5 Ways To Stay Productive on the Road as An Entrepreneur
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
As the CEO of an international travel and hospitality company, I travel more than most would care to. Over the years, it's become increasingly clear to me that, even when you're traveling for business, it's very easy to lose sight of your greater business goals and fall behind -- whether that's due to jet-lag, being out of pocket on a plane, in meetings abroad, entertaining clients or just plain carelessness. Due to improvements in technology and changes in workplace environments, recent studies have shown that you can be far more productive in your job while in a remote location away from your office. A 2016 survey of 509 Americans who work outside an office found that about 91 percent of them felt more productive while away from their office.
You simply must stay productive while on the road, because what are your other options? Stop traveling and watch your entire business fall behind? No way. It's something of a catch-22: The core of my success has been mixing exploratory passions and finding ways to expand a global network. I want to get out to the far corners of the world that others are too hesitant, or perhaps too lazy, to reach. But, I know that in order to do that and grow my business, I need to stay incredibly focused, healthy and disciplined while on the move. I need to push myself.
Here are five techniques I've picked up over the years that have helped me stay productive and ahead of the curve while traveling.
1. Accept the power of your phone.
It honestly makes me chuckle that I have a laptop I never use, mainly because I'm barely ever at my desk. I've come to realize and accept that I do 95 percent of my business on my phone. Yes, that even means the occasional multi-million dollar deal, where I'll sign the digital dotted line using my SignNow app. Check that one out.
A lot of people these days will urge you to take time away from your phone, and I'll agree that every now and then it's healthy to do a digital detox, but you need to accept how important your smartphone is to streamlining your work and staying connected across time zones when you're traveling. A study by Salesforce even found that 86 percent of the 1,400 surveyed corporate executives and employees say that ineffective communication is a large reason for failures in the workplace.
If you do international business, I can't stress enough how important WhatsApp is for communicating with your clients, customers and partners quickly and efficiently. Emails will always be a part of business, but having the opportunity to send a WhatsApp message to a customer saying, "Hey, we're looking for your feedback here," or "I'm seeing this problem," offers the kind of immediate connectivity you can't find anywhere else. Organize your phone like you would any other part of your business, and don't just see it as a distraction. You'll be far more productive in the long run.
2. Articulate your vision.
One of the more difficult challenges when it comes to being a leader, especially one who travels all the time, is articulating a consistent vision to your team. Don't ever be afraid to rely on your employees to keep everything in motion. For myself, this often gets distilled down into what each person on your team's area of focus and expertise is. Once you know that, you can gauge who to assign items to and design a process around that.
One of the things that I've had to learn over the years is to never assume people know what's in your head, and instead be very clear and crisp around what the expectations are from the onset. When you fail to do this, people start to deviate. That's when things can get messy when you're not around the office for days or weeks on end.
Also, make sure you have strong leadership beneath you. Trust that those people are going to execute on your vision and what you put in front of them. Trust is lost not earned! Ensure you don't leave an open feedback loop that two months later will leave projects half-finished. Communication is everything in both life and business. Lastly, empower your team to make decisions, and be there to help them learn and improve along the way.
3. Start early.
Traveling, especially when overseas, is undoubtedly exhausting. Don't let this slow you down when you need to be on top of your game. What I like to do first thing in the morning is get up, get in a workout and then, while I'm having breakfast and coffee, I start catching up on everything. When you're traveling, by the end of the day a deep mental fatigue often sets in. Sometimes you're in a different time zone, entertaining clients or running 12 hours straight in back-to-back meetings. In these instances, it's often difficult to be fully engaged. If you have that steady cadence every morning of dialing in on your goals and deliverables, you're going to buy yourself a lot of valuable time. This might mean just clearing out a massive chunk of your inbox so you can stay ahead of your office, depending on what time zone you're in. Conversely, you may have to delegate to your team and prioritize what is critical to your business and necessitates your involvement.
4. Leverage your downtime.
Getting the most out of your downtime is incredibly valuable -- whether it be 20 minutes in a cab or an hour in your hotel room. Georgetown University professor and author Cal Newport has a theory of "deep work," where peak productivity boils down to the time spent working multiplied by the intensity of focus.Take your downtime to intently catch up on emails or take important calls; these are the windows where you can "gain back" moments lost in the mix of traveling. If you try to do everything at once and push the limits of multi-tasking, you're going to get hit with email fatigue and, eventually, pure and utter exhaustion.
I like to look at things in threes: What are three things I need to get done today? When can I slot them into my schedule when I will be most clear-headed and efficient? Answering these questions will alleviate a lot of stress and make you feel less overwhelmed.
5. Water is your friend.
People ask me a lot about tricks to kicking jet-lag, and time and time again it comes down to staying hydrated. I don't drink alcohol on long flights anymore, but instead ask the flight attendants to bring me a liter of water that I have them refill constantly. Maybe I look silly, but in the end I feel ten times better when I get to my destination.
Second, the minute you leave your initial destination, you have to put your mind in the time zone you're going to. So, if you're going on a 10-hour flight from Europe back to Los Angeles, for example, try not to sleep the entire 10 hours, or when you land you'll never be able to sleep. I sleep a maximum of four hours on the flight when coming back from Europe to the U.S. On the contrary, if you're going to Europe, force yourself to sleep as much as you can so when you land you're awake and refreshed. When you get to your destination, you need to stay awake. Don't listen to people who try to sneak in little naps -- it doesn't work. Also, try to work up a sweat in the gym or on a run around a new city. And eat healthy! It all helps. In fact, studies have shown that workers who exercise before or between meetings and other tasks boost their productivity up to 15 percent.
This isn't rocket science, but I've seen so many people on trips do the opposite and become a total wreck. Don't be that person.