, I was reminded of several important lessons, including the value of Preparation, Patience, and Presence.

I call these the 3 Ps for a Successful Day or Trip. They apply not only to road trips but also to everyday life and work!

Preparation.

Not surprisingly, preparation comes first. This includes all the planning you typically do for a trip: figuring out where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, arranging lodging, choosing the clothes you’ll pack, which excursions sound promising, etc. This can be as fun as the trip itself! Anticipation gives a powerful, positive boost and can also be good for your health!

Well-conceived preparation builds a strong foundation that makes room for spontaneity. Some people prefer getting a hotel room the day it’s needed, but for this trip I felt better knowing we had a guaranteed pillow to rest our heads on. That took the edge off any anxiety and even freed up time. We could then alter our plans for the day, knowing exactly where we had to be at the end of it.

At work or in life, preparation means understanding what needs to get done. And being prepared offers many benefits, including improved strategic thinking, flexibility, resilience, increased productivity, and decreased stress.  

Taking the time at the end of your day to consciously prepare for the next day is a great way to ensure you tackle the most important things on your list. Obviously, things can change and you may have to adjust your priorities, but that’s where the second P comes in: Patience.

Patience.

The only thing you can know for sure is nothing goes completely as planned! Therefore, it’s important to be patient with yourself and others as you encounter hiccups. A multi-generation family trip—as well as a work team—means different experience levels, outlooks, expectations, and even internal clocks.

Research suggests there are many advantages to practicing patience, including becoming more cooperative, more empathetic, more equitable, and more forgiving.

Patience is not something we automatically have; it’s a characteristic we consciously practice and develop. This trait can often be overlooked, or is lacking, in many leaders. However, it’s one of the most valuable qualities a leader can have in today’s world of instant gratification.

Presence.

The third P is Presence. Did you know we are not fully present nearly 50% of the time? Instead of being present, we often contemplate the past or worry about the future. Not only can this lead to increased anxiety, but you are missing out on what’s happening right here, right now!

I could easily have been thinking about work or worrying if we started early enough to beat traffic to the national parks or pondering which route to take home. But if I had, I would have squandered precious time with my daughter and parents. And I would have missed the varied scenery, from mountain passes to the Columbia River to the wide-open prairies to pristine lakes and the Oregon coast.

There are many advantages to focusing on being in the moment. If you fully engage in whatever you’re doing, you’ll not only be more present, you’ll also be happier, more relaxed, and more appreciative.

Time is a precious, non-renewable commodity. It’s essential to your well-being to appreciate what’s in front of you right now. Vacations are certainly more enjoyable that way but, frankly, so is work. And it makes you more productive to boot.

With a little Preparation, Patience, and Presence, your next day—or road trip—can be awesome!

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