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Jet Warrior

For this month’s time management case study, we’re going to look at how to be productive as a road warrior – as someone who travels (or flies) around the world, brokering deals and helping people connect.

Meet John

John is a friend of ours from Canada. He describes himself as a “broker” or “deal maker” – basically, he gets to fly around the world introducing people to each other and creating deals out of, well, connections. Not a bad gig for someone in his 20s.

Here’s what John was particularly interested in addressing:

  • How to travel as much as he does and still remain healthy.
  • How to complete his Masters thesis. Where he found time to enroll for this in-between all his flying I have no idea, but he asked for help and we did our best to help him out.
  • Motivation, specifically how to become more motivated over time.
  • Overcoming laziness with menial, everyday tasks.
  • Transitioning to a Mac setup.

He did have some time-wasters and leakages that he wanted corrected:

  • Cooking and eating out. John ate out a lot (as you can imagine), but wanted to cook more as it is healthier.
  • Not letting Facebook and email management eat up valuable time.
  • Not having the phone distract him every 5 minutes.
  • Dealing with preoccupying thoughts. When you travel solo a lot, you inevitably spend a lot of time thinking about all manner of things, past, present and future.

That Awesome Diagram Again

Asian Efficiency Consulting Framework

Leverage Points

We’ve already written a lot about how to travel efficiently (and here is an audio of me and Thanh talking about it). We gave the same advice to John. Here’s a summary:

  • Switch timezones the day before or as soon as you leave.
  • Include the time it takes to get to the airport in your plans.
  • Treat on-plane time as normal everyday time. Do what you would normally do.
  • Exercise and eat healthy. More on this below.
  • Plan a day of rest when you get back.

For completing his Masters thesis, we gave a fairly unorthodox suggestion to John: outsource parts of it. This is not to say that we condone academic cheating or anything of the sort, there are just some things that can be easily outsourced to make life easier, for example:

  • Collating reference papers.
  • Data entry and crunching.
  • Spellchecking.
  • Getting it bound, typeset etc.

Obviously, John should still write the thesis and analyze results himself.

We had a lot to say to John about motivation. The first was the notion of taking responsibility – know what you want, commit to being responsible for it and do it. We also introduced him to the Pomodoro technique, and a couple of other mindhacks for inducing motivation:

  1. A Pain-Pleasure process, whereby you link fear and pain to not doing something, and pleasure to having achieved it. This sandwiches what you want in the middle, driving you to take action towards it.
  2. Using monetary incentives and punishments for getting things done or not. This is highly effective (if somewhat stress-inducing) for forcing yourself to take action. Give the money to friend for “safekeeping”, with return conditional upon your completion of the desired action.

For tackling laziness, what we told John regarding motivation still applies. We also suggested the option to outsource or delegate the menial tasks that he didn’t want to do.

We also gave John a long list of Mac Apps that he should use when his new Macbook Pro arrived.


John had a few leakages that we helped address:

  • Cooking. We suggested that John batch prepare food and carrying it around with him if possible. Otherwise, familiarize himself with menus are commonly-found chain restaurants where he could order healthy food.
  • Email and Facebook. The simple solution: check it once in the morning, then once at night.
  • Phone distractions. Set the phone to silent during meetings. Answer it normally otherwise.
  • Preoccupying thoughts. We gave John a few ways to counter these. The first was to take a short meditation retreat and learn how to meditate. The second was a simple visualization exercise, where you set a countdown timer and then spend the time visualizing an image of your ideal self, adding sensory description each time. The third was the Mental Retreat Room exercise from Psycho-Cybernetics, detailed here.

Rituals and Scheduling

As with all people working from home or in an informal non-office environment, we told John that it was best to have a master to-do list, and to work on what he wanted or prioritized at any given time (this is the notion behind Getting Things Done).

For his morning ritual:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Drink 500mL water.
  3. Use bathroom.
  4. Review goals for day. Review journal.
  5. Spend 5 minutes visualising completion of goals.
  6. Check email, Facebook and phone. Reply, clear and organize as necessary.
  7. Exercise for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Get Dressed.
  9. Eat breakfast. A morning shake (recipe below) would be ideal.
  10. Daily activities. Begin with the most important or least appealing task first.

For his evening ritual:

  1. Check phone, email and Facebook. Reply, clear and organize as necessary.
  2. 30 minutes visualization.
  3. Write journal entry outlining his day. Review tasks completed, and compare with morning journal entry. Set tasks and review goals for next day.
  4. Reading. No web browsing.
  5. Sleep.

Efficiency System

We recommended to John a standard set of applications for personal information management, including:

  • iCal for calendar management.
  • Address Book for contact management.
  • Apple Mail for email management.
  • OmniFocus for task management.
  • Continue using his iPhone for information on-the-go.

Traveling Light

We gave John some extra guidelines for packing as he traveled so much. At minimum, we recommended that he take:

  • 1 casual outfit.
  • 1 dressy outfit/business outfit.
  • 1 coat that matches both.
  • 1 pair of shoes that matches both.
  • Only toiletries that he would use daily.
  • Laptop, phone, earphones, charger.
  • Green drinks or protein bars.
  • Earplugs and eyemask.
  • Travel documents.

Morning Shake Recipe

Put in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth:

  • 1 cup milk, rice milk or nut milk.
  • 1 whole frozen banana.
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries.
  • 1 scoop wheatgrass or green drink powder.
  • Dash of sea salt.
  • 1/2 pack frozen Acai.
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
  • 2 teaspoons flax seeds (linseeds).
  • 2 teaspoons hemp or rice protein powder. Normal vanilla protein powder can also substitute, but doesn’t taste as good.

In Closing

When you travel a lot you become very good at batching together activities, and learning to make the most of your time. In John’s case, he has managed to bring together experiential travel (seeing the world), with his job (deal making) and his passion (connecting people). The only downsides were the occasional mental roadblocks that his mind put up, and knowing how to stay healthy (and thus productive!) while enjoying the world.

If you have a particular time management case study you’d like to see (time management for… accountants, web designers, Motocross racers, etc), let us know in the comments below.

Photo By: familymwr

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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