Not long ago, I attempted to board the wrong plane on a red-eye flight from LA to Philadelphia. Oops. A few weeks prior, I showed up at the wrong airport. Double oops. These two faux pas notwithstanding, I have radically reorganized the way I travel and have learned some very basic lessons on how to stay sane while traveling.
- Limit your number of nights away. When my wife said that HOPE was getting my best and my family was getting my leftovers, I finally made drastic changes at work. The most important change was that I capped my number of nights away. It’s freeing. I now say “no” to good opportunities—and “yes” to the best ones. Saying “no” forces me to delegate more effectively—and our organization has flourished because I let go.
- More with less. Don’t just pack your schedule with meetings. Have less meetings, but the right ones. This enables you to have moments of down time to call your family, catch up on urgent issues so that you’re not flooded when you return home. And it allows you to immediately follow up on key action items following meetings.
- Walk. Often I run from breakfast meeting to coffee meeting to lunch meeting to coffee meeting to dinner meeting to dessert meeting. That’s not a recipe for a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes meetings can be just as easily accomplished by walking at a park or around an office building. Steve Jobs did it—and when used judiciously, it allows for you to maintain health while traveling.
- Listen. With a jam-packed schedule, there’s often no time to stop and listen. But the most valuable part of travel is hearing from your clients and colleagues about what’s going well (and not so well). I’ve tried to ensure that there are moments to intentionally connect with the staff I’m visiting, and not just participate in whatever event is scheduled.
- Stay home. No matter how good you are at managing travel, the best way to manage it is to avoid it whenever possible. Initial meetings with business colleagues require meeting in person. Beyond that, video conferencing (like Skype) is surprisingly effective if you have the discipline to avoid multitasking and to be fully present. Video conferencing has enabled me to stay connected to colleagues (and eat dinner with my family more often).
Not only has being more intentional about my business travel helped me recover needed family time, but it also has allowed me to be more fully engaged while I’m away. What am I missing? Any other tips and techniques to battle the road warrior fallout?