Get the most out of business travel: Avoid jet lag and embrace distraction-free flights

Business travel can be a bore – but even relaxing in-flight can be productive
Fasting to avoid jet lag and embracing life without internet can ensure you don’t waste time.
Travelling abroad is part and parcel of business life, and flying is often essential. But these trips can often be very short and, while your schedule on the ground may be back-to-back, there is a risk that the flight-time itself will be a complete waste of time. So what can you do to make your travels more productive?

LIFE WITHOUT INTERNET

While the internet is finally beginning to reach the air, many airports and airlines still have restrictive or non-existent Wi-Fi connections. Should you find yourself without internet, however, don’t despair. It may be an opportunity to focus on a project that needs your undivided attention. Tweak a presentation deck or polish a proposal, for example. The advantage of working on planes without internet is that you don’t have the same distractions as in the office – the phone won’t ring and people won’t ask you any questions. There’s time and space, 30,000 feet in the air, to think properly about work that needs your full attention.

PREPARE FOR JET LAG

Depending on where you’re flying to, jet lag can be the biggest problem of all in productivity terms. Bad quality (or non-existent) sleep, coupled with changing timezone, confuses your body, making it difficult to work after landing. There is an astonishing number of theories on jet lag cures, but Harvard seems to have a strong one. Researchers there discovered that there is a second body clock based not on daylight, but on food intake. If forced by fasting, this will take over your sleep pattern and cure jet lag.
In 2009, the BBC ran an experiment with two international racing drivers based on this research. It found that the driver who ate nothing in the 16 hours before landing, but who then ate his first meal in sync with his destination’s timezone, slept well and was far more alert the following day than the driver who ate whenever he wanted. While this might not make you more productive on the flight itself, overcoming jet lag will certainly make you more productive when you land.

STAY HYDRATED

But if your stomach is rumbling at the thought of flying long haul without eating, there are still plenty of things you can do on board to help prepare your body for a new timezone. Drinking plenty of water is essential; dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag and dry air within the cabin can exacerbate low-fluid levels. Too much caffeine increases dehydration, so keep tea and coffee to a minimum. Another tip is to set your watch and phone to your destination time as soon as you board, so your body can gradually adjust over the flight.

TO SLEEP OR NOT TO SLEEP?

Decide beforehand whether you’re going to use all or part of the flight for sleeping (bearing in mind how you choose to tackle jet lag). Accept the eye-mask and ear-plugs and turn the air conditioning on; cool temperatures are best for sleeping. Lavender oil is a natural sleep aid and relaxant: apply a few drops to cotton wool and inhale. Make use of the relaxing sounds on the inflight entertainment system, or download a soothing meditation or talking book to drift off to. Breathing deeply also facilitates falling asleep quickly.

TIME TO THINK

Rather than bemoan the limits travel puts on productivity, appreciate the few hours in which you can mull over important professional and personal issues and develop fresh perspectives. Even if you decide to sit and relax for part of the flight, this may open up space to find an unexpected, and creative, solution to a problem you’ve been mulling over. Unlike driving a car or travelling on the Tube, where you’re jostled and disturbed, during a plane journey, you can take notes and capture these all-important thoughts.
Fia Gosling is digital marketing specialist at Vistage.

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