Find work-life balance, even on the road

On the road again Flickr user Phineas H

(MoneyWatch) If you travel a lot for work, you may not think you have much time for personal pursuits. How could you, when you're constantly in hotels and planes?

But with the right mindset, a heavy travel schedule can force you to figure some important things out that many people who don't travel never do. Namely, you start to ask yourself this: What are my non-negotiables for feeling like I'm living a happy, sustainable life? No matter how much I need to work, what else has to happen for life to feel OK?

Often, these small "tweaks" (to use the title of Cali Williams Yost's recent book) aren't huge. You may want to exercise for 30 minutes four times per week. You may want to talk to your family every day. You may want to read for 20 minutes for pleasure more days than not. If your schedule sometimes entails being away from home on weekends, you may consider attending religious services non-negotiable. You figure out that if you do these small things (or whatever small things matter for you), then you'll feel good. If you don't, you don't.

Then it's just a matter of setting up your life to make these non-negotiables happen. When I travel, I like to stay in hotels with gyms. I've set up Skype so I can talk with my kids from my laptop. I visit the library before trips so I have some fun reading material for that no-device time on planes during take-off and landing, or for reading before bed.

Yes, long workdays and time zone changes can make this more complicated -- sometimes. But not necessarily. I don't particularly like to work out at 5:30 a.m. when I'm on the East Coast, but if I've flown to California I'm highly likely to be awake at that time my first morning or two. That's time that can be seized for a non-negotiable. Likewise, after you get back to your hotel from a dinner in Europe, you can Skype your kids for the after-school shift in the U.S., a time you might not be present for on a regular basis when you are home. Think creatively and the time is there.

What small tweaks would make your life on the road manageable? How can you structure your travels to make those tweaks happen?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Phineas H

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