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November 3, 2012

Work Life Balance Tips for the Business Traveler

Balance and the business traveler has everything to do with staying "connected". As I indicate in my book, Work for a Living & Still Be Free to Live, we achieve a fluctuating balance by how we CHOOSE to stay connected with the critical areas of our life. Business travel can take a heavy emotional, physical and mental toll.

Let me suggest some ways to stay connected with these areas while "on the road":

Emotional -- staying connected with your home base and significant people. If you have children, depending upon their ages, consider the following: Take your child with you in your imagination. Ask them if they would select a SMALL toy of theirs that you could carry with you and so stay connected with them. 

Tape-record a favorite story or a good night ritual that can be played before the child goes to sleep. With the child, track your travels on a map and together talk about some of the places or things of interest about your destination (lobsters in Maine; skyscrapers in NY, the lions at the Chicago Art Museum.) As an added bonus, you will have a new appreciation for the place where you'll be.

Send post cards home to each member of the family (Make up labels in advance and buy stamps. You only need to write one personal line. Doesn't matter that you'll get home before the postal. You thought of them.- Leave love notes for your partner (under the pillow/ with the toothpaste/ on the bathroom mirror)- My husband leaves a message with the hotel operator to deliver "Bill loves you most!" Operators really get a kick out of delivering this message- Have a different e-mail address for family members and send home messages- 

Take a blank book and fill it with favorite pictures of home, family, friends, pet. Always take the book with you on your travels. (I do!)- If possible, make separate calls to your spouse and your children. That way, no one has to share "air time".

Physical -- staying connected with your body-- Be THERE. Don't keep two watch times. You'll be tempted to say "But I can't go to sleep now--it's only 7pm in CA. or :I can't get up at 6:00--it's only 3AM in CA.)-- Plan time (it won't just appear) for exercise of any kind. Bring shoes for running or walking. 

Bring exercise rubber bands for muscle tone. (Take up no room) Use stairs rather than elevator where possible--Bring any item which can easily make you "feel at home" This can be anything from a pillow case, a teddy bear, a small picture.--If it's your style, bring herbal scents for the room; bath salts; One friend carries a device for drowning out sound. She turns it on and selects anything from ocean sounds to raindrops...--Try a portable vaporizer. 

Clears sinuses and puts moisture back into the face.-- Bring saline solution nasal spray for the airlines. Also, a small atomizer of water (some kinds are mixed with aloe). Body tissues become very dehydrated on flights.--Drink more water than you ever thought possible.-- Always ask for a room away from the elevator and the ice machine-- Unless you have great stamina, avoid red eye flights. Much better to come in rested to do work than stumble your way through a meeting.-- Find luggage that works for you. Weight, size, length of shoulder strap. --

Lighten the load: if an extended trip, ship home materials or clothes you won't need. Bring a pre-addressed packing slip. Concierge can help. Whenever possible, check your baggage. Carry only with you the necessities for work and personal hygiene and health. Wear clothes that could suit for your meeting should luggage not make it. There's far too much carry-on these days.

MENTAL -- staying connected with your psyche.-- Self-talk is powerful when traveling. Why become angry and upset at weather delays (over which no one can do anything)? Mechanical problems are a fact of life. If at all possible, never book yourself on the last flight to your destination. Always have a later flight. And if you can't make it, consider that you have been given a gift of time. -- Use time in flight to get caught up on journals, periodicals, etc. For me, a successful trip is when my briefcase gets lighter and the pocket of the seat in front gets heavier.--

See your destination with new eyes. Consider that you are an explorer. Try something new: a restaurant, a neighborhood, a museum, even the note the difference of people. Keep a small journal and write observations. This also lets you bring home "more than work" to share with the home front.-- Start the day quiet. Meditate. Deep breathe. Allow enough time to get ready before you leave the hotel.

Lastly, expect the unexpected and let go of the outcome. Do what you can for contingencies. Bring a cell phone, essential numbers and don't book the last flight out. Then relax into the uncertainty of travel. Stress comes from trying to control the uncontrollable. Let it go.

About the Author

Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE, is an international speaker, author and seminar leader. Her book ‘Work for A Living and Still Be Free to Live’ is also the title of one of her most popular and upbeat programs on Work/Life Balance. For more information on Eileen and her presentations, please call 949-496-8640 or visit her web site at

Written by: Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
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