I’m keen to collect tips on how people maintain or even enhance productivity on business trips and stay healthy.
It can be hard being away from family, staying in lonely hotel rooms, eating out and being outside your normal routine. Some people thrive in this environment, advancing their key goals forward whilst others just turn up and then wonder what they achieved all week. Some people who travel regularly appear fit, healthy and active whilst others slowly gain waist size and look tired and possibly hungover.
For more than a two decades I have had regular (weekly or fortnightly) business trips. Some have been highly productive and have moved my team’s objectives forward whilst others have seemed like a waste of time and money.
I have also found a correlation between looking after my health in terms of eating and exercise and productivity. Who would have thought that?
I have reflected back on the differences between productive trips and non-productive trips and identified, for me at least, my eight most effective business travel productivity hacks.
1.Identify ONE major goal
Before leaving on the trip identify and write down the one major goal that you want to achieve. Even if you are doing routine visits to check the pulse of different sites or teams that you manage, set one major goal that advances one of your key objectives. The achievement, or not, of this major objective can then help you do a self assessment on how productive the trip was.
2. Plan your calendar in advance
Turning up to an office or site without a schedule locked into your calendar means that essentially you are “winging it”. Not only will it result in you drifting between topics and issues and not achieving your major goal it will also disrupt others and make them less productive. Plan ahead so that you know exactly what you will be doing and so others can plan their time.
3. Develop a morning routine
Morning routines/habits are one of the most powerful productivity hacks whether you are travelling or not. Don’t drop productive routines just because you are travelling, instead develop a travel morning routine. This could include exercise, reading, reviewing business performance trends, meditation, daily planning etc. Don’t allow yourself to wake up in a strange hotel room and wonder what you are going to do in the first hour or so of your day. Make this the hour that sets up the rest of your day for success.
4. Video call home
It can be lonely travelling, even if you are travelling with colleagues. But it is also hard for your family with you being away. Schedule a time to use Facetime or Skype to call your spouse/partner and kids rather than simple texts. It will make you fell better but just as importantly it will help your family fell better.
5. Eat and Drink Well
It has taken me a long, long time do realise that how you eat and drink on business travel will impact both productivity, health and mental health. The challenge is that you are likely eating out in restaurants with colleagues and exposed to lots of very nice food and wine. The number one productivity hack is don’t drink alcohol. That is very hard to do but set a goal to either not drink alcohol or at least set a maximum number of drinks. I am certainly not preaching from the moral high ground here but try it, it works.
If you have a healthy diet that works for you, don’t drop it just because you are travelling, stick to it. I used to eat a Paleo diet but relaxed the rules a bit when traveling. Every trip my waist measurement would sneak up a little bit. These days I follow a strict and highly enjoyable Ketogenic diet and don’t allow anything to knock me out of ketosis. I will walk half an hour to find a cafe that sells Bulletproof coffee (butter coffee) or take my own ingredients and tools to make it myself. By following the Stephen Covey “7-Habits” trick of staying true in the moment of choice you can maintain your health and not let it slowly degrade each time that you travel.
I admit I’m not great at exercise. However, I feel much alive, energetic and active when I do exercise. A 30-minute walk, to get a bulletproof coffee, or a brief run that get’s you outside the hotel room helps sets you up for a productive day. As Tim Ferriss would say, do one rep of something.
7. Sleep Well
I have found a definite correlation between going to sleep early, before 10 pm, and waking early around 5 am and my level of productivity. Getting a good nights sleep and waking early is a great productivity multiplier. Staying up until or past midnight drinking with your colleagues can be great fun but you will certainly be less productive … and we all know that.
8. Make use of the plane travel time
Aside from morning routines and setting one goal, the other major productivity multiplier is focus. If you can focus on one key activity for a set block of time you will significantly advance your objective. It is very easy to be distracted away from that key action that you have to do to advance an action. Phone calls, texts, emails, social media, office drop-ins all conspire to drag you away from your key activity. I find plane trips a great opportunity to choose a long and challenging task and just focus on it. Rather than “losing time” on a plane trip, use it to “make time” and advance your objectives.
These are the eight most powerful travel productivity hacks that work for me. I confess that I don’t follow all of them all of the time (except for Keto eating), but when I do I experience a more than 10X increase in productivity.
What travel productivity hacks work for you?