That Precious "Me Time" Is Hiding In Plain Sight

Who said your next business trip can't be a personal mini vacation? The key to finding more time for yourself is knowing where to look.

No one ever thinks they have enough “me time”—leisure hours that don’t require answering to anyone else. From a mathematical perspective, we probably have plenty; subtract paid work, travel, housework, and child-care hours from the 168 hours we all have each week, and even people who work full-time and have young kids have about 20-30 hours that aren’t spoken for. But these hours feel hard to find and seize.

People who use their time well, though, know where to look. Even a crazy week spent on the road can feature moments of real relaxation—enough to keep you going and power you through to the weekend.

I realized this while studying the schedule of one busy woman last year. During the week she logged, she’d traveled several days. But while she had dinners some of those nights, she tended to cut out early and call friends. She’d spend 30 minutes or more chatting with them, squeezing this fun time into hours most people wouldn’t recognize as available. In essence, she was re-creating a girls’ night out from her hotel room. (Minus the shared round of Cosmos, I suppose. But if she’d Skyped and ordered a drink from room service, the effect could have been similar).

I loved that idea. As she explained to me, if you’re traveling, you’ve already taken the hit of being away from your family. The laundry can’t guilt-trip you into doing it. So why not use any available downtime for personal pursuits?

It’s something I’ve been trying to do. I was in London this past week doing book publicity. My Thursday started at 5 a.m. with an early morning radio show, but mercifully, I was off after 3 p.m. So I spent the late afternoon hours touring the National Gallery, which was a few blocks from my hotel. I love art museums, but at home, I’m probably not going to take a weekday evening away from my kids to go. Since I was already on the road? I was able to spend a lovely few hours exploring the Rembrandts and Van Goghs at my own pace.

To be sure, travel days are often busy days. You won’t hit an art museum if you’re booked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then need to join your clients for dinner. But even a day like that offers possibilities. Go for a walk after your last meeting and explore the city. If your hotel has a spa with late or early hours, why not try it? Bring a good book, and consciously take 30 minutes away from your email to dive in. Your inbox will still be there half an hour later. Indeed, if you’ve got serious jet lag, you can spend all night with your email. At least that’s what I wind up doing every time I travel.

[Image: Flickr user Matt McGee]

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