I’m in the middle of a stretch of five weeks where I am only home for one week out of the five I’m traveling.
Typically, I try to limit my travel to every other week at most, being gone one or two nights in those weeks. Unfortunately, this time around, I not only have travel every week, but I also have significantly longer travel than I usually plan.
In order to stay engaged and not be a totally absent husband and father, I have some techniques to remain close and really try to make up for lost time as much as I can.
1. Spend quality time with my family when I’m home.
I work really hard to put work to the side and dive into family life when I’m home. This might mean I’m being Mr. Mom and running the kids around. It might mean I’m the one on the hook for making sure food is on the table come 6:00 PM.
First things first.
I try even harder when I’m in a stretch of heavy travel to focus on quality time with my kids when I am home, talking to them about important things. I dive in, ask questions, and really probe how they are doing. I need to spend time parenting, being deliberate about my relationships with my kids.
This makes my wife’s job easier when I’m away. I prepare my kids for my travel time. I tell them where I’m going and what I’m doing. I remind them continuously that they need to pick up the slack and help their mom, and then tell them to be extraordinarily good in order to help ease the burden on her.
I remind them that it’s tough to be a single mom, that it’s tough to do this all by herself.
2. Block off time when I’m home to make sure my calendar isn’t booked and jam-packed with appointments and obligations.
I’ve rearranged my schedule to ensure that I have more time physically at home. I’ve also taken a day off between some of the trips, just to make sure that I’m available.
I have to catch up on things at home. For example, we have to get the pipes to the sprinklers cleared out for winter, and doing those types of things really takes a burden off my wife. If I’m able to help and catch up on the honey-do list and able to be home and be around for her, it makes the weight of my travel a little less for her.
3. Limit my time on the road as much as possible.
Even though I have to be gone for four days a week and multiple weeks back-to-back, I try to trim as much time off those trips as possible.
For example, I spent extra making sure I had direct flights, so that I don’t have to have a layover or stay overnight if I don’t have to. On one of my trips, I’m taking the redeye home. I cut one trip short because I had to go to another city; I compacted a three-day trip into two-and-a-half days. By cutting both trips a little shorter than they would have been, I was able to squeeze some extra time out of them.
4. Do extra “thoughtful” things to make sure my family knows I’m still thinking about them.
My two older kids have email addresses, and when I’m on the road, I email them and let them know I’m thinking of them. I call my wife and try to be deliberate about my time talking with her, even though I’m on the road and we tend to have opposite schedules, especially when we’re in different time zones.
This is especially important for my kids. My wife and I tend to be able to connect pretty easily, whether with a text message or a phone call at night before bed. It’s harder with the kids, trying to talk with them before their bedtime.
So I try to think of other things. I have one daughter who loves to send notes in my suitcase, so I always try to remember to leave a note for her on her pillow before I leave. I might email my oldest son about the Red Sox game the night before. The morning I leave, I have a note waiting on the table for them with tidbits about my trip.
5. Squeeze every minute out of my trips.
This is the most powerful technique I have. I leverage my travel time to get tons of work done, including the time I spend on the airplane, even when I travel overseas. I don’t sleep on the plane–not because I can’t, mind you; I can sleep anywhere and everywhere and I love to sleep on a plane.
But I try not to, because I can get so much work done sitting on that airplane seat with no one distracting me. I can catch up on months of backlogged work in those dedicated hours on the plane.
I do the same thing in the hotel room. There’s nothing worse than being in a hotel room and having nothing to do. I’m not one to go out and about and entertain myself, so I take advantage of that time. I work hard: some of the longest hours I work are when I’m on the road. I get up early and stay up late. Sometimes that’s the only way to pound through your to-do list.
My most productive time comes when I prepare for a trip and travel with a concrete set of objectives that I want to accomplish while I’m gone. This is when I do some of my best blogging, social media writing, and strategy work because I have time to think and process.
This also allows me to have a clear plate when I get home, so I can really dive into being a husband and a father.
What have you found helps you stay close to family while traveling?