How To Best Use Downtime on a Work Trip

Every business trip has downtime, which few Lead Dads or Working Moms have in their day-to-day life. So my advice: don’t squander it!

I focus my business trip downtime in two areas: tasks that I can finally get done without interruption and moments that will buoy my spirits.

I was in Chicago last week to speak to BMO’s employee resource group for parents. Amazing group – attentive, smart, thinking about all the things I speak about in a deep, intentional and authentic way. It lifted my spirits for sure.

But I had time around the talk.

The before was spent on memory lane. Right after college, I was a graduate student at The University of Chicago. I would clear my head by taking the train downtown and walking up and down Michigan Avenue, stopping into the Art Institute of Chicago. So that’s what I did – a head-clearing and cathartic two hours.

After the talk, I finally got to meet my doppelganger, Chicago Paul Sullivan.

I’ve known this Sully for over a decade. He was the Chicago Cubs reporter for The Chicago Tribune, when I was the Wealth Matters columnist for The New York Times.

You’d think the two beats would never intersect, but upset readers are not always discerning when they dash off angry missives.

The misdirected emails I received were angrier because they were about baseball – why had I gotten a game so wrong?

Here was a typical reply to a Cubs fan:

Dear Mr. Dykehouse,

You’ve sent your email to the wrong Paul Sullivan.

I’m the Paul Sullivan, who is a business columnist for The New York Times, not the one who writes about baseball for The Chicago Tribune.

For what it’s worth, I’m more of an American League fan, so I don’t know when the Cubs were any worse than this. That said, the coldest opening day I ever attended was a Cubs game in 1996. I don’t even remember who won it was so cold.


Occasionally the Tribune syndicated one of my stories and Chicago Sully would get questions about how he found time to write about fancy yachts or estate planning.

Just as I got complaints about how Chicago Sully voted for the Baseball Hall of Fame, he got requests for personal finance advice – and gripes about why the wealthy got things the rest of us don’t.

My favorite (albeit self-serving) story came after I was interviewed about one of my books on WBEZ Chicago. Chicago Sully’s uncle heard me and called his nephew wondering why he hadn’t mentioned the book to the family!

To finally meet in person, Chicago Sully picked the most iconic newspaper bar in the city: The Billy Goat, underneath Michigan Avenue. It was one of the first bars I’d gone to as a student. It hadn’t changed a bit – except for one addition.

Up on the wall of fame, alongside the bylines of Mike Royko and other all-stars, was “Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune.”

“You can crop out the Tribune,” Chicago Sully joked. I never would. It was grateful to finally share a beer with my long-distance namesake – and then head home.