A Postcard A Day

I’ve described this magic approach to staying connected with family when you are far away three times in the past few days. The first time was to a set of entrepreneurs in TechStars New York who were from Vancouver and have spouses and significant others back home. The second time was to an entrepreneur at the NewMe Accelerator who has a spouse and kids in Atlanta. The third was last night to a team of entrepreneurs we are in the midst of closing a financing with. Since it came up three times in rapid succession, I decided it was time for a blog post describing it.

If you find yourself in this situation, where you are deeply engaged in something for an extended period of time (say – an accelerator) and your significant other – and kids if you have them – are somewhere far away, I expect you’ll do the equivalent of a Skype call each day. There will be periodic emails, texts, and phone calls as well. While these are all good, in many cases they increase the loneliness factor. You are deeply immersed in what is going on and no matter how hard you try to be present, will often be distracted during your Skype time. And you’ll get off the phone, or video, feeling more homesick then when you got on. No matter how homesick you feel, the people on the other end, who are immersed in their life, but often not having the same kind of deeply intense experience you are having, will be missing you more.

Go to the drug store – Wallgreens, CVS, or whatever the nearby equivalent is. Buy a large package of 3 x 5 index cards and some Avery labels that you can print out. Swing by the post office and pick up some stamps for post cards. Go back to the office and print out the mailing address for your sweetie and kids at home on the labels. Put the labels and stamps on each of the index cards. When you go home at night, put the stack next to your bed with a pen.

Each night, before you go to sleep, take five minutes and write a short note on an index card. Write about one special thing that happened to you that day. Draw a doodle or a picture. Tell your family that you love them. During this five minutes, think about one thing that is special about them, why you love them, and why they are important to you. Now, go to sleep. In the morning, read the card when you wake up. On your way back to the office drop the card in the mail.

After a few days a steady stream of cards will start showing up at your house far away. If you have kids, they’ll run to the mailbox to see if something new came today. Rather than a single Skype at the end of the day, there will now be something special that shows up in the middle of the day. And – it’ll be from the past – talking abut something that happened a few days ago. The connection will be through both space and time, using a media (postcard) that current generations rarely use any more.

It’s magic. I did this in college with my parents who I missed a great deal. Several years ago my mom sent all of the postcards from my freshman year to me. It blew me away that she’d kept them and I relived a bunch of past moments sitting down and reading through them with Amy. Some are awesome, some are silly, and some are totally crazy, but they were all a part of me and what I was thinking at the time.

If you like this idea, don’t wait. Go do it right now. And tell me how you like it. Or feel free to drop a post card in the mail to me every now and then.

  • Wonderful idea.
    Since last year, I’ve been working on writing more handwritten letters.
    I wanted to do one every week. Not been super successful so far. The results have been one every month! Hope to get better..

    Postcards are easier.. great idea! Will do. ūüôā Thanks Brad

  • I’ve done a call (lately a skype) at the same time each day for years. ¬†My variant of the ‘postcard’ was a ‘prize’ – something I’d get for the boys in the city where I’d been that week. ¬†Sometimes it was nothing more than a trinket from the airport (a quick day trip) or a stuffed animal from a shop near the hotel.

    The stuffed toys became a bit of a tradition – both boys, now 14 + almost 16 – have special ones that they keep on their beds or prominent places on their bookshelves.

    It’s all about keeping the connections when we travel.

  • Brad – have you ever checked out the Postcard app.¬† You can take your own pictures, add a message and then they will turn around print and send for you.¬† Great for places where you cannot easily access a post office.

  • Awesome idea. ¬†Postcards are pretty cheap though if you buy a pack of them. ¬†The index card business seems like a lot of work.

    I’d also stay away from the use of technology, like apps. ¬†People get enough screen-time through out the day. ¬†It would seem less special if your daily communicae where emailed or app-notified to someone.

  • Tom Labus

    That your Mom held on to them is so great!

  • Phenomenal idea. A few years ago I spent six months in NYC away from my wife and 4 kids. I sent lots of postcards…but I wish I had read this post before then. Love it.

  • Simple. Simply wonderful. Boarding school, years ago, did the same.¬†

  • narikannan

    What a terrific idea!

  • Wow, that is a great idea Brad. ¬†The idea is creative and gives both parties a feeling of spontaneity. ¬†I think if you truly care about someone, the little things really stand out and help to create a deeper and more fulfilling relationship.

  • While we live under the same roof, sometimes with both of our work, friends, family and an 11 month old it can feel like my wife and I are in distant lands. Instead of postcards, we got a waterproof notepad from http://www.myaquanotes.com and leave notes for each other every day. We have been doing this for about 3 months and I think it is something we will stick with forever. Your post explains why.

  • When I was in Iraq (the first time) in 2003 Internet and Phones were non existent. I would write my wife (at that point of 3 months) on anything I could find. When you physically write sometimes it causes you to slow down and really think about what you are saying and how you are saying it.

  • Jennifer Lawton

    I’ve done a twist on this when I travel – I keep a stack of fun cards at my house and before I go away on a long-ish trip or am just going to be away, I write a card and decorate it for each day I’m away. I number them so that each day there’s a little present for the people I’ve left behind.¬†

    When my kids were little and I traveled all of the time, I would leave a copy of a book with them and take another with me and we would read together at night. For the kids I often left little trinkets instead of cards but something that they could look forward to opening each day. 

    We all know Where the Wild Things are by heart because that was the “on the road” book.

    Love the postcard idea – am going to add that to the repertoire!

  • sigmaalgebra

    Ah, that’s why I have my old Xerox daisy wheel printer connected with four conductor telephone cable, using just Send, Receive, and Signal Ground, to a COM port of my computer!

    Then given an address, one keystroke to execute a macro in my favorite text editor sends the right old ASCII characters to my printer.  So, send some line feed characters to wrap the paper around the platen, the characters for the return address, some line feeds down to the destination address, the destination address, and finally a form feed character to kick out the card!

    So, for the 3 x 5 cards, Do Loop for each card:  insert card; hit key; remove card; End Do;

    So, no sticky labels, which sometimes can come unstuck!  And save a little money for the labels and the time to apply them!

  • Lovely.

  • Truly is magic — thanks so much Brad for reminding us what just a few minutes and a little lo-tech wonderful goodness can do.

  • Elie

    I Also Have Stamps Collection. All can go to http://www.facebook.com/stampparadise take a look. If Anyone Interest Can Contact +60174995228, Or Leave Message at our facebook, Thank You

  • Its surprising how taking time to make a physicial object for someone can have such meaning.

    just thinking out loud – similar things that can be done with computers & sw that are not so much physical ..writing a story for someone, a poem, drawing a picture, making & editing a small movie.

    ..seems that its time and personal effort and focus on the recipient that matters. but still. that physical object is something special ūüôā

  • I always travel with a large entourage of homing pigeons.

  • ¬†The idea is creative and gives both parties a feeling of spontaneity. ¬†I
    think if you truly care about someone, the little things really stand
    out and help to create a deeper and more fulfilling relationship.

  • Totally agree on this idea, sending physical items really has a different reaction.

    I created an app called Picsicle (http://picsicle.com) that lets you do this with your photos, letting you customize it before sending it off in the mail. Today Sincerely (who we partner with) is doing a free card day, so you can send a postcard out for free if you’d like to try it out ūüôā¬†

  • Written¬†simply¬†and¬†tastefully.¬†It‚Äôs pleasant to¬†read.¬†Thank u.

  • uncharacteristically, it’s been a week since your last post. is everything okay over there in boulder? your fans would like you back. :o)¬†

  • Awesome idea. I make it a point to bring a picture frame of my wife and kiddos with me when traveling which helps keep them front of mind. I love the idea of pre-addressed and stamped cards. I typically buy a post card, hold on to it for three days and mail it when boarding the airplane to return home. Awesome tip.¬†

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