Mindfulness is big business these days. There are apps to help you meditate, white noise machines to help you sleep, neurofeedback earbuds to help you focus. And for good reason. Studies have linked mindfulness to decreased stress, increased creativity, and the ability to make better strategic choices.
The era of distraction is difficult enough to navigate when you’re at home, surrounded by the people and things you know, in your comfort zone. But throw in a quick trip to close the deal with an important new client, or a week away at a customer’s site to work through project details just ahead of your deadline, and all heck breaks loose. Even just a week of working remotely from Miami (after all, that’s part of why you started your own hustle, isn’t it?) can throw off your system.
The following tips can help you stay mindful even when you’re on the road, keeping clients happy or generating new business.
What better time to stay creative and make great strategic decisions?
Consistency will help you free up mental energy for the work that you need to be doing. Instead of using up precious brain power on unimportant decisions like where to have breakfast or whether or not to exercise before your morning coffee, create a routine and follow it religiously. Something to clear your head (journaling or meditation), exercise, a light breakfast, and showering / getting ready for the day should all be part of a standard morning routine. Establish an order to do these things in, and keep it consistent no matter where your travels take you. While you’re at it, set a rule that you’re not allowed to check your email until your routine is complete, otherwise, you’ll be too tempted to abandon the routine and get pulled into work. Establishing a consistent pattern of morning activities will help you feel centred and “at home” in your different environment.
When you’re travelling, mornings are the best time to focus on presence and mindfulness. Evenings simply aren’t as much under your control. Your client will want to go to dinner, or something will come up during the day that demands you work through the evening, or you’ll convince yourself you deserve just one drink at the hotel bar (which quickly turns into three). So don’t try. Let your evenings take whatever shape they take. As long as you’ve followed your mindfulness routine in the morning, you won’t even need to feel guilty about it.
The amount and quality of sleep you get has a big impact on the next day’s mindfulness. Unfortunately, when it comes to sleep, there’s nothing quite like home sweet home. Do what you can to recreate your bedroom while you’re on the road. If you sleep at home with the room as dark as possible, unplug or cover up the hotel clock radio that lights up the nightstand. Draw the curtains tight, and stuff a towel under the door to block the light coming in from the hallway.
White noise machines (or an app on your phone paired with a travel-sized Bluetooth speaker) can also help mask stray noises from the hallway or hotel neighbour. You might even consider using one when you’re not on the road so that your travel sleep habits mimic home.
Try to go screen-free for at least 30 minutes before falling asleep. Your circadian rhythms are disrupted by the blue light emitted from devices. Instead of scrolling social media as you drift off, read a book (a physical one — you’ll need to remember to pack one or buy one at the airport) or a print newspaper provided by the hotel.
When you’re travelling, meals are a great time to practice mindfulness and recenter yourself while dealing with an otherwise crazy schedule. You’ll likely eat at least one meal per day alone, and this is a great time to be present and engage all of your senses.
Eat that lone meal without the presence of any devices or media. Instead, fully engage yourself with the moment. Eat slowly, experiencing the taste and scent of the food. Notice the sensations of eating — not only the tastes and scents but the sights and sounds around you. The weight of the silverware in your hand, the warmth of your coffee mug.
Instead of wolfing down your food in the most efficient way possible, eager to move on to your next activity, slow down and savor it. Allow yourself presence. You won’t just feel better emotionally and psychologically, you’ll feel better physically as well since eating in this manner is better for digestion.
Take breath breaks
Frustrations abound while you’re on the road, and it’s easy to feel helpless and a bit out of control. Your flight gets delayed. The hotel loses your reservation. There’s not a taxi in sight.
As the frustrations mount, utilise the mindfulness method of focusing on your breath. Try the 5-3-5-3 breathing technique: breathe in slowly through your nose, counting to 5 as you do so. When you get to 5, hold your breath in for a count of 3, then slowly exhale through your mouth as you again count to 5. Lungs emptied, count to 3, then slowly inhale again for another 5 count. Repeat this cycle 3 to 5 times, and notice your frustrations melt away. These frustrations are indeed outside of your control, and simply being more present with your breathing via this exercise will help you be more OK with that.