Not every minute of a business trip needs to be work.
September will be a good month and a bad month. Good because family vacations will be over, leaving airports less tangled by the infrequent fliers who don't know their way around; bad because we will all be back on the road, resuming a furious pace. I look at my calendar for September and my heart sinks: 4 countries, 9 cities. But then I ask myself: how can I make the best of this?
Treat Fly Time as Leisure Time
If I have to spend a lot of time on planes, I try to think of this as time off. In certain ways, it's more restful than home: no internet, no phones, no interruptions. Use it for daydreaming and letting your mind wander. Most people have their best ideas when they take their minds away from problems they're trying to solve.
Read a Real Book
Research shows that when we read words on paper, it reduces our stress levels by nearly 70 percent. We also read more carefully than on tablets or laptops. So take a real book with you -- and, if you're really brave, a book that isn't immediately related to work. A completely different topic will give your brain a rest; an obliquely relevant one will spark different thoughts.
Eat on the Ground
I try hard to eat meals on the ground in the best place I can find. Increasingly airports seem to have returned to the old idea that at least one real, decent restaurant -- the kind with cooks and cutlery -- is worth the real estate. Real food in a calm setting is restorative in the way that fast food on the run never is. And eating on the ground means you can go to sleep as soon as you take off.
Sleep in the Air
On overnight flights, I have trained myself to get to sleep almost instantly after takeoff. I always listen to the same audiobook on my iPod so my brain knows, regardless of time zone, that that voice means it's time for bed. I take one TylenolPM and, typically, don't wake until we land. It's a rigid routine, which is why it works.
Does this mean I hop off of planes fresh as a daisy? Not quite. But it helps. And it means that when I finally crawl home, some slight resemblance to a human being remains.