As the CEO of a growth stage civic tech startup, my role requires that I travel frequently to serve as a guest speaker at a conference, participate in industry-focused summits, or meet with current and potential clients and partners. All of these activities require a high level of interaction and very little downtime which can quickly sap the mental, physical and emotional capacity needed to effectively run a company.  Here are a few things that help me maintain my equilibrium despite a busy schedule.

Plan Ahead

While plans fall through despite the best preparation (and when they do I think of the guy in this video below), I've learned that taking time to line up appointments, confirm reservations and plan out transit options can greatly reduce the amount of time and energy spent dealing with unexpected surprises while on the road.

Make your trips more productive and reduce travel expenses for your company by lining up multiple appointments in a single trip. It's also a good idea to confirm all of your appointments a few days before your trip to prevent no-shows. 

Arrange your travel and lodging as quickly as possible to access cheaper prices and the most convenient flights. If you haven't paid for TSA pre-screening, it is well worth it to avoid the long security lines at most airports. And before booking your hotel, check it out using the street view option on your map to avoid trying to sleep a few feet away from a busy railroad track. 

If another organization is booking your travel, immediately confirm that your name is spelled right on your airline tickets to avoid unnecessary hassles with airport security. And if seats were not assigned for your flights, secure them quickly before the only options left are middle seats at the back of the plane. 

Fuel Up

Business travel means battling jet lag, trying to sleep in new surroundings with unfamiliar noises, uncomfortable pillows and in time zones that are not your own. It also means missing out on your regular exercise and eating heavier food than you might at home. Getting into the habit of drinking more water (bring an empty, refillable bottle with you) and choosing healthier options for most of your meals will ensure you have the right fuel to keep pace with demanding schedules.

If it's possible, using public transit can be an excellent opportunity for getting in exercise by walking from public transit stops to your appointments.

Protect Your Downtime

Meeting with clients and attending conferences can drain even the most extroverted traveler. Protecting your downtime and carving out space for quiet will help you regenerate for the next day's demands - even if it means being labeled the rude passenger who doesn't want to talk to anyone else during a flight.

Only respond to those emails, texts and phone calls that are urgent. Learning to not be so reactive in this world of constant connectivity is one of the most powerful habits we can develop to protect against burnout and mental fatigue. 

If you have a couple of hours between appointments, become a one-hour tourist in the city you're visiting. Whether you choose to a stroll along a popular boulevard or park, shop in a unique local market or make a quick visit to an attraction or landmark, you'll find that your one-hour tourist excursion will spark your imagination and allow you to arrive at your next appointment in a better state of mind.

Published on: Apr 27, 2016