In my current position, I travel a lot regionally. While I am not on the complete extreme, I made a few mistakes at the beginning that exhausted me.
For many, business travels sound like the high life – but the truth is: it’s a double day packed in one. Your day of meetings is often followed by an evening of your normal desk job. As much as you like having business diners, these also build your work backlog and are also, when too frequent, very tiring.
At the beginning you hope you can visit some of the places you work in and often you just visit your hotel room and the airport.
To survive (and enjoy) business travels, it takes discipline.
- You will have to learn how to prioritize your travels. Asking oneself the below questions helps:
- Am I really needed for this meeting(s)?
- Can this be done via Skype or a call?
- If relying on a local structure, has the team organized the appointments and is the travel full enough to be justified?
- How does that fit within the rest of my travel plans? Could it be combined with another travel.
- Keep an eye on your personal finance and manage your cashflow: we don’t always have a company credit cards, and even if we do – if the bill is due and your company internal claim system is long. Keep the expensive countries visits wide apart.
- Learn how to say “no”. When you feel exhausted, when you feel that your personal relationships are starting to suffer, when your personal finance is a little tight and when you just need to finish your desk job. If your boss is not an ass, and has been in your shoes before – he should understand that those are perfectly acceptable reasons.
- “No” also for some business diners, because sometimes you need your beauty sleep!
- Keep at least 2 weeks between opposing time zone. Mind that you will need 1 week to recover from a 4-6 hours’ time difference. I made the mistake of going to Europe, one-week work in Asia and then off to Australia and after this whole month – I was a wreck. I hadn’t slept well for weeks and I was feeling exhausted to the point that one morning I was dizzy.
- Keep one day per week free to complete your desk job. I organized as much as possible my travels from Monday to Thursday and keep Friday in the office to get my desk job and be able to leave for a week-end if something is planned or enjoy a Friday evening with friends.
- Take your replacement leaves not too long after your business travels. When you end up working on week-ends or travelling on your day off – it also takes on your much-needed rest. I know how tempting it is to aggregate them for some extra-long holidays. If you have the stamina, great, but often we overestimate ourselves. (I did)
- Not more than 1 red eye flight per week.
- As much as possible travel within working hours. Because you are not paid more to skip on diner with your loved ones and it is just taking on YOU time (sleep or family time).
- If your company allows it, try to stick within an airline alliance so that you can have access to a lounge. Sometimes you booked a plane late and your meetings end up finishing earlier than planned. Lounges are great places to get work done. It’s also quiet. I promise that after a while you just hate airports and ambient noise or hunting for a café with a table that is for 1 person and where nobody can watch your screen. (especially if you are handling sensitive data).
- Get a routine in place and create your travel support network. Get taxi numbers, drivers’ numbers and other people that can arrange the last leg or first leg of the journey more comfortably. In Jakarta, traffic is horrible and after a very long trip you really don’t want to end up on that long taxi queue, with a taxi that doesn’t know the way AND of course as no change or can’t provide a receipt for your business claim. In many countries I also work with grab and uber – yes it can be more expensive but it’s so hassles free and they also provide downloadable report on your account space on their website. Very easy for your claims.
This also helps to remove stress of transport when a reliable system is in place in as many countries as you regularly travel to.
- Stick to the same hotels. Once you have found a good one that suits your needs, just stick with it. If the hotel is good, you will get some special treatment when you come back each time. You will know how to get there, how long from there to your main places of business and all that is around for you to get out of the hotel. In Kuala Lumpur, I know a few restaurants that I like now, where to get my nails done or that nice healthy places when you are hungry but have indulge way too much on those previous business diners or that massage place in Bangkok that is open until 11 pm! I try to find near my hotels places to get my personal things done too, a hairdresser, a beautician and other shopping I just am too tired to do when I am back home or not willing to do on the quality time with my love one.
- Put a maximum time limit for work in the evening and plan for 1h before bed time to disconnect from work. When you work late, it’s harder to stop your brain from working and you end up sleeping horribly. I would suggest sleeping early and waking up very early instead – a good night sleep makes wonders. This served me well but everyone is not equal to this.
Finally, business travels can also be enjoyable!
Your customers and colleagues have sometimes just the best addresses for diner – the ones you can re-use to show off to others. There are some activities that can be done in the evening to discover some places – such as a 1h30 walking tour of Kuala Lumpur or a sunset in King’s park in Perth. After all your office hours officially stops at 6 pm right? After this it can also be your time. Watch out for the “afterwork” posts where I will detail some easy and quick activities, I have done to get out of the hotel room!