Business travel is hard on relationships, on family solidarity, and it’s hard on the traveler – emotionally and physically. Every minute you spend after work hours away from home is a minute your employer owes you some consideration. Whether that’s comp time, a deluxe vacation package, or other perks, never forget that business travel requires sacrifice.
And that sacrifice is never felt more strongly than during traditional family holidays. If you and your kids stay up late to watch fireworks from the rooftop every Fourth of July, Bastille Day, or Guy Fawkes Day… the urgent negotiation meeting in another city on that date will damage the fabric of your family memories. It is what it is. You may love your job enough, be compensated well enough, or want to escape your spouse enough, to be happy with the trade-off. Or maybe it’s just The Job, and a little part of you is unhappy. Or maybe a large part of you is unhappy. For most business travelers its a little bit… that builds up over time.
So this year you’re spending the week running up to Christmas in someplace less exotic than Topeka, Kansas. You’re missing the parties, the kid’s part as the angel or Joseph… and you have no time to help your spouse bake cookies for the neighbors. You’ve paid a handyman to install the house lights, and you’ve missed the 50% off sale of lighted reindeer at the hardware store.
The trick here is to spend less time feeling sad and more time connecting during your time away. Technology is your friend, as is Amazon and every other online shopping catalog that guarantees delivery dates. You can tap into eCard sites like Hallmark, American Greetings, and Blue Mountain. Plan ahead, ideally the weekend before you are scheduled to leave. I know you’re running around shopping for gifts and trying to do everything you won’t have time to do while you’re gone. Give it up. You’ll have plenty of time for online shopping in the evenings at the hotel. I know you love your coworkers, but they can get by without you.
FIRST – think about how your children and significant other like to connect. Are you a texting family? Does your wife or husband prefer email? Facebook or packages at the door? At least 75% of your contact with each person should leverage how they prefer to communicate. The other 25% should be a surprise. Send a small gift to someone who loves to text. Send a text and an email to someone who spends all their time on Facebook. Send a heart-felt email to someone who loves packages and cards. You should definitely send at least one physical card to each person you want to connect with. This can be done in a batch, but it will inevitably feel like an individual touch. Buy the right card for the right person, and you’re golden. For daily physical gifts, flowers, plants, and chocolate are always a good bet.
SECOND – imagine how they’re feeling when they get your message, text, email, card, gift. Really spend some time trying to sit in their chair. It’s easy to brush this off, but you’re trying to distill a lot of time together into a single touch point. Open yourself, be honest, gift them with what is true and do your best to be authentic in a way that will make the OTHER person feel good. This is not about you, it’s not about assuaging your guilt, it’s not about making you happy. This is about the person you love. Craft your messages from this place of love, compassion, and integrity.
THIRD – Schedule all your touch points so that they arrive on a daily basis. This is an organizational task that you cannot assign to an admin. This is supposed to be about YOU connecting to the people who make your heart feel safe. Do not delegate. Have confidence in yourself. If you can manage life on the road as a significant part of your career, you can do it.
FOURTH – Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous. Get home sooner if you can. Buy that spectacularly hideous Christmas sweater from Etsy for your daughter-in-law who hosts the annual White Elephant party. Stop in a custom chandler, soap maker, or bundt shop … to buy a hand made gift that you could never find locally.
Think of this as the 12 Days of Christmas… with as many days as you’re gone. – except you want to keep the spirit alive, without breaking the bank or making yourself crazy. It’s perfectly okay to find ways to automate the work, to identify the things you know that work and do them in multiples… as long as it’s you doing the work. That’s what maintains the connection.
So Merry Christmas from LindleyOnTheRoad… where we’re all about making life better for people who travel a lot. Do you have another idea for maintaining connections with loved ones from the road? Drop me a comment!