I used to travel for business…a lot. When people ask me about my travels I can rattle off a long list of places I have been. When they ask what place I enjoyed the most, I used to have no answer. Like many business travelers, I have been all over the world and many times saw nothing except airports, hotel rooms, and the venues where I was speaking. That sucks. That really sucks. I once traveled to Paris and the only memory I have of the Eiffel Tower is the bottom third of it as it passed by the window of my taxi on the way to the hotel…at nine o’clock at night…after a 12 hour flight. Under those circumstances, you might be able to say you had been to the Eiffel tower, but that is a lie of omission. It is similar to the guy I used to see at my gym. He would arrive every day at 6AM, sleep on the couch in the locker room for an hour or two and then leave. I know he must have gone to work each day, telling his colleagues he spent 2 hours in the gym that morning.
As I got wise to the reality of business travel, and found myself dreaming more and more of that mythical, month long, perfect vacation that occurred all too infrequently, I made the decision to add a little vacation to each of my business trips. It seemed a good way to get my vacation fix. It would not cure my addiction, but it might allow me to stay sane until the next time I could enjoy a real vacation.
I started by trying to cram more and more stuff into each day. I would get up earlier. Try to see some sites after each day’s meetings. I never really saw or did all that much. I found myself more exhausted than normal and despite seeing a little more, it was not adding significant fun to my life. It occurred to me that even though it was not always feasible, many of my trips could be extended by a day without any serious disruption to either my life or my work. Notice I list life and work separately here. That ability to separate the two is essential if you are going to implement “Add-A-Day”.
What is Add-A-Day? The concept of Add-A-Day is simple. Rather than making each day longer, I started adding a day at the beginning or end of my business trips that was exclusively non-work. I don’t mean half-a-day. I don’t mean hoping that you can get out and enjoy the “overflow” day you scheduled in case the meetings ran longer than expected. I mean adding one day to your trip that is exclusively, and without negotiation, to be used as your mini vacation. That day is not an extension of your business trip. It is a short vacation that just happens to be adjacent to that business trip.
Adding a day to your trip is simple and will make your life better, once you get over the mental hurdles and follow the three rules of Add-A-Day. First, you must somehow truly accept the notion that a day here and there without working will not kill your business, your partners, or you. To the contrary, it has been well documented that people who are happier and more relaxed function better at work. You will more than make up for the missed day by the increased productivity you will experience in the days that follow. Second, to get the true emotional benefit from your Add-A-Day, it must be completely sans work. Learn to let it go. If you are standing in Paradise, Washington staring up at the wonder that is Mt. Rainier, you can’t expect any benefit from that if you are emailing your office about the meeting scheduled for next week where you will be negotiating the big contract that will force you to work 80 hour weeks for the next 3 months. Don’t do it. Third, a good Add-A-Day takes some planning. You can’t just leave a free day in your calendar and expect fun and interesting stuff to happen to you. It don’t work dat way. The only thing worse than not having an Add-A-Day is having one and wasting it by doing nothing. You need to “make it so”.
Try it just once. Find out that the world will not end and that you are capable of setting aside one day to unwind in some of those great places you are visiting. Then, when someone asks you about your favorite places and things to do, you will have an answer for them.