Often, one of the consequences of increased leadership responsibilities is more travel away from home. This increased ‘away time’ puts added stress on family, local, and routine operational responsibilities. How to wisely handle this travel and optimize it for all involved is key to being an effective leader.
1. The first question to ask is, “Why am I making this trip? Is it truly essential that I go, or could someone else represent me? Could what I hope to accomplish be handled via phone or video conference?” Maybe you don’t have to make the trip at all!
2. When booking air travel, have you allowed enough time for the seemingly inevitable delays in arrivals, departures or connections? Booking too tightly increases stress load and decreases enjoyment if you are running from gate to gate to make a connecting flight.
3. When planning your schedule at the destination, think of dividing the work day into three parts – morning, afternoon and evening. Those planning your schedule upon arrival should be informed that they can only fill two of these three parts each day. Thus, you will have a portion of each day for rest, reflection, catch up and dealing with any unexpected crisis.
4. Be wise on what you eat and when you get to sleep on trips, especially if you have time zone changes such as on international trips. If hosted, you will often be treated with great generosity of sight-seeing events, shopping for family gifts, wonderful meals, etc. Being out of your normal routines can make self-control and self-discipline difficult. Pace yourself!
5. For truly extended trips of a couple of weeks, consider a one or two-day break in the middle of the trip for restoration and rejuvenation.
6. Be sure your spouse knows how to contact you if needed, especially for emergencies. Even today, not every place has easy internet or mobile phone connections.
7. When returning home, it’s easy to think that the trips is over when you ‘hit the front door’ upon your return. You’ve been giving out for some time and now you just want to crash and relax. On the other hand, your spouse has been at home while you’ve been away, and you have a lot to catch up on. If there are children still at home, the one who stayed home probably needs a break from the kids.
A wise mindset is this, when returning home from a trip, tell yourself that the trip ends the day after you return. That is, you are still in the ‘giving out’ mindset when you hit the home front – especially the first 24 hours after your return. Focus on the kids and your spouse’s needs, not your own. Seek to serve them, not be served by them.
When’s your next trip? Are you planning ahead for more than just how you will spend the days away? Are you planning wisely not only for the trip, but for your return?