Whenever I travel, I often times wind up exhausted. Even though I’m halfway across the world bouncing between meetings with incredible people getting inspired by their work and culture, my mind is still thinking about all of the work piling up back home. I end up sleeping only a few hours at night because after meetings that end at 10:00 p.m., there’s another five hours of work to do back home and late night is the only time I’m not in meetings when I’m traveling. I often times feel totally off balance, and the worst part is that I struggle with being present in the conversations I’m having while traveling (which is ironically often times the whole reason I left the country in the first place).
Before stepping into a month of travel recently, I took some time to dive into researching how other people travel and what tips they have to offer, especially for entrepreneurs. I learned a few useful things from this research and from applying it to my recent trips to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. This post is designed to share with you six standout tips.
1. Book smarter flights.
As we all know, jetlag is a real killer. The trick is learning to buy airplane tickets based on the time difference. For example, if I’m flying from the U.S. to London, and it’s a seven-hour difference, I’ve found that it’s better to book an early morning flight. Then, I will deprive myself of sleep until I get on the plane (i.e. work all night until my 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. flight), pass out for the duration of the flight, and land in the morning ready to go. It’s a great way to get a ton of work done before you fly out and then feel rested and on the right time zone when you land. I do this for my return flight as well.
Oh, and as a pointer, check out Check out Google.com/flights. In my opinion, it’s 20 times better than anything out there. Imagine if Google created Orbitz today. It hits every airline’s database and will even suggest that you book your flight eight hours earlier and save $200. Basically, it’s a smart and intuitive way to search for flights.
2. Be the last person to board the plane.
Where you sit matters. One of the worst things about traveling on long international flights is winding up in the middle seat for twelve hours. If you wait and board last, any seat that isn’t occupied is fair game and no one will check. That little bit of extra legroom in economy plus or that window seat in an open row could make a big difference in productivity or rest.
Disclaimer: Don’t actually miss the flight because that wouldn’t be worth it. Stand by the gate and wait until they call your name twice and make certain you are close by so they don’t actually close the gate door on you. It’s happened to me before and it’s the worst.
3. Set up an away message.
I might always feel pulled in different directions when traveling, but now I know how to manage it better. A simple way I set myself up for success is to craft an automatic away message in Gmail that lists who to contact for different things. Part of that message gives instructions for how to contact me if it’s urgent, but I usually only get one or two of those per week. For most people, the message may be timely, but it really doesn’t matter if it takes me five days to respond. This allows me to be present when I’m in market. Then, when I’m flying home, I respond to all of the emails from the past week on my flight, which brings me to the next tip.
No other time in your life would you sit for 12 hours straight and work. Why do it on an airplane? Tweet This Quote
4. Take Advantage of Offline Email
I recently learned a really obvious thing that the previous generation has known about for years: You can email offline. I knew Outlook did this, but I’ve never touched it because at Unreasonable, we run everything through Google apps and Gmail and to be honest, most things Microsoft scare me. As millenials, we’re an online generation, but if you’re flying 19 hours to Singapore and you probably don’t want to sleep more than 8 hours on your flight, you may want to be hyper productive the rest of the time.
To stay on top of emails in the past, I would buy airplane Internet. Don’t get me wrong – it’s really cool that you can send emails through the sky, but it sucks in terms of speed. The newest version of the Gmail Offline app makes it easy to seriously GYSHIDO (i.e. Get Your Shit Done). It’s basically a URL that works offline and ties into all of your accounts. You can download attachments and write emails. Then, when you land and find an Internet connection, it blasts off the emails for you. I also tested out just using Apple’s email client, and once you set it up (read this article) I find it’s a bit faster than Gmail Offline.
5. Prioritize wellness.
When I travel, I do two things. First, I eliminate drinking from all meetings except for those on Friday nights (to be fair, I try to do this but occasionally fail). Second, I create an exercise routine I can do everywhere. You can do pushups, sit-ups, and pull-ups in the office or at the hotel room no problem. Even when on the plane, I will set a timer for every 40 minutes to get up and walk around. No other time in your life would you sit for 12 hours straight and just stare at a screen. Why do it on an airplane? This is another reason why it’s important to choose the right seat (i.e. ideally the aisle or an empty row).
By traveling, I could actually create a much healthier team by empowering people to step into the roles I normally do to run the company. Tweet This Quote
6. Set Your Team Up For Success
I used to feel really bad about leaving the team until I discovered Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s theory of being a good CEO by absence. Every year, he would leave for six months. It was most likely an excuse to go climb mountains, but what he did was create a company that could handle itself without him. He could focus on the company’s vision while the team was able to run the operations and day to day of the business Furthermore, this helps with the “hit by the bus challenge” that most startups face (i.e. if the CEO got hit by a bus, everything would crumble). You can use traveling as a way to ensure this isn’t your team’s reality.
By traveling, I realized that I could actually create a much healthier team by empowering people to step into the roles I normally do to run the company. As long as you set your team up for success, I feel this is a good theory of leadership—and you have less to worry about when traveling.