Have you ever wondered why some people absolutely hate business travel while others seem to love it? Variables like location, length, and time of year obviously have a big impact on the enjoyableness of work travel. But even with all those things equal, two distinct camps of business travelers remain: those who happily travel for work and those who dread it.
Why is that the case?
One major reason that work travel is so disliked is the havoc it wreaks on your schedule. Even a day or two of absence from the office for the average employee can spark multiple fires for them to put out upon their return. And if no such crises arise while they’re gone, the increased backlog of everyday work on its own creates a huge hassle.
However, there are ways to combat the stress of business travel while simultaneously keeping work from piling up while you’re gone. If you’re interested in beating the business travel blues for good, try these eight simple tips on your next trip.
Mindful Tips to Beat Work Travel Stress
Take an Hourly Mindfulness Break
No matter what you’re doing, where you are, or what’s happening around you (within reason), set aside 3-5 minutes to practice mindfulness and ground yourself. Essentially, you just want to take a few minutes, focus on your breaths, and think of nothing else than experiencing each moment as it passes.
The stress of work travel can build up quickly, and you often find yourself overwhelmed without realizing how you got there. An hourly mindfulness break keeps stress from getting too out of hand, and it keeps you calm, satisfied, and focused on the task at hand.
Plan Religiously Before Departure and Return
The first step to fighting overwhelm is to have a solid plan. When you’re in the midst of a hectic trip and trying to accomplish regular work tasks as well, just knowing where to start is often the biggest hurdle. Thorough planning keeps that from happening, and the two most important times to plan are the day before you leave and the day before you return.
Spend an hour in a quiet spot and start thinking about what you want to accomplish – both during your trip and during the first few days when you come home. You can make this as simple or complicated as you like. Just sitting down with your morning coffee and scribbling on a piece of paper works fine.
Once you have a solid game plan for your trip, you’ll never be at a loss to decide what needs your attention or what you should do next. And when you’re armed with a concrete list of action items to tackle on your first day back in the office, you’ll be able to hit the ground running as soon as you return.
Don’t Focus On What’s Coming Up Next or What Just Happened
A big part of the average person’s stress originates in their fixation on periods of time over which they have no control, the future and the past. They spend enormous amounts of time and energy fretting over the things they do or don’t want to happen in the days to come, or about the regrettable events of days past. And, as a result, it causes them to be unable to live comfortably one day at a time.
Thankfully, knowing the problem is half the battle. Put in a conscious effort to deal with each task and issue you encounter as it arises, nothing more and nothing less. Assuming you’re adequately prepared, don’t concern yourself with what’s on tomorrow’s schedule. Likewise, take your experiences from the past; learn from them what you can; then dismiss them and free your mind.
Schedule Offline Work Hours
It’s tough to get much of anything done when you’re constantly being sidetracked by calls and emails from back home. You probably feel as though it’s your responsibility to be constantly available just in case anything comes up at the office, and that mentality makes it incredibly hard to disconnect.
Unfortunately, distractions from home are an enormous productivity killer. That’s why it’s crucial to dedicate some of your time on the road to working completely offline.
Simply pick a task, disconnect from the web, turn off your phone, and start chipping away till the work is done. Even if you have to politely explain your offline schedule to coworkers before taking the plunge, the benefits in productivity are well worth it. You’ll find that you’re far more productive when you fully disconnect, and that translates into a smaller backlog of work and less stress overall when you return to the office.
Try to Maintain Your Daily Routine
Routine and productivity are inseparable. You simply can’t have one without the other. That’s why you’ll find the world’s most accomplished business people and entrepreneurs executing the same rituals day in and day out, like clockwork.
Maybe you already understand the power of a rigid daily routine. You might even wake up extra early, hit the gym, and drop into work early to get a jump on the day. But when you hit the road on business, it throws a wrench into your whole routine.
Between jet lag, late dinner meetings, and early flights, there’s a whole host of things that stand in the way of you keeping the daily habits that sustain your productivity. But despite all the obstacles, you should do everything you can to maintain some level of normalcy in regard to your routine. Even if you have to sacrifice a few less important habits to make time for the difference-making ones (like your early morning workout), you’ll be glad you did.
Go Beyond Away Messages
We’ve all received the dreaded away message. You need input from a coworker, so you fire off a quick email. But all you get in return is an automated one-line response saying they’re out of the office.
Away messages are effective for little more than explaining why you won’t be responding to email. They don’t really do much to prevent problems caused by your absence, and they can actually encourage coworkers to leave problems unaddressed till you return, simply letting them stew and potentially worsen without you even knowing.
The right way to fix the insufficiencies of the common away message is to do the following:
- Delegate responsibility. Instead of setting up a simple away message, also include the name and contact info of a colleague who can address urgent issues.
- Tie up loose ends. Do your best to touch base with team members and give them everything they might need from you while you’re gone.
- Manage expectations. Always meet with superiors and/or clients to clarify your availability on the road. This prevents aggravation when you become unreachable for extended periods of time or unable to make headway or a specific project item while out of the office.
Go for a Walk
Walking is a powerful stress fighter. Sometimes the act of physically removing yourself from a stressful environment and getting a breath a fresh air is all you need to get over stressful feelings, and taking a walk is the perfect way to do both of those things.
Ideally, you should avoid bringing your work with you while you walk, especially if the work itself is what’s causing your stress. However, you can always respond to emails, catch up on phone calls, or listen to a podcast while you walk if you feel the urge to stay productive.
Let Free Moments Really Be Free
Turning your attention to work during every free second you get might make you feel like you’re working hard, but in reality, it’s an awful habit with little upside. Not only will you fail to get anything done in the tiny work sessions you squeeze in during your time on the train, waiting in line for coffee, or riding the elevator to your next meeting. You’ll also multiply your stress levels and become increasingly overwhelmed.
If you follow the advice mentioned earlier about planning before your trip and before your return, as well as the advice on setting aside dedicated offline work time, you shouldn’t feel pressured to whip out your iPhone every chance you get anyway.
Instead, use your spare moments for leisure or to reconnect with your family. Those tiny pockets of time are far more effective for recharging than for working. Use them wisely.
What Do You Think?
Are you one of the much envied business travelers who always manages to hold down the fort while enjoying their time on the road? If so, please share your tips!
This post was written by Frankie Rendon, the digital marketer/PR guy for Aries. Prior to entering the internet marketing realm, he worked for a non-profit organization where he fought to address the needs of the under-served indigenous population of Latin America in efforts to improve the overall quality of life. Follow him on Twitter.