As I write this, I’m sitting in my hotel room at the first of two conferences that I’ll be attending this week and next. On this trip, I travel directly from one city to the other without going back home, which meant a little extra planning on my part.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’m an introvert’s introvert, which means I’m pretty careful to preserve my energy when I travel for conferences. On this trip, that prep started well before I left home since I had to plan to be out of the office and away from my podcasting equipment for a couple of weeks.
I thought it might be helpful to share some of the tricks I’ve picked up along the way for when I have extended periods of travel:
- Pre-work as much as possible. For this trip, that meant that I recorded some podcast episodes, completed a few tasks at home, and cleared my desk at work as much as possible. I don’t want to have to work at my usual pace while I’m traveling, so the more I can get done ahead of time, the better. This also helps me be attentive to what’s going on at the conference rather than be distracted by projects back home.
- Prep all presentations. Throughout this trip, I’m presenting on four different topics, so I tried to have everything finalized and ready to go before I left. If I tried to do any of this last minute at the conferences themselves, I know it would take up the precious energy that I need to network and do a good job with the presentations while I’m on the road.
- Pack intentionally. For this trip, I’m in the colder climate of Pittsburgh, followed by the warmer climate of Orlando. That meant I needed to pack lots of layers, but also that I decided to check an extra bag so that I would have plenty of room for everything I might need during my time away. Some of my favorite comfort items that I brought along on this trip include my slippers, a rice bag to heat up in the hotel microwave (loosens tight muscles from traveling and helps me sleep), and an extra novel (or three, if I’m being honest) for evening reading and unwinding.
- Take breaks. Earlier in my career, I tended to treat conferences as marathon sessions of networking, presenting, and meetings that would go all day from breakfast to after-dinner-coffee. The older I get, the more breaks I need. Even tucking away into a corner to check email helps, but I prefer to go back to my room for quick breathers throughout the day in order to keep my energy levels up. Since my first conference extends over a weekend and my second conference starts mid-week, I’m also planning on taking a day “off” in between trips where I can sleep in, stick mostly to my hotel room, and get in some recovery time mid-trip.
- Go to bed early. With the three hour time change from west coast to east coast, it is taking me a little longer to fall asleep, but getting up at the equivalent of 3am Pacific each day means that a lack of sleep is going to catch up with me pretty quickly. Since I usually debrief each day on the phone with my partner, I appreciate that he does a good job of reminding me that I need to get to bed by a decent time. My rule for this trip is lights out and phone away by 10pm.
- Know when to postpone. As much as I want to see and chat with everyone that I can during my conference experiences, I also know that it’s just not possible to give everyone my time and energy during this short period. For some people, that means I’m giving a quick hug and then scheduling a Zoom call to catch up once I’m back home. Even though we have the opportunity to meet up in person, it ends up being a relief to both our schedules to stretch out that meeting time post-trip. Plus, it allows me to be more focused when we do eventually get to talk.
- Eat alone one meal a day. Now this may only be important for the introverts, but getting in one meal a day by myself is one way that I can ensure a little solitude time. Sometimes it takes some planning, but breakfast is an easy one since I travel with some gluten-free oatmeal and tea bags on every trip. Most hotel rooms have a coffee maker (i.e. hot water maker), so it’s simple and quick to get that meal together in my room.
- Plan for reentry. When I get back from travel, I don’t want to have a mountain of work in front of me, so I’m doing my best to keep up with email, hit deadlines, and check in with my team regularly to answer any questions they have while I’m away. I also scheduled a massage for the Saturday after I return and I’ll be using the well-timed Thanksgiving break to get some extra rest once I’m back.
These are just some of the strategies that work for me on extended trips, but I’d also love to hear what works for you. Send along any tips and tricks that I haven’t included here — I’d love to try them out this next week!