With the start of the new year, executive schedules quickly fill up with travel commitments. Managing global businesses, remote teams, and multiple projects and priorities require significant time spent away from the comforts of home.
This often means a disruption to the rhythm of our daily routine and ease of living in our comfort zone. We may miss that weekly yoga class, skip the daily cardio, and either eat on the run in airports or overindulge during fancy meals out with clients or colleagues. Work travel can also disturb our need for deep connection with loved ones. We miss family dinners, morning and nighttime routines, and physical time together while on the road.
Work travel often leaves us depleted from physical exhaustion. Work becomes overwork when we try to squeeze in all of the responsibilities of our regular 8 hour work day, in addition to our full days of travel and the out-of-office work we are doing.
We push our bodies to perform 24/7 when we schedule early flights, work from the car, the airport, the plane, the taxi, right up until we reach our final destination…when our work day actually begins. Our work day then spills into our evening with the work dinner, followed by frantic email catch up that usually starts around 10pm in our hotel. All of this can easily add up to a 16-18 hour work day, that is of course, if we haven’t traveled to a different time zone.
We find ourselves having to readjust to new time zones only to have to readjust again in a few days.
Work travel often finds us in the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world, but overstressed executives don’t find the time to see the sun breathe the fresh air or do anything “fun.”
We can change our perspective by setting proper boundaries that allow us to think of work travel as an opportunity rather than an obligation.
Follow these ten tips to find joy in the journey and get the most out of your time away.
- Choose “3 Happy Things” to do
- Take the Stress out of Packing
- Flight Time = Me Time
- Maintain Sleep and Circadian Rhythms
- Get Outside
- Carve out Alone Time
- Deepen your Connections
- Maintain your Daily Habits
- Control your incoming email
- Schedule Email Breaks to catch up
Choose “3 Happy Things” to do
As you prepare for travel, identify three things within the week that will spark joy for you. Often for me, this includes a spa service, a special meal out or a room service breakfast, and a retail therapy shopping experience. When time is tight, it may mean a peppermint tea before bed in my hotel room, an early rise for meditation during sunrise if I am going to a beach location, or a pampering hot steamy shower and essential oils before bed. Concentrating on planning self-care treats will help you to anticipate the fun experiences and give you something to look forward to in the week ahead. Savoring curated experiences for yourself when you travel allows you to be present and grounded instead of feeling out of control always running to the next thing and trying to catch up.
Take the Stress out of Packing
The sheer act of packing and unpacking is a stressful workload in itself. What am I going to wear? Do I have all of my cosmetics and products? Some great tips I have learned over the years will help you keep your packing organized and easy.
- Several years ago, I split my closets into Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer so I can easily find the right outfits for the climate I am traveling to, even when it is off season.
- Organize your closet by “looks” rather than styles (tops, bottoms, dresses). This way, you can quickly identify a complete outfit instead of trying to put something together the night before your flight.
- Select a special undergarment/pajama selection just for travel that you can keep packed. Throw into the laundry and repack after each trip.
- Curate an extra fully-filled product and cosmetic pouch that is strictly for travel. This is an investment that pays off as you keep the products packed in your luggage so you need not struggle to pack each trip. And don’t forget to invest in a travel hairdryer, hair brush and styling tool. These pre-packed items will greatly reduce the time you spend packing and unpacking, and allow you to focus only on your outfits which you’ve already organized in your closet.
- Another pro-tip is to snap photos of your favorite looks and create a library, so you can consult your library first, and then just pull the looks straight from your closet.
- Keep each look in a garment bag after it comes back from the dry cleaner so it is easy to repack for the next trip.
- Keep some work staples always packed as well, like chargers, pens, notebooks.
Flight Time = Me Time
How can you use flight time to connect with yourself, refresh, get grounded and prepare for and unwind from the trip? We are all guilty of plugging into our laptop, frantically catching up on emails or using the flight or train time to work on projects that our back-to-back meeting schedules prevent us from having proper “think time” to complete during a normal week at the office. But, before you use travel time to add in project time, remember, work travel means you have just added significant additional hours to your work week. Travel time can be used as downtime to allow your mind and body to properly prepare for the work ahead and let go of it when transitioning back home. Spending time meditating or in prayer, reading a book for pleasure, journaling, planning your next vacation or dinner party, catching up on correspondence with friends or family, doing some on-line shopping, checking off some personal to-do’s, pursuing a hobby, taking an on-line course for fun, all of these things can be used to get the most out of your travel time while keeping you in your happy zone. Sleeping, napping, enjoying rest are also great ways to use your plane time. My tried and true tip is to spend the first third of my flight preparing my focus for work and making sure I am in a good place for the trip, then I schedule “me-time” activities the second third, and sleep/rest the final third. By the time I land I feel clear, happy and ready to go!
Maintain Sleep and Circadian Rhythms
It was only last year that I realized the importance of this trick. Staying on your home time-zone is key. This simple act of self-care will help you stay clear and focused, avoid burnout, and keep your sleep and digestive system undisturbed. Allow yourself to skip that dinner on night one when you arrive from the east coast to the west coast, you’ve been up since 3am and it is really 9pm for you. Instead, go to the hotel, take a hot shower, order room service and get to bed as close to your natural bedtime as you can. Try to wake at your regular wake time and catch up on emails then, rather than staying up late the night before. Always choose the early morning wake over the late night sleep to keep your body on its normal course with food, sleep and routine.
Travel can be about adventure, fresh experiences and fresh air. With all of the time you spend stuck in flight, in meetings, in chairs, in closed spaces, it is freeing and healthy to get moving while you are on the road. This could mean an early morning or late day walk through the city, on the beach, or some alone time in an outdoor space on the hotel grounds. Make sure you see the sun, breathe in the air, move your body, and connect with nature. This simple act helps to regulate our nervous system and keep nervous and anxious energy away.
Carve out Alone Time
Do your work trips leave you feeling depleted? Are you spending all of your days talking, giving, shuffling your time between who is in front of you and who is calling you, emailing, texting? Business in your regular 9-5 world did not go away, yet you are still required to efficiently focus on what is in front of you and what is in the background. This very often leads to no time for you, to think, breathe, rest your mind. Allowing yourself the time to disconnect and do things that renew, reset, revive you, will only improve the quality of your connections on the road and at home base. Schedule this time into each day when you plan your travel schedule. 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes in the evening. Schedule an activity (a fun book to read, a restorative yoga class) or no activity (zone out on the hotel bed and just clear your mind) for the sheer purpose of renewal. This gift will make you a happier and more productive leader.
Deepen your Connections
In the end, life is about connections and oneness. So often, we go through the motions, checking off the box, even when it comes to relationships with our colleagues. When we use the time we have during our travels to fully connect with those we are there to see, we will enrich our mission and purpose and ensure that the work continues after we leave. So, have that long lunch, take a walk together, do a fun activity at night, and deepen the bonds and trust and friendship. Building in time to visit with friends who live in your travel destination is another great way to create time and space for me-time or 3 things that make you happy ☺
Maintain your Daily Habits
I believe strongly in daily habits as a method to true transformation in life. What we create in our lives is very much an after effect of what we focus on through our daily habits. So often, for the traveling executive, we abandon all of the good habits we establish in our daily lives when we get out on the road. We forget the habits we have formed around sleep and wake time, morning and evening rituals, proper rest and proper eating habits. Creating methods that you can take on the road is crucial to maintaining momentum in our daily routines. This may mean packing zip lock bags with raw veggies, nuts and fruit to keep healthy snacks on hand. Downloading 20 minute fitness routines that don’t require additional clothes to pack. Keeping up a daily walk. Get out of the all or nothing restrictive mindset of “I can’t this week, I am traveling”, and build in small controls that will assist you in maintaining your daily commitments.
Control your incoming email
Help yourself by establishing boundaries when you are traveling. Ask your team to avoid copying you on emails that are just FYIs and do not require any follow up on your part. Inform your colleagues that you will be on the road and to set meetings to follow up on what happens when you are out of the office. Identify someone on your team as the point of contact while you are traveling. Proactively managing your inbox from overflow will help you stay present during the week.
Schedule Email Breaks to catch up
Try to avoid the back-in-hotel-at-10pm email follow up. Build in three touchpoints during the day to check email for 20 minutes. Catch up, clean out, and stay present with your trip priorities the remainder of the day. Keeping on top of the incoming will free you from having to revisit in a marathon end of day wrap up.
Travel time does not have to disrupt and unsettle our well-being. The secret is to put yourself first by setting proper boundaries and building a sustainable self-care ritual that protects you from overwork and overwhelm. Practice my 10 proven tips and you will maintain your balance, peace and serenity, and lead with confidence, clarity and joy.