Besides the multiple opportunities to expand my waistline with the vast array of food options (like the Krispy Kreme counter in the Dammam, Saudi Arabia airport), I also saw many of the time management strategies I teach or follow played out while at these airports, and I learned a few new things as well.
Act (and React) based on YOUR highest priorities. When returning from a family trip to Italy, our flight was diverted due to weather and we missed our connecting flight home. The flight attendant mistakenly told the passengers that the airline would be providing us with hotel rooms, so we initially got in line with about 200 of our fellow passengers, exhausted, hungry, and frustrated. I looked at my wife and said, “We can either stay in this line and probably find out at 11:30 PM that they won’t give us a room, or we can book our own room and be asleep by 11. What’s more important at this point? With rest being the highest priority, we booked a room on our own. Lesson-your highest priorities may require more resources at the moment, but in the long run, you’ll be glad you invested your time on them.
Don’t miss the opportunities offered by small amounts of time. Airports are huge time wasters. You hurry to the airport only to wait in security lines and once clear, wait at your gate. It’s easy to discount these small chunks of time. I find that it’s the perfect time to call or message personal connections or read some of the articles I have ripped out of magazines or bookmarked on my tablet. With so many physical and mental distractions at an airport it may be hard to get into a complex task, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something constructive with your time (instead of wandering aimlessly in the airport retail section).
Carrying baggage-of any kind-is limiting. I liken the boarding process for most flights to organized chaos. Every passenger is clamoring to board as quickly as possible to score a place for their bag. They crowd the gate, faces full of worry that they might have to….gasp…. check their bag. The simple answer for many would be to check their bags and then relax. Too many of us travel through our day with the same dilemma. We carry around way too many thoughts of unfinished tasks or negative emotions. The solution is to consistently update our task list throughout the day and also to deal with negative situations in our lives while they are the size of a backpack-not a 75 pound suitcase. It frees us to travel (physically, mentally, and emotionally) much lighter.
People aren’t naturally sensitive to your situation. You finally board the plane only to endlessly wait for “Joe” to stow his bag, find his Ipod, stuff his computer case under the seat, and get out of the aisle . Inside you’re pleading with him, thinking, “Doesn’t he realize there are 87 people waiting for him to get out of the way?” The answer is “No.” By nature we typically focus only on our own needs and circumstances. That’s why your boss hasn’t noticed you working 80 hours a week and coming in on Saturday or a coworker hasn’t offered any assistance either-they are focusing on their own stuff. If you need people’s help with a task so that it doesn’t take up so much of your time or want to discuss what needs to change about your situation, you’re going to have to ask (i.e. “Joe, could I slide by you so that these 86 other people can board and we leave on time?”)
Managing your energy levels is key to better managing your time. Airports and flying in general can be exhausting. The most frequent food choices are high fat or high sodium, and planes are very dry environments that can lead to dehydration. To minimize these pitfalls (whether flying or not), drink plenty of water and always have some healthy snack options available to combat hunger. Almonds and fiber bars are two of my favorites. Avoid caffeine and sugar. Your goal is to have a sustained level of energy throughout the day to be ready for the task at hand.
Have a Plan B in regards to your time. Flight delays or lost luggage are just a couple of things that can thwart your schedule. I always travel with a change of clothes and an alternate flight/ground transportation plan. That way I can travel with a greater peace of mind regardless of what is happening around me. It’s a good policy with our time as well. Knowing what you will focus on if information isn’t available for your primary task, or a meeting is cancelled, is critical to making sure you don’t find yourself wasting time on things less important-or just waiting.
Lastly, find a quiet place when you need time to really think. I try to find a gate with no departing flights in the immediate future or even get a day pass to an airline club. The ability to focus without distractions is important, regardless if your location is your regular work area of the C concourse at Chicago O’Hare.
Which of these seven strategies could you utilize to help you travel more effectively through your day?
Jones Loflin is an internationally-recognized speaker and trainer. His messages focus on change, motivation, time management and work/life blend. He is the author of two books that will be released by Harper Collins in the fall. His humor, energy and audience engagement make an impact on every member of your group, not just an impression.
Note: Jones Loflin is currently available for booking.