“Hi, room service? I’d like to order stress with a side of obesity. And, why not? Some work life imbalance.” Ah, the life of a business traveler. These road warriors and frequent fliers often contend with more than traffic and jet lag: higher BMIs, elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels, greater risks of heart disease, lost luggage. Pleasure travel, on the other hand, improves health, alleviates depression, and promotes brain health. There’s the cure for your business travel blues: incorporating leisure. The question is, how?
Leisure to Go
It’s not always as easy as it sounds. Hitting the gym, for example, is difficult when you’re in continual sales meetings or product launches. And clients are everywhere. What if someone sees you in the gym? This guy’s exercising? Really? Why isn’t he focused on my account? While you’re working hard on the treadmill, your client may be thinking you’re slacking off. The guilt sets in.
Looking for Work Life Integration?
Paul Marchildon, an experienced Leisureologist, can work with you and your team to increase productivity by incorporating leisure into the workplace.
At the same time, it’s impossible to work 24 hours a day for five days in a row and stay fresh and focused. You need leisure time to recharge and keep your head in the game. The trick is to choose appropriate times: what client can argue with you getting your sweat on at 6:30am?
Another way to approach the situation is to invite your client to join you in a leisure pursuit. Say, for instance, that you discover a yoga class that meets at 7:00am, and you don’t have any responsibilities or obligations until 9:00. Why not ask a client or two to join you? You can mention the redeeming qualities of getting up a little early and striking a sun salutation or warrior pose.
(By the way, the benefits of yoga include better quality sleep, fewer headaches or migraines, increased ability to fight food cravings – all problems business travelers face . And it doesn’t take years of practice or require you to resemble a pretzel. Immediately after a class, you experience less stress and improved brain function . Better than nodding off over your continental breakfast.)
Leisure doesn’t have to be time-consuming: it’s nothing if not accommodating of your schedule. In her book, Kitchen Yoga, certified instructor Ruth Shaw offers 24 poses that you can do anywhere, anytime. You don’t need to dress up in your Lululemons or even grab a mat. If you have 5 minutes, and you do, you can sneak in some mental and physical exercise.
Meditation is another 5-minute wonder. Again, you don’t need all of the accoutrements – no candles, mats, babbling brooks, statuary, or chanting monks required. Just a space to sit and a willingness to focus. Let’s demystify meditation. University of Washington professor David Levy says, “Meditation is a lot like doing reps at the gym. It strengthens your attention muscle.” You’re not scared of calf raises, right? Don’t be intimidated by meditation.
Work Leisure into Your Itinerary – However and Whenever You Can
Leisure can only benefit your work. Slaving away for 24 hours a day is stultifying: your brain’s just going to shut down when you need it most. Say you’re going to be in a creative session all day tomorrow. The best uses of your time tonight is to go see a funky movie or show to get the creative juices flowing. It works.
My 10 year-old son had an audition to get into an arts middle school recently. (Yes, I know.) He was nervous, waiting in the parking lot for his half-day ordeal. Being me, I thought, “I have to get him prepped! I have to get him in a creative mood.” So I said, “Hey Sam, we have a few minutes. Want to play 20 questions?” Great! We were getting his creative juices flowing, and he thought we were just playing a game. He’ll catch on to me one day.
The point is twofold: one, relaxing and taking your mind off your task – whether it’s an audition or a client presentation – doesn’t reduce your efficacy. In fact, it activates your brain and boosts your ability to focus when it’s “show time.” And two, there is always something you can do to incorporate leisure. There’s always time: 20 questions, a few minutes of meditation, a yoga pose or two. Whatever it takes.
You need to make the choice to figure out how to incorporate leisure while you’re on the road. It starts with convincing yourself that it’s not only nice but critical that you fit it in. It makes you better at whatever it is that took you on the road in the first place. It’s that simple. Scrap that order, room service. I’ll take some leisure. Dressing on the side.