Business travel is a fact of life for most companies. Regardless of if you’re traveling three times a year or three times a month, you’ll be expected to maintain a certain level of productivity while you’re on the road. That can be surprisingly difficult sometimes.
Think of it this way: Many people have trouble sleeping in a bed that’s not their own. It could be an incredibly comfortable mattress with plenty of feather down pillows, but it’s still not the bed you’re most used to. Well, when you travel, everything is like that bed. The desk in your hotel is nice, but it’s not like the one in the office. There’s a garden tub in the hotel, but it just makes you miss your tiny little bathroom at home. Oh, and that cute little dog a guest had in the hotel lobby reminded you of your cat. Your cat hates dogs.
When we travel, there are constant reminders that we don’t “belong.” Logically, we know that we’ve been sent to a location to take business meetings and perform some vital work, but our mind can still have trouble grasping that.
One way to cut back on the distractions is to stay at a place that feels less like a hotel and more like a home. Corporate guest houses are increasingly popular options for travelers who want that bed-and-breakfast feel on a business trip. Such houses often include a kitchen, dining area, and fully equipped laundry room. When you leave your work for the day, you can go home to an actual house instead of a hotel room. The sooner your mind can forget that you’re traveling, the sooner it can refocus on the work that brought you here.
Another good way to stay focused while on business travel is to stick to a routine. Time zones can be tough to manage, especially if you live in California but travel to Ohio for business. Heading east is harder on the body because of the lost hours. Conversely, you gain hours by traveling from the east to the west, so while it still feels different, at least you don’t have a 7 o’clock wake-up call that feels like 4 a.m. However, if you can get up and start drinking coffee, you’ll probably feel a lot better than if you just stay in bed and wake up late. It’s better to jump right into a new routine than to try and fight it. Naps are a lot of fun, but they can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule, which is already confused enough. If you must rest, set the alarm for no more than 45 minutes and “power nap.”
Business trips aren’t cheap, even if you had to take the red-eye flight and sit in coach. If your boss sent you on a trip, that means they trust that you’ll finish the tasks that are assigned to you. The stakes are often a bit higher, so you really don’t want to miss that 9 a.m. teleconference with the home office. And if your boss calls your company-issued smartphone, it’s not going to look great if you answer it and sound like you just woke up.
There are things you can do to distract yourself from the fact that you’re on the road, but to the higher-ups, it shouldn’t matter if you’ve been sent to a business meeting in the Grand Canyon: You have a job to do, regardless of the distractions. Getting it done right may mean more travel flexibility down the line, or even increased pay in exchange for the increased responsibility. Business travel is a test, and you want to leave no doubts regarding your ability to handle it.