From the outside looking in, business and travel seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. What’s not to love about the jet-setting lifestyle, right? Conducting business in exotic lands, seeing beautiful sights you may never come across again in a lifetime … business travel sounds like a dream come true, on paper anyway.
Take that paper out of the folder, though, and you pretty quickly stumble into a lengthy list of logistical and communication nightmares that have broken many a wary corporate traveler asunder.
Business and travel are, at best, odd bedfellows. By their nature, it’s counterintuitive to combine them. Travel comes with a preinstalled desire to sightsee, to breathe in the local culture, to lounge around on a patio sipping on a cup with a little umbrella in it. And business? Business is obviously the polar opposite of that.
It takes a special brand of entrepreneur or executive to measure out their schedule and allocate ample time to both business and leisure. Even rarer a specimen are those business leaders who can double down on their work without losing any quality while tuning out all those leisurely distractions.
For most of us who hope to make it while on the go, business and leisure travel is the only real option; you need to strike a comfortable balance between these two concepts that are perpetually at odds, and that’s no easy task.
So how do you balance your time? How do you stay productive for work, but have enough fun that the work doesn’t start to irk you? Well, that’s going to require a healthy dose of planning.
Scheduling Timelessly, or Timelessly Scheduling?
If you’ve managed to become successful enough to be business traveling, chances are you already understand the inherent need to balance out your day planner carefully, maximizing your workload in those hours where you’re the most productive. But when you’re out on the road, bouncing from one time zone to the next, that idea becomes a bit more difficult.
Business travel means you’re often times going to board a plane in one time zone and depart that plane in another. And you can’t always get work done on airplanes; there are always going to be crying babies, chatty row-sharers, and a myriad of other distractions.
This means your usual daily grind isn’t going to be applicable most of the time. You’ll need to learn to be productive on the fly … literally … and get your work done in bursts. And by “bursts,” we really mean “fits and starts.”
- Get rid of the notion of a schedule; you’re a business nomad now. You’re at the mercy of travel schedules and perfect strangers, so get into the habit of conducting work when you’re able
- Booking business travel around meetings and workflows is mission critical.
- Connect with your team through cloud-based project management that will keep you and your team on the same page regardless of where you are.
- Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks when it’s an option
The Logistical Nightmare of Business on the Go
Another big headache of business travel presents itself on the logistical front. There are the things you think you’re prepared for—having the right power plug adapters, toting around your little translations book, etc.—but what about all of the unforeseeable snarls your travel agency didn’t warn you about?
Internet connectivity issues are quite common in global travel. A shoddy, slow wifi connection in some internet cafe can turn an otherwise productive business trip into a right nightmare. You can’t plot out business and travel expenses when the country you’re visiting suddenly endures a massive drop in the value of their dollar.
You can’t really prepare for unpredictable events, but you can at least try and minimize their ill effects:
- Test wifi connections in places where you plan to work and always have a backup location just in case the Internet is down in your primary spot.
- If your mobile provider offers wireless hotspot services, invest in them.
- Know where the nearest public library is. Libraries often have some kind of connection if your accommodations or the local cafe falls through.
- If you’re traveling abroad, looking into buying a SIM card or mobile hotspot from local carriers. These are often much cheaper than international calling or data plans.
The Business End of Business Travel
Here’s another note seemingly penned by Captain Obvious: it’s not enough to plan out your schedule. Your budget needs to be taken into consideration as well. And you’d be surprised to learn just how many business trips go sideways due to financial issues.
In terms of preliminary trip planning, you’ve got the obvious stuff—scheduling flights, booking rooms, figuring out what business travel expenses are tax deductible, etc. But business and travel expenses are often at the mercy of international exchange rates, and we often forget that a smartphone charger in London isn’t going to cost the same as it does in Rome.
Always be sure to leave a financial buffer and have emergency cash on you, and be sure that cash is using local currency.
Don’t Forget Your Health!
Walking from your airplane to the people conveyor, getting into a cab, riding the elevator up to your hotel room, and sleeping … does any of that sound like exercise? Because it most definitely isn’t.
Business travel can be bad for your health, and it’s pretty easy to get so caught up in traveling that you forget entirely about dieting and exercise. Always try to take some time for yourself to stay healthy.
If your hotel room is on the third floor, take the stairs. If it has a gym, hit the rowing machine for a while. If your meeting is only a couple of blocks away, walk rather than ridesharing.
On the other end of the spectrum, it can be easy to spread yourself thin working and traveling and trying to squeeze in some sightseeing in your precious free time. As much as you want to take advantage of doing business on-the-go, don’t forget to take breaks and schedule quiet “you” time that will keep you refreshed and ready for the next leg of travel.
Business Travel Like a Pro
There’s no real definitive “Business Travel for Beginners” manual. It’s impossible to account for all the things that can go wrong … let alone all the unexpected wins that can go right in ways that change all of your plans at the drop of a hat.
With so many unpredictable variables, it’s important to try and remember not just why business travel is important, but also why business travel can be rewarding. You’ll be making invaluable connections and establishing working relationships that can last months, years, or decades. You’ll be building and spreading your brand, personally and for your business. And there’s plenty of opportunities when you’re on the road to kick back, have fun, sightsee, and learn about cultures that are new to you.
Business and travel don’t always snuggly fit together, and not everyone is cut out for nomadic work. But taking some time to invest in the right tech, ensuring your communications channels stay open, and planning things out to the best of your ability will all go a long way toward ensuring your business travels are productive, beneficial … and pretty fun, too.