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In 2014 when I lived in Iowa and worked for a tech company, I started traveling more for work. It started off innocently enough. A flight to Chicago here and there, an occasional trip to visit headquarters, and once in a while, a slingshot to the east coast and back. It was exciting, new, and interesting. And, like most weekend work, I’d be back in the saddle bright and early Monday morning. After all, a trip to Arizona for work in the middle of a cold Iowa winter is kinda like vacation, right?
As days became months and occasional trips became frequent, a co-worker cautioned me to schedule my personal time. I was confused. She went on to explain that it’s easy to work two weeks (for example) in a row without stop when you travel — because you’re not in the office, sometimes it doesn’t seem like work. The idea of scheduling free time seemed foreign and frankly uncomfortable to me. I thought, “work is work”. I’m used to just clawing at work to make awesome things happen.
It wasn’t until a couple years later that I began to internalize my co-worker’s advice. Staring down a travel schedule of 80k miles, it finally hit me – I don’t know when I’m at my limit until I’m at my limit. In other words, my coworker’s sage advice was spot on. It’s not because the work was too taxing – for me, it’s because frequent travel can be taxing. It’s because not being home and remembering to buy toothpaste can be difficult. It’s because sometimes it’s nice to buy groceries, or fix an annoying issue with a suitcase that you’ve had for the last six trips. They’re small things, but they add up. And when they add up, life becomes less exciting.
To keep myself at the top of my game with a crazy schedule, I force-implemented a few things to make space in my life for the number one asset for success in life… an intact, fully functioning me.
These days, I travel less and spend more time finding ways to digital detox, but if you find yourself on the road or on the go frequently, hopefully these tips will help you.
I methodically schedule all meetings and work related events on my work calendar. In addition to work events, every month I scour my social channels for events from organizations or friends I’d like to spend time with. On my work calendar, I also schedule social events. Going to a party? Block it on the calendar. Friends in town? Block it on the calendar.
Every couple weeks, I take a look at the next rolling quarter of my work and travel schedule. I look at travel to and from events and days “in-office”. They all count. If I’m going to be working for a full fourteen days, I’ll block at least one day (ideally a couple) for rest, rejuvenation, and recharging, and label it ‘weekend’.
Because I used to travel so much, I devoted at least a couple hours per trip to take a quick hike. Exercise is a priority for me, and I hate the countless maintenance travesties at hotel gyms… so I’d find a close trail with AllTrails and sneak out for an early morning hike. Don’t think you can? Think again. I’ve hiked with co-workers, clients, and business prospects. Live passionately. Make what you want to have happen, happen. People will respect it.
Finally, if you’re not working for a company that allows for the flexibility to take breaks after long assignments, consider a new employer. I know the job market can be complicated, and finding a new job is rarely straightforward, but you owe it to yourself to work for an employer that cares about you.
If you work for a startup or you’re starting a company, don’t work for a jerk that would squeeze all the personal space out of your life. And remember, sometimes if you’re the boss, you very well might be that jerk. Give yourself time. Think of yourself as your own boss and decide what you would expect from a company that you work for, and hold yourself to that same standard.
Are there things you do to create intentional space for yourself in your daily life? Let us know about it in the comments.