Business travel is challenging for everyone, but particularly for us introverts.
While getting there, we're forced into close quarters with strangers, and when we arrive, people put demands on our time and attention, draining our energy and lessening our effectiveness.
As an unrepentant introvert, I struggled for years with business travel before I figured out these techniques for maintaining my peak performance even during a rigorous trip. I hope they prove useful:
1. Avoid unnecessary business travel (duh).
The more business trips you take, the more it drains your personal energy. Therefore, if you want to be at your best when you travel, only travel when it's entirely necessary.
Tools like Skype and GoToMeeting make meeting remotely easy, so unless there's an overwhelming need for your physical presence, why even go there?
Warning: Extraverts enjoy business travel. They gain energy from slapping backs and pressing the flesh. When it comes to business travel, they can get a bit pushy.
Don't let the extraverts convince you that you ought to like business travel. Unless you really want to go on that business trip, find an excuse to avoid it.
2. Book your own travel.
If you can't get out of business travel, always make your own plane reservations. Otherwise, you risk getting seated next to a co-worker.
That means being "on" not just for the entire flight but also for the pre-flight wait and the post-flight ground transportation.
Sitting next to a co-worker also prevents you from creating the all-important energy cocoon. (See No. 4 below.)
Since you can't really conduct business in public (unless you don't mind everyone listening in), this drains your energy to no good purpose.
3. Use technology to avoid crowds.
Download your airline's app. If it's decent, it will tell you when your flight is boarding. Now you can sit at an empty gate away from the crowd.
If you can afford it, pay for early boarding. That way, when the "boarding" message comes up on the app, you can pretty much just walk to the gate and on to the plane.
Make your Uber or Lyft arrangements early so you can zip down and get to wherever you're going without being forced to deal with people.
You've probably heard pundits complain about how today's technology isolates people from a sense of community. In this case, I say: "Woo-hoo!"
4. Create an energy cocoon.
Invest in a pair of noise-canceling headsets. Book a window seat. Download a binge-watch into your device of choice. Buy food and drink at the airport.
When you board the plane, create an invisible mental barrier between yourself and everyone else. Pull out your headset and binge away.
Unless it's for a safety issue, ignore the stewards. (That why you bought food and drinks.) The stewards won't mind; they've got other passengers to worry about.
While you're at it, pray for the day that VR headsets become truly portable, because then ... sweet, silent paradise.
5. Monitor and manage your energy.
When you're at the meeting, monitor your energy level. If you start feeling drained, find an excuse to be by yourself for a while.
If it's a conference, use the break periods to find a corner where you'll be left alone. If necessary, pretend you're on a call.
If it's a meeting in an unfamiliar office, take a walk. Worst case, you can hole yourself up in a restroom stall. Any port in a storm.
Unless you really enjoy the company of your co-workers (in which case, maybe you're not really introverted?), beg off on the "let's do the town" offer.
This is not being anti-social. It's being respectful to yourself and your nature. It's taking care of yourself so that you can be at your best.
6. Use meals to recharge.
For introverts, business meals can be a real problem. If a "let's do lunch" meeting is necessary, try to make it a one-on-one rather than a group event.
The "group meals" at conferences are almost always a waste of time and energy. The food is bad and the conversations forced.
Rather than suffer unnecessarily, I scope out a local venue near the hotel or office and eat alone. Sushi bars are perfect. (Mmmm, sushi ... )
The breakfast bars at hotels can be minefields. The last thing you need at the start of your day is to buttonholed by a chatty extro.
If possible, fill your plate at the buffet and take it to your room. Or just use room service. That way, when it's time to work, you're rested, energized, and ready to rock.