Despite the endless predictions that business travel will become “obsolete,” spending on business travel has just climbed to an all-time high according to Oxford Economics. Since business travel doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, what steps should you take to maximize your productivity on the road?
Here are my four top tips for effective business travel:
Prepare to achieve your goals
A successful trip involves a considerable amount of advance planning. Start by learning about the people you are going to meet and the business and legal environment in which they operate. What is their motivation? What are they looking for from you?
Don’t be afraid to get in touch with someone who has a more detailed understanding of the local situation. Hopefully, your firm has a local representative whose job it is to find out the relevant details about actual and potential clients or whomever else you are going to meet. If not, you should use your professional network to find a local contact who can teach you the relevant information—there’s no substitute for local knowledge.
Take advantage of downtime
Travel tends to involve a significant amount of downtime. This includes the hours spent on the flight itself, but it also includes the time spent at the gate waiting to board—and even the time spent in a taxicab between the airport and your destination.
To take advantage of downtime, you again need to be prepared. Have some ideas in mind of something you could get done if you had 20 free minutes, or two free hours, and then make sure to have ready access to whatever you’d need to do so (but don’t choose a task so urgent that you’ll stress about it if you don’t get a chance to work on it).
While most of your materials can be in electronic form, bring some old-fashioned paper reading material too. The flight attendants will make you put your laptop away during taxi, takeoff, and landing, which can total more than an hour at a busy airport.
Of course, after a long day, the most productive way to take advantage of downtime may be to rest. If that’s your plan, my best advice for you is to get a window seat, where your knees won’t be crushed by beverage carts and your fellow passengers won’t have to wake you in order to use the restroom.
Stick to your healthy routine
Lastly, you should try to keep to your healthy routine, even when you’re on the road. This will help take care of your body, while also keeping you in a rhythm that you’re comfortable with.
I admit that this can be difficult: you might not have access to your preferred workout equipment and you might not have much control over your food options. However, most hotels have some workout equipment, even if it is not what you’re typically used to. Even if your hotel doesn’t have a gym, you should get in a quick workout by going for a jog or a brisk walk.
While you might attend a lunch or dinner with several courses of rich, unhealthy food, no one is actually forcing you to eat that food. You can politely eat a few bites of each course and then leave the rest on your plate.
Stay close to your family
For most of us, the worst part of business travel is the separation from our families. Our travels impose practical challenges on our families—there are fewer hands to split household chores—as well as emotional ones.
So make it a priority to call home every day—or better yet, use video-chatting (like Skype or FaceTime). Even if you are busy with meetings, you can afford to take at least 10 minutes out of your day to talk to your family.