Out of Office: When You're Flying, So Should Your Mind
I have status. Not because I’m fabulous but because I spend weeks and months every year shuffling in and out of hotels and airports, meeting with customers, attending events and talking to our global teams. Travel is a big part of most business jobs and, through the years, I’ve learned how to make the most of it – even make it a time for creativity without distraction. Being a million miler is great, but doing corporate travel right is invaluable.
Sometimes I’ll find that my schedule is so chaotic that I wish I had a 13-hour flight to Asia to do some thinking. I’m constantly tweaking my tips for the road to figure out the best way to travel with purpose. Here is my updated list:
Pack for Simplicity… and Peace of Mind
If packing were an Olympic sport, I’d be a medalist. I refuse to take more than a carry-on bag lest I face last-minute flight changes. I have gone for more than two weeks, between snow and heat, supplied by only one suitcase. Still, efficiency comes at a price: I was a laughable sight wearing way too many clothes at a Lufthansa gate in Hong Kong, refusing to let my bag be rejected as too heavy.
I prefer lightweight, fabric bags with lots of pockets and zippers (Lipault is my current favorite). I roll up all my clothes and build a wardrobe around one pair of business shoes and basics. Hotel laundry is expensive but essential for long trips.
I also pack workout clothes and my almost weightless Nike Hyperfeel shoes. On arrival, especially after an international flight, I try to walk outside to soak up the sunlight in beautiful parks like these favorites: Munich’s English Garden, Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, San Francisco’s Embarcadero and anywhere in Paris.
Be Creative at 38,000 Feet
Airplanes may be physically constricting, but they’re a great place to let your mind wander without distractions. It’s ironic because once upon a time, I feared flying and now I look forward to it as a place to let my mind wander.
Before my flight, I choose one or two projects or ideas that require deep thought and organize all of the reading materials and briefs I need. When we take off, I like to write long hand or do mind mapping. I think of the air as a respite from PowerPoint. Finally, I limit myself to bursts of 90 to 120 minutes of work. More than that, and I tend to lose the creative spark. Finally, I wind down with a novel or a sitcom and try to let the ideas settle.
Be Ready for Unplanned Downtime
Flights get canceled. Meetings get canceled. It can either be incredibly frustrating or an unexpected gift. If I haven’t gotten to the airport, I’ll often direct a cab to drive the long way to take in a few extra sights. For long waits at airports, I always have a number of books on my Kindle app and a variety of music and audio books so I can match my mood. Hanging by the gate is a good time to clean out the email box or update my to-do list.
It took me years to learn that it’s much better to be resigned to inevitable delays, and grateful for the gift of unfettered time and the opportunity to let my mind fly.
Beth Comstock is a Marketer on a mission. Intrigued by ideas at the intersection of design & technology. CMO at GE. Aspiring innovator. Sometime writer. Relentless traveler.