Tips to Staying Productive During Travel
Traveling for business is costly and it has very little to do with our expense account.
It often comes at the price of productivity, health, and time away from loved ones. While it may be impossible to completely avoid travel in our careers, there are some ways that you can stay productive while keeping your body and relationships healthy. Here are some practices that I’ve integrated into my life to help me stay on track (whenever possible):
- Develop Muscle Memory – Just as athletes use repetition to train their bodies to respond to specific environments to produce desired results, we can also leverage habit to discipline our bodies to stay productive in desired environments. Once I accepted the reality that travel will be a large component of my life for the immediate future (I’m scheduled to hit over 50 flights by the end of 2013.), I decided to train myself to become productive on the plane. I switched to a smaller laptop for better battery life and decided to embrace the white noise of the engine during flight. Doing this time and time again has allowed me to easily adjust my body to the environment. There’s now very little distraction or obstacles to productivity on the plane.
- Pay for Airport Lounges – For those who find themselves on more than 20 flights a year, I would strongly recommend that you pay for airport lounge access from your airline of choice. Airport lounges are provided by major airlines for travelers who need a place to recharge, take a break, get wifi access, and/or get work done. Business centers at airport lounges are fairly helpful. The $400 or so you pay annually is well worth it if it means it can add several hours to your productivity a year. Also, it’s a nice solace from the chaos of most airports. For me, having membership to a airport lounge is not luxury, but a necessity for my business and sanity. (The free drinks are nice too.)
- Upgrade When Possible – Whether its flights or hotel rooms, upgrade if your points or budget allows. At hotels, ask if they have better rooms than the one you reserved. You’ll be surprise how accommodating some hotel attendants may be if you choose to acknowledge their presence and be nice to them. It doesn’t hurt to ask. For flights, I usually request upgrades for longer legs of flights across country. I don’t get it too often, but it’s sure nice when it I do. I say this because you want to get back home refreshed with minimal wear and tear on the body. Caution: Travel can make you age faster if you’re not paying attention.
- Sleep – One cardinal rule for productivity during travel is sleep. While it is tempting to schedule one more meeting or get together in a city, I’ve found that getting to bed on time changes everything, especially as you’re jumping time zones. For me, I try to sleep 5 or 7 hours per night whenever possible. I’m not sure why, but I do better with odd number of hours slept. Funny.
- Eat Right & Exercise – You can always choose what to put into your body. I know it’s difficult to be “good” while traveling, but consider your overall health. With time changes, I’ve found that eating less at each meal while adding a meal helps. My stomach needs time to adjust and eating small portions helps with the transition (at least the first couple of days). Stay away from fried food…just saying. Come on, don’t roll your eyes. And yes, exercise whenever possible. It may be push-ups or sit-ups or taking a quick walk or jog around the hotel. Every little thing counts.
- Post-Trip Days – While it’s tempting to hit the ground running when you return from a trip, I would strongly recommend that you schedule a couple of buffer days. Go easy on scheduling appointments and use this time to work on things that move your projects forward. I usually take time to get myself organized again by looking over tasks and appointments and then determining priorities. Give yourself permission to reschedule upcoming appointments if you need to. Also, try to do all of your initial follow up with people from your trip during your flight back via email. This will save you time when you get back. It takes time to decompress from a trip that’s more than 2-3 days long, especially if you worked hard during those days of travel.
- Call Home Often – Thank God for technology. It allows us to stay somewhat connected with our families throughout most trips. I would recommend that you call or Skype home often. It is an act of love and commitment that provides us a great perspective on why we do what we do. There’s nothing like hearing the voice of my wife and/or kids in the midst of the intense schedules during travel. Take a minute or two to text or make a quick call. It’s okay. Mix personal into your business from time to time.
We all need to find life rhythms that works for us. Travel is inevitable for many of us. Why not intentionally do something that will help us maintain health and productivity?
What are some ways you stay productive and healthy during travel?