Managing your energy on the long haul

night flight
night flight
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I’m in Melbourne airport again, which – as regular readers of this blog will know – is where I get inspired to write my best blogs. The inspiration is less to do with the environment of Melbourne airport and much more to do with having finished up another exciting and rewarding spell of work with our Australian customers, being homeward bound and having a bit of time before boarding to put pen to paper.

I’ve worked with quite a few folks over the last two weeks who do a lot of long haul travelling as part of their job, and we had some good conversations about how to keep performance-ready when you’re spending time on planes, trains and automobiles, and traversing time zones to the point you’re thoroughly confused about whether it’s day or night. So here’s 5 top tips to help you manage your energy and keep performing when you’re doing long haul travel….

Stop bitching about it

If long haul travel is part of the conditions you’re choosing to play in, then stop focusing on how tough it is, and start focusing on maximising your performance readiness. Even if you don’t ‘bitch’ about it, you might be chatting quite a lot about it (and enjoying the hero status that you think comes from spending time on the road for the company). You’ve signed up for this, so get on with it. And if you didn’t (and your job and conditions have changed), you’ve chosen to keep playing in the conditions. Harsh, but true. Shift the dial to being superb at being ready to perform, whatever conditions you’re in.

The 100% mindset

The reality is that you’re in conditions that will affect your ability to be at your best. So it might not be super-helpful to set standards – and measure yourself – with the same yardstick that you’d use if you were sleeping in your own bed, taking the short journey to the office, not getting confused by the whole day and night thing, etc. Adjust your picture of what good looks like. Focus on being as ready as you can be in the conditions you’re in – and maximising your resource to do that.

Make great choices on flights

Principles for this which elite athletes follow: a) drink water, stay away from caffeine and alcohol (sorry about that); b) hydrate a lot (again, water, not alcohol); c) stick to your normal food choices – what you’d eat and how much; d) bring your own stuff if you’re not confident of being able to do that. Be careful of eating too many carbs – which airlines tend to want to feed you; e) set your watch to the time zone of your destination when you get on the flight and sleep accordingly

Keep active

Keep moving on the flight (if you follow b) above, you’ll be up and down to the toilet anyway). And – believe it or not – some gentle exercise in the hours after you land can be really helpful for easing you into the time zone and keeping awake if you arrive early and need to stay awake til the evening (which is a must do).

Short trip? Stay in your home time zone!

Here’s a contentious one, which is debated hard by those practiced travellers… if your trip is 2-3 days only, consider staying in your home time zone. Push on through and eat, sleep and work when you normally would at home. You might need to lay the groundwork and manage expectations around when you’ll be working in your destination zone. If you can’t do that, at least try to strategically arrange key meetings for when you know your energy will be highest.

If you’re a long haul traveller, what choices do you typically make, and how do they compare with the advice above? The choices you make are – of course – down to you – but at least be mindful of the choices you’re making and how helpful they are for you to be ready to perform. It’s not about being perfect – but it’s about making some small changes that might just help you out.

With that, I’m off to board my flight back to the UK. Looking forward to kicking back with a glass of wine… 🙂