Frequent work travel — and the resulting time spent running through airports, getting in and out of cabs, and waiting in security lines — is a prime way to fall behind on whatever normal productivity routine you have in place while you’re in the office.
It’s also a way to get down in the dumps (being away from family does that), and get out of shape.
Over the years, there are several things I’ve done to help combat all of this. Here are three:
1) Read fiction.
A good novel is a great way to escape and get your mind off the lonely hotel room or your uncomfortable airplane seat. After my meetings are over and I return to my hotel room (after I talk to my wife and kids on the phone), I love to dive into a good book. It helps take my mind off the fact that I’m away from home, passes the time more quickly and helps me sleep better at night (I have trouble sleeping in hotel rooms and I find that watching TV before bed makes for a busy mind and rough sleep).
2) Get Out and Walk (Or Run, or Use the Hotel Fitness Room).
I know one entrepreneur who put on at least 100 pounds after several years of running a company that required frequent travel. Work travel often comes with cocktail hours and late work dinners.
But there’s no excuse for using travel as an excuse to pack on the pounds. It’s not just about fitness, either. Exercise can help jump-start your brain, and keeping in shape helps your memory and your attitude.
Every hotel has a fitness room, and most of them are free. All of them are only a few steps and perhaps an elevator room away from your hotel room.
If weather and the hotel location permits, however, I prefer to get outside and run or go for a walk. It helps offset the hours on the plane, in a hotel conference room, or in a client’s office — and is often a great way to do a quick tour of a new city.
3) Try to Keep Your Morning Routines and Rituals.
One of the thing I dislike most about travel is a feeling that of lost control over my time and a disruption of my routine. So I try to stick to my routines and rituals as best as I can.
Do you normally wake up at 6:30 a.m. at home and go for a walk? Make sure you keep to that schedule while on the road. Obviously, sometimes early morning flights or oddly-timed meetings can complicate this, but do the best you can. It helps your mind stay on track and helps avoid a shock to the system when you get back home.
4) Don’t Work on the Plane.
In the days leading up to a work trip, I’d save up certain projects specifically to complete during my flight. Not anymore.
Working on a plane, with all of it’s distractions, can be difficult. If it’s a turbulent flight, working can literally be nauseating. If you get a passenger in the seat in front of you who wants to take a nap, the reclined seat can make it impossible to open your laptop.
Most importantly, it just created additional stress.
That’s why I try to read a book on the plane, or simply put on some relaxing music (on noise-cancelling headphones, if possible) and close my eyes.
Work travel creates enough stress and fatigue. Take your airplane time back and use it as a time to relax. You’ll have enough time to work when you land.