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​Driving & Thinking

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​I've made several road trips over the last few weeks. Three of these trips were at least 3-½ hours each way. Further, a few of these road trips I made on my own. So often I am beholden to my cell phone and all of the apps that I have on my phone that I don't take the time to disconnect. However, in the interest of safety, I try to refrain from texting while driving.

Needless to say, all this time in the car, particularly the trips I took alone, gave me a lot of time to think. With this in mind, I can confidently say there is much to be gained by internal auditors from disconnecting and spending time strategizing.

I've blogged in the past about the importance of unplugging from the perspective of taking a break from work to refresh and refocus. What I learned from my recent road trips, however, is that there is value to unplugging even when a vacation or staycation isn't in the cards. Specifically, my road trips enabled me to think through several important items, each of which is described in further detail. For example, I considered some important conversations that I needed to have with my team members.

The time in the car also gave me an opportunity to think strategically about how to approach certain issues and opportunities within my internal audits. Furthermore, I also thought about things I wanted to accomplish over the coming weeks and months.

My company is quickly approaching our mid-year evaluation cycle, where team members meet with their managers and discuss areas in which team members are performing well, along with opportunities for growth. I put a lot of time into preparing for these conversations because they are a critical component of the growth and development of the internal auditors on my team.

Although these conversations are important, just as important is the time that goes into preparing for them. Sometimes, in the mix of the busyness and meetings, it is difficult for me to carve out time during the day to prepare for the conversations the way that I'd like to prepare. Thinking about these conversations and development opportunities for my team during my road trip put me ahead in preparing for the evaluations.

Further, I used this time to think about several of my current internal audit jobs, including the issues encountered to date and how to best approach them. Specifically, I focused on thinking through some of the follow-up questions that we needed to ask to ensure we considered the issues comprehensively. I also used the time to connect with some of my colleagues about these issues (using the Bluetooth feature on my phone, for safety) so that we could brainstorm various ways to address and develop a game plan. These colleagues also were instrumental in capturing our conversation and action items.

Lastly, I thought about some of the short- and medium-term items I wanted to accomplish. It is easy to get caught up in the issues of the day and lose track of the big picture. However, to ensure I'm on track to achieve my responsibilities and goals, it is important to think through not only the check-the-box items, but also those more strategic items that I am accountable for achieving and the things I can do to position myself to accomplish my career goals.

When discussing my road trips with friends and colleagues, several expressed pity for me. It would have been easy to view the time in the car as wasted time or use the time to listen to talk radio or chart-topping songs.

However, by embracing the time away from my phone and email as a time to get ahead, I came back from these road trips refreshed and ready to dive right in to the tasks in front of me. Furthermore, I was able to come up with a cheap and easy way to create an obstacle course for my five-year-old to keep him entertained during his summer break from school.

How do you spend your time during road trips? If you have any best practices for maximizing your time in the vehicle, I'd love to hear about them.

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