Travel is notorious for throwing off schedules, wearing people out, and wreaking havoc on productivity levels. And losing work time on a business trip means returning home already behind, which leads to sacrificing time meant for family, friends, or yourself while you catch up.
But frequent business trips don’t have to cause a cycle of putting things on hold followed by long hours getting back on track. Ellen Delap, certified professional organizer at the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, spends much of her time advising clients on how to stay productive when traveling. Her No. 1 tip? Get organized.
She explains, “If you are disorganized, your work while traveling suffers. Being organized with your passwords and having easy access to cords designated with labels makes work while traveling seamless.”
If you travel frequently, maintaining your energy and productivity levels is not just critical for your professional wellbeing — it’s also critical for long-term physical and mental well-being.
Some airlines are catching on to this struggle. United Airlines, JetBlue, Swiss Air, British Airways, and Cathay Pacific, for example, all offer digital meditation services such as meditation and stretching exercises as part of their in-flight entertainment options.
The downtime caused by bad Wi-Fi connections, dead batteries, and time in the car can be frustrating with so much to do. But this space is perfect for relaxing or expanding your mind. Read a novel or listen to an audiobook, do thought exercises, or make a pros and cons list about a tough decision coming up.
As NAPO organizer Laura Kavinski explains: “Self-care is not a luxury. You will not be able to be who you need to be and do what you need to do if you don’t put yourself first. This can mean saying no to that glass of wine, going for a walk, or even staying three more minutes in a quiet bathroom stall before going to the next thing.”
This is the attitude of a woman who travels constantly for work. Last year, she traveled to Dallas, to San Francisco, back to Dallas, to Amsterdam, to the NAPO17 conference in Pittsburgh, and to Chicago. With this amount of travel, productivity and wellness can’t be put on the back burner.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple strategies that can help you structure and organize a travel routine that not only ensures high productivity, but also contributes to your health and well-being.
1. Use a separate packing list for work travel.
You need different things for work-related travel than if you’re on vacation. Edit this list to include only the essentials, but be sure you don’t underpack — buying things as needed gets expensive. Remember to include critical items for healthy habits, such as running shoes or a reusable water bottle, and then reevaluate and update your lists after each trip.
2. Create a supply “go bag.”
Kavinski explained that her favorite way to travel is with “a GRID-IT in a medium packing cube. My cords are contained, and I can easily slide it in and out of my laptop bag when I go through security. I have TSA Precheck, but I travel with my laptop, extra printer, extra screen, and essential cords and cables. So I still have to pull things out. I have a similar setup for my toiletries and personal care.”
3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Those little drinks on a plane are not enough to keep you hydrated, and security protocols can make it harder to keep a full bottle of water with you to sip on. On top of that, coffee or sugary drinks are readily available and might seem more enticing than water. Instead, try carrying an empty water bottle that you can refill once you get through security and once you arrive at your destination.
4. Create a workout schedule.
Do you work out at home? Be sure to add that activity to your travel schedule, but don’t discount the importance of sleep! If your schedule is tight on your trip and you would have to be up at 4 a.m. to get your normal workout in, find opportunities to build exercise into your days. Choose the stairs over the elevator, do 15 minutes of yoga or Pilates in your hotel room, or make use of long layovers and look for a nearby gym or park. Even a 10-minute brisk walk around the hotel or airport can keep you from feeling lethargic.
5. Check in with loved ones.
Your emotional well-being is important. Schedule time to check in with loved ones, even if it’s just two minutes at lunchtime. If you plan to connect earlier in the day, it’s more likely to happen, especially when you’re in different time zones.
6. Travel in comfort.
Throwing off your sleep schedule can put a major damper on your energy and ability to focus. Don’t simply suffer through fatigue — make small investments in your comfort so you can make the most of long plane rides. For example, a high-quality travel pillow can make the difference between feeling energized and refreshed versus drained and exhausted after a long flight.
Don’t buy into the lie that normal productivity has to be put on hold during business trips. With the right organization and a little diligence on the road, you can maintain not only your productivity, but also your overall health.