“Wow, that sounds really cool. Have a great time!” That’s the kind of thing people who don’t travel for business say to those who do.
If you’ve ever traveled for business, you know that it’s a lot of work. Fun? Not so much. You’re often ‘on’ for many hours in a day, at meetings, and at meals with clients and colleagues. The travel itself, especially by air, can be exhausting. Plus, you don’t have the comforting presence of home and loved ones when you finally stop at the end of the day.
Still, it’s a great way to expand your business and take advantage of opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have if you just stayed home.
So how can you make travel for business work for you as much as you do for it? Here are some strategies I’ve used over the years that make the process easier:
1. Pack smart. It really does pay to keep it light. Leave your bunny slippers and sequined ‘I Love Paris’ sweatshirt at home. Pack as little as possible: plan ahead exactly what you will wear and take only that. Minimize bulky items, including extra shoes. Pack it all in a bag small enough to be carry-on. It not only saves you time, money, and blood pressure-raising conversations with airline staff if it’s lost, because you’re not checking a bag. It’s also less for you to keep track of. That frees up mental space that comes in handy especially when you’re tired or preoccupied with your upcoming meeting. One final note on packing: roll your clothes rather than folding them. It really cuts down on wrinkles, which means less work at your destination. Unless you find ironing relaxing, in which case wadding your clothes into tight balls works really well.
2. You can take it with you. Having something familiar and meaningful with you can be very grounding. It provides an instant visual that takes you to your happy place. Besides the usual photos of that embarrassing moment at the last family reunion, or your dog looking cute and guilty with a gnawed chair leg in his mouth, you can also carry a (small) piece of uniqueness with you to help ground you. I’ve carried small artwork with me that I then put on my hotel desk or night table. For a while, I carried a red metal moose with me (he’s the dude in the photo) when I was away a lot. He reminded me of home.
3. Shhhhhhhh. Carry noise-cancelling headphones on flights. While it’s soothing to know that the airplane’s engines are still operating, listening to the constant roar for hours can be surprisingly tiring. Reducing that noise, plus giving you the control of choosing what you listen to via your smart phone or tablet, cuts down on ongoing stress.
4. Track your numbers. Email yourself photos of any important documents that might be stolen or left behind. You can access them from anywhere in the world that lets you access your email, and speeds up the replacement process.
5. Feed your body and soul. Eat well. Move. Listen to uplifting stuff. That pretty much sums up my nourishment strategies on the road. Eating healthy food and not to excess can be a challenge, especially when meals are pre-chosen for you, e.g., at a meeting, or your client’s product is chili cheese dogs with all the trimmings (eat up!). Plan ahead for this by asking about healthy choices. (Organic chili anyone?) Next: move! Get up during your flight and walk up and down the aisle a few times. You do get some concerned looks if you do this hastily or linger near the cockpit door, but it’s invigorating and keeps your energy level up. Getting up early to walk or swim or work out is also so worth it. Finally, listening to music or a great talk or book that feeds you will support your Entrepreneur Energy.
6. Be your own VIP! Any small ways you can treat yourself really well on a business trip will help you not only feel better, but will build the confidence you need to perform well. How would you treat a visiting VIP? Apply this to yourself. It doesn’t have to be just the more obvious business class seats (frequent flyer points will get you these too) or airport lounge access (available via some credit cards if not through your frequent flyer miles). VIP treatment also means making thoughtful choices, customized to you. It can mean that you choose with care what and where you eat. You take some down time to watch Road Runner cartoons. You indulge in a great magazine or book that you don’t usually make time for. Look for small ways to delight yourself with thoughtful attention.
Business travel doesn’t have to be such hard work. By supporting yourself in these ways when you travel for business, you make the best use of your opportunities, money, and energy.
And hey, you might even have a great time!