I was on a flight out of town one week from Chicago and once I found my favorite seat, which just happens to be the emergency aisle on the right side, I started chatting with the guy in the window seat.
Once we took off I began to eat my homemade scrambled eggs, sautéed spinach and kale, cut up bell peppers and cucumbers with cherry tomatoes. I do this every flight out of town – BYOM – bring your own meal AKA: MTHC (make the healthiest choice)
On the other hand, I was sitting next to Egg McMuffin Man. Have you seen him? He was inhaling an Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and washing it down with a jumbo Diet Coke. Diet, of course. Hey Ed McMuffin, you’re dripping ketchup all over your shirt, man.
Does that make me better? Well… I’ll let you be the judge. And for the record, his real name was Ed so give me some credit for precise facts.
The point is we were both on the 1st day of a business travel trip and we both made a key decision how we’re starting off our trip. Mere moments later he was in a coma like he hadn’t slept in days while his phone was still playing a movie. Mind you, this is the very first day of the trip, the first MORNING of the trip!
I was choosing to read then work. Again, you be the judge.
Unknowingly, he was making decisions that were setting the tone for the rest of his trip. I see this kind of guy ALL of the time when I travel and I’m using GUY generically – girls, you’re out there too and I’ve caught you in the act, but to your credit, not as often. And not to call out Ed here but there’s a reason he’s overweight, possibly marginally effective, and obviously lacks energy. His habits revealed something about himself.
Now, here’s a question for you to consider right out of the gate and quite possibly even an airplane gate:
Would you consider yourself a Creature of Habit? Meaning, you function primarily out of your routine, aka: your habits.
For me, If I start a habit, I’m all good and will continue the habit for all that it brings. Both the good and the bad.
And if I’m out of my habit, which I call OOTRO (Out of the Routine of), that becomes my new habit. NOT doing something. We live by our habits far more than we realize especially on the road for the good and the bad.
The challenge is getting out of the bad habits we’ve found ourselves in especially after years of travel.
I meet more and more road warriors who are on auto-pilot with their “road routine” and often need to be woken up and rewired to make some necessary changes. They’re so far from elite and don’t even realize it.
I was there and can relate.
I recently picked up a book from a familiar author Daniel Pink of Drive and To Sell is Human.
In his latest book, When, he talks about Beginnings – Starting Right, Starting Again, and Starting Together.
He addresses the need for Fresh Starts.
For example the 1st day of the year, or month, or week are what social scientists often call a “temporal landmark.”
Just as we use landmarks to guide us as a visual marker, we leverage these “Stand Out Days” from what Daniel Pink calls, “the ceaseless and forgettable march of other days, and their prominence helps us find our way.”
It’s easy for our road days to just blend in and become this forgettable march of other days. Just another day, another city, another hotel, another unhealthy meal.
Here’s some research to prove the point:
In 2014, three scholars from the Wharton School of the University of Penn published this breakthrough paper in the science of timing that focused on the use of temporal landmarks and how we can leverage them for new beginnings or fresh starts.
These scholars analyzed 8.5 years of Google searches. They found that certain word searches spiked dramatically on key “fresh start days” and triggered a predictable motivation in people.
Daniel Pink noted in his book that there are two types of Temporal Landmarks: Social and Personal.
- Social – those everyone shared: Mondays / New Month / New Quarter / Holidays
- Personal – unique to the individual: Birthdays / Anniversaries / Job changes
Interestingly, two things happened whether social or personal temporal landmarks were used:
- They allowed people to open “new mental accounts” in the same way a business closes the books at the end of one year and opens new books in the next year. It’s a break from past mistakes and imperfections and leaves us confident about “what could be”. Key Marker: New Years Day or Birthday
- They also interrupt attention to the everyday minutiae causing people to take a big picture view of their lives and focus on achieving their goals. As the Wharton scholars concluded, “People can strategically create turning points in their personal histories.”
Here is where this relates to the business traveler. The goal is to find what potential days could be your own Temporal Landmarks on the road.
One Change Every Business Traveler Must Make on the 1st Day of Every Trip
Here’s my definition of an Anchor Day: Key behaviors done on a specific date to serve as a kickstart for a period of time.
The power is in the word: ANCHOR.
What does an anchor do? Webster defines anchor:A device used to prevent the craft from drifting (due to wind or current)
We’re the Craft in the analogy and the drift is ANYTHING that takes us where we DON’T want to go!
You think about an Anchor. When it drops and takes hold, you aren’t going anywhere or anywhere soon. We’re notorious for drifting especially if we don’t start out strong. Hence the Power of an Anchor Day.
Let’s breakdown the key aspects of an Anchor Day…
There are THREE Key Aspects of an Anchor Day to be effective and be powerful:
- Set Date – there must be a CLEAR starting date – This is the WHEN
- Catalyst Behavior – Key actions you need to do – This is the WHAT
- Specific Triggers – reminders or cues / IF this, THEN that = WHERE
All three aspects are critical for an effective Anchor Day that gives you sustainable energy and incredible results.
Anchor Days require Intention and Discipline. They don’t “just happen.”
You must INTEND to do them. And they cause you to exert effort which requires discipline. But the payoffs are absolutely huge.
Back to the book, When, for a moment. Daniel Pink offers the potential of 80 + days in the year when you can make a fresh start:
- 1st day of the month (12)
- Mondays (52)
- 1st day of Spring / Summer / Fall / Winter (4)
- 1st day of an important religious holiday (1)
- Your Birthday! (only 1 thankfully)
- A loved one’s birthday (1)
- 1st day of school or semester (2)
- 1st day of a new job (1)
- The day after graduation (1)
- 1st day back after vacations (2)
- Anniversaries (7)
Here are my own personal on-going anchor days on a consistent basis:
2. New Month
3. New Quarter
4. 1st day of a business trip
Now, let me drill down on one that makes the biggest impact for me on a consistent basis:
Every single road warrior has this one thing, the same thing in common for absolutely every one of us and on every single business trip.
The FIRST DAY of the trip.
- No matter what we do.
- No matter where we go.
- No matter if it’s our 1st month on the road or our 2nd decade.
We all have the first day of a business trip.
As a result, having an Anchor Day is absolutely critical to becoming an Elite Road Warrior (ERW).
We are on the road to PERFORM which is the 4th of the 6th energy habits.
Why? Because how the 1st day goes, the rest of my trip usually goes.
A creature of habit.
If I can establish an “anchor” of certain behaviors on my 1st day, they will be my anchor keeping me grounded for the rest of the trip. On the flip side, I witness business travelers with shallow or no anchors and their 1st day of the business trip is inconsistent and all over the place.
I’ve watched it play out so many times as each day of the business trip continues. Their energy, and as a result, their effectiveness and productivity dramatically decrease. Simply put, They’re “getting by” NOT “getter better”
Let me stop and get personal. Is that the case with you? – Are you getting by or getting better on your trip and specifically on the 1st day of your business trip?
And I’ve learned, once the train leaves the station, or in my case, the plane leaves the runway, I need to work my Anchor Day Plan.
Not going to be THAT guy anymore. Sorry, Ed McMuffin Guy, you’re on your own on this one, man.
So, let’s work through the three aspects of an Anchor Day in my example of a Road Warrior:
Set Date – 1st day of my business travel – this is my WHEN
Catalyst Behaviors – these are pre-determined actions I need to do – This is the WHAT
And here are some examples for me personally:
1. Taking my Breakfast with me – don’t leave to chance (AND if I have a healthy breakfast I’m FAR more likely to have a healthy lunch/dinner)
2. Move – moving at the airport / standing and walking on the flight / stretching
2. Snacks – bringing / buying (stopping somewhere to get fresh snacks) – finding a Whole Foods / Trader Joe’s, etc.
3. Hotel Room – I found this to be a big one for me because it’s my Home Away From Home on a trip.
4. Connect – Check in with those at home – this is done by early morning videos / audio / text messages so my family has received them from me before they even wake up
5. Rest – Early Bed Time – this is SO key the 1st day because most of the time I have an early flight and changing time zones AND if I start out sleep deprived on day one, I rarely if ever make up that sleep and we all know where that leads – affecting our performance, then coming home absolutely blitzed and exhausted, useless to anyone back home and our 1st day back from a business trip.
Now, remember, after the Set Date and Catalyst Behavior, is the 3rd aspect of the Anchor Day which is…
Specific Triggers reminders or cues / IF this, THAN that = WHERE
- Water bottle / tupperware / snack bag out the night before
- Apple Watch alarms – stand / drink water
- Hotel Key hitting the room door – trigger for the H.O.M.E. acronym to kick in
So, I challenge you to think about your very next business trip and what you could do to create an anchor day. Start small and build on it!