When I first started travelling, each time I moved from one place to next, I inevitably wasted a few days being non-productive as I adjusted to the new place, get over jet lag and settled into the local groove. Those few days meant that work would pile up and correspondingly, my stress levels would rise too. I needed to minimise downtime so as not to miss crucial deadlines or work myself up into such a state that I could not even enjoy my new home. So I learned to get productive as soon as I land.
Hack #1: Unpack as soon as you arrive
This has been my number one productivity hack for a while now. As soon as I arrive, I unpack everything and put my things away – unless I arrive at an ungodly hour, in which case I do it first thing the next day. There is just something about having my things neatly put away that makes me feel ‘settled’ and at home. I used to leave clothes in the suitcase for days, sometimes even for over a week, and I found that it contributed to my lack of productivity. Just seeing clothes, suitcases and shoes lying about made me feel like I was merely passing through, and that all I wanted to do was laze about and explore the city.
I don’t know what the science behind unpacking is, but after I’ve transferred my belongings from bags to racks, it feels like I’ve tricked my brain into fast tracking to work mode.
Hack #2: Work that jet lag out
Jet lag can be a real productivity killer, leaving me pretty much out of commission till it wears itself out. A friend, who is a personal trainer, told me to go for a run or do any form of exercise. The idea is to tire yourself out so that you can sleep. I am not a runner, so I usually walk or hit the gym. I would do this for a few days until my body clock got back on track. The bonus? You get some great workout in the process.
Hack #3: Fill up your daily or weekly planner
This can be a hit or miss, but I find that when I plan out my days ahead, it gives me a lot more clarity. I write down all the things I need to get done so I have a good idea of what’s expected of me, what my workload is and what my priorities should be. I don’t always get everything on the list done, but at least I’m aware of what needs my attention, and I am not stressed out worrying that I may have missed something. As I check the items off my list, it further motivates me to stay productive.
Hack #4: Drink lots of water
When travelling, I notice that I tend to drink less water. It’s not a conscious decision but could be due to the fact that unlike being at home, there isn’t always a toilet nearby and besides, you can’t bring liquids on board or even pass the security screenings. Needless to say, I usually arrive dehydrated, which makes jet lag all the more difficult to deal with.
Not only is your body out of sync, you also become prone to headaches, dry skin, muscle cramps, and food cravings. These are all distractions preventing you from getting started on work so make sure to down as much water as you can before, during and after a flight.
Hack #5: Hit the sack early
I know, this is a hard one, especially if you’re suffering from jet lag but it’s worth making an effort. I’m one of those who wake up at the same time every morning, no matter what time I go to bed the night before. So when I have a late night, I wake up sleep-deprived and it’s so much harder to focus on work. Getting adequate slumber ensures you wake up refreshed and raring to go.
Hack #6: Don’t schedule work for the day you arrive
You need a day to decompress and get a feel of the new place – or at least I do. I avoid making any work-related plans or appointments on the day that I arrive, so that I can take the time to unpack, walk around the neighbourhood, explore bits of the city and just relax into her energy. I find that this really helps me avoid the stress of trying to do it all as soon as I land. This way, I can get the lay of the land and find my bearings, perhaps even meet a friend for a drink to ease myself into things. The next day, I am ready to take on my deadlines.
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