Five good business habits that suffer when you travel

Business travel isn’t easy. In order to make the most of the money you’re spending, you wind up sacrificing sleep, cramming in as many meetings as possible and adopting a pace of life that you’d never be able to maintain at home. It’s severe, it’s unpleasant and it’s a simple fact of life on the road. Your personal well-being tends to be the first casualty. Diet and exercise are cast aside, as you sacrifice them to business objectives. Sleep doesn’t last long, either – I can’t count how many six-hour nights quickly slipped to three.

What often gets overlooked, however, is the impact that business travel can have on your business habits. We all lament the personal effects, but we tend to miss those that matter most to why we’re on the road to begin with! Hectic schedules and long lists of business needs can ultimately cause your performance to suffer.

Let’s take a look at five good business habits that are jeopardized when you’re on the road:
1. Preparation: with a crammed schedule, you aren’t as likely to have time to review your notes, reflect on meetings you’ve just completed and get ready for those still on the agenda. Even with the most rigorous note-taking, you’re bound to miss something. Instead of packing your agenda, protect your results by building in enough time to prepare and reflect.

2. Visibility: part of making an in-person visit is to be seen. Otherwise, you could get a lot done through phone calls, email and video conferencing.

3. Communication: cram your schedule, and you won’t just miss out on being seen – you also won’t be heard. Even if you throw etiquette to the win and work your BlackBerry feverishly during meetings, you still won’t be able to communicate effectively. Your over-ambitious agenda will cause your day-to-day work to suffer, and it will also impact the people you work with. Leave a little time to make sure you give the folks back at the office what they need.

4. Collaboration: if people can’t see or hear you, they certainly won’t be able to share ideas effectively with you. A travel agenda that’s too busy will cost your company your perspective, and that’s part of why you were hired. Make sure you leave some room to work actively with your colleagues back at the office to keep existing projects on track – and share your ideas with people who want them.

5. Common sense: related to fatigue, hunger and everything else … you do stupid things when you aren’t at your best. Basic decision making and judgment calls suffer, which can cost you anything from an embarrassing moment to the rest of your career.

Three good reasons why Monday-morning business travel is best

I just stepped through airport security on a Monday morning for the first time in a few years. I used to dread Mondays when I was a hard-core road warrior, because they came to represent the first step in a marathon, and I knew that agony was just around the corner. Also, it didn’t help that I had only been home for 48 hours, was still exhausted and had to get up at 4 AM to start the insanity all over again.

This time around, it wasn’t so bad. Sure, I had to get up at an awful hour to make my 7 AM flight, and I generally don’t enjoy the gauntlet that is air travel. But, if you have to contend with the airlines, the best time to do so, it seems, is Monday morning.

And it all comes down to people.

When you fly on Monday morning, you’ll be doing it with pros. This is when the road warriors – the poor souls who (by choice) travel every week – tend to dash off to their recurring client engagements. These guys know the drill, and they tend not to exhibit the annoying behavior of infrequent or leisure travelers.

Here are three reasons why Monday morning is the best time to step on a plane:1. Security is easy: on my most recent stroll through the checkpoint, everyone knew what he was doing. There wasn’t much stupidity, and the line moved quickly. Shoes came off before the conveyor belts, and laptops were already extracted from briefcases. There was no fumbling or forgetting at the moment of truth.

2. Fewer questions are necessary: you don’t see as many people hounding employees at the ticket counters or at the gates (unless there’s a delay or cancelation, of course). The passengers know what they’re doing, which ultimately means more elbow room for the employees to do their jobs. Things run smoothly. If you do have a question, you’ll have an easier time getting to someone who can answer it.

3. It’s easier to follow the rules: why? Well, because everyone else is! I’m not joking. On Monday mornings, most people seem to pay attention, know when to board and don’t bother trying to beat the system (e.g., by disregarding lines in front of gate agents). Since the environment’s a bit more orderly, you don’t feel like you’re getting screwed when you follow the rules. If you have to wait in line, you tend to suspect that the questions aren’t inane, and that you’ll get through it soon enough.

Now, if you aren’t a regular business traveler, you should pay attention to what’s going on around you. After all, you don’t want to disrupt the flow and invoke the ire of all around you! Plan ahead. Be ready for the security checkpoints. Listen for when your boarding group is called. You’ll be contributing to the easiest travel experience imaginable!

[photo by Jim Epler via Flickr]

Five ways to improve business travel with your family

It usually seems easy to mix a business trip and a family vacation. You’re already on the road, and your company has picked up the tab for your flight. So, a good chunk of expense has been taken out of the equation from the start! Especially if you go to a great destination, extending a business trip into a vacation can be a smart move. You may even get to absorb some of your hotel costs into your travel budget at work.

The problem, however, is that you have to make it all work. Just plopping your family into the middle of a business trip doesn’t turn it into a vacation. Trying to squeeze too many pieces in at once can actually turn into a nightmare. Before turning your business trip into a work-and-family-hell-on-wheels, let’s take a look at five ways to avoid disaster:1. Just know your spouse won’t have support: if your family is traveling to meet you at your business (or another) location, you won’t be there to help. You might be able to chip in on the flight home, as long as you can get everyone booked on the same plane. Be ready to greet frustration along with your family.

2. Avoid overlaps with your business trip: having your family meet you after your business obligations are finished is much smarter than trying to cram family and business into the same time. Quite simply, it never works. Your days are occupied, as you’d expect. However, your nights can get pretty crowded with business, as well, from drinks with colleagues to client dinners. You’ll wind up getting back to our room late … and you may have more work to do. Even if your family is tolerant of all this, they’ll still notice, and it will put a bit of a damper on the experience for everyone.

3. Don’t force the destination: I spent the better part of a year traveling to Omaha from my home in Boston. Let’s be realistic: the odds your family would be happy with this as a family destination are pretty low. Unless you’re going on a business trip to a major vacation destination, you should be ready to offer up some flexibility. See if you can get a multi-city fare for less than your regular roundtrip, and you’ll save the company some money while making sure your own expenses are covered (thus preserving the benefit of adding a family vacation onto the front or back end of your business trip).

4. Take a day in between: being out of the office causes obligations to pile up. Whether you’re on a business trip or vacation, stuff is happening back at your company, and some of it is likely to have your name on it. Now, think about the accumulation of stuff when you put both a business trip and a vacation together! Give yourself a day in between to catch up on things before you disappear again. This will also help ensure that your time with your family will actually be with your family – not cleaning up from the week of work you spent outside the office.

5. Know your audience: you may want to change hotels when your family arrives. Even if the cost isn’t an issue for you, simply changing spaces will help you with your mindset as you transition from work to play. In fact, it’s better if you can even change neighborhoods, for example, if you’re staying in a city. Make sure it’s as different as possible. You’ll sacrifice any special treatment that the hotel would offer you because of your relatively long stay, but it’s probably worth it to shell out the extra cash to make sure your family vacation isn’t tainted by remnants of your business trip.

[photo by rabble via Flickr]

The advantages to one-day business trips

I prefer to keep my trips as short as possible – that’s how I’ve always felt about business travel. I Not only does it get me home sooner – to be with the people with whom I’d rather spend my time – but it also results in lower expenses. So, if I need to take an extra trip, want to test out a new marketing idea or such, I’m more likely to have at least some of the cash I need available. And, if you’re running your own business, the shorter stay actually means more cash going directly into your pocket.

Why spend the night when you can get home the same day, right?

It can get exhausting to do nothing but one-day roundtrips over and over – I once tried commuting daily from New York to Boston on the Delta Shuttle and lasted only a week before caving to overnight stays – but every now and then, it can help you accomplish a goal without spending unnecessarily. For some trips, like routes among New York, Boston, Washington and Chicago there’s no reason to stay overnight if your work can be wrapped up in a day.

So, the next time you’re looking at a one-day business trip, think about these five reasons not to stay overnight:1. You can travel light: really, you won’t need to carry much more than you would take on a commute. All you’re doing is going to a business event or meeting of some kind, and you’re coming back the same day. Maybe tote along some mouthwash or a toothbrush and toothpaste, but that’s about it.

2. It’s much less expensive: keeping your travel expenses under control is important. Whether you work for yourself or a blue-chip firm, someone is bound to notice money being spent that doesn’t correspond directly to a return. Skip the overnight, and you cut hotel expenses, as well as dining or per diem. It might not seem like much, but these numbers can add up over the course of a year.

3. It’s less disruptive: the morning after a one-day business trip is often unpleasant. You feel like you’ve been on the go for a while, and the pace really does catch up with you. The benefit, though, is that toughing it out can result in better business performance. You’ll be available to your direct reports and your boss. You won’t have to spend time playing catch-up, which ultimately increases your productivity.

4. You won’t accomplish any less: do you lose time with a one-day turnaround? Not at all! The only reason to take a business trip is to accomplish something that needs to be done at a certain location (e.g., a client meeting or training session). Aside from the event itself, you don’t need to be away from the office. With an overnight stay, you wind up giving up part of an extra day to travel, which truly is a waste. You’re basically paying more to get less.

5. You’ll be home faster … and that’s just better for everyone in your life.

Conference and Meeting Travel: Pack for the one-night trip

One-day (or even one-evening) events can be fast and tiring, but it’s usually worth pushing for a fast turnaround so you can get home sooner and be back in the office with less disruption. I just took a short-burn business trip two weeks ago to Boston, and I found that it sure beats planning for a few days on the road. For a trip that’s few days long, I need to tote along a carry-on. For single-night trips, I don’t even need to go that far: I can just stuff what I need for the next day into my messenger bag.

Packing for one-night business trips is a lot like doing so for visitation weekends with my son when I build in an overnight. Clothing just isn’t that big a concern. The big question is when the business is actually happening.

If I’m traveling in the morning for an event at my destination later that day, I’ll generally dress in the morning for the event that evening. This may mean traveling in business casual attire or a suit so I can just arrive at my event. I won’t need to check in at the hotel or find a bathroom stall in which to change. When I hit the ground, I can just grab a cup of coffee and a smoke before making my way to the event.This was my plan last week in Boston. I had three meetings in a row, and fortunately, they were near each other. The first was a series of video interviews about social media, conducted by a local venture capital firm, OpenView Venture (one of the videos is embedded below). That was followed by a few drinks with Gadling’s own Melanie Nayer, after which I went back to OpenView Venture’s offices for a meet-and-greet where I talked to people about corporate blogging and investor relations (I know … fun stuff, right?).

I was lucky: the dress code was casual. Nonetheless, I had to wear a decent looking shirt because I knew I’d be on camera and filmed from the waist up. And, hey – it’s never bad to wear a shirt that you could be seen in on television. The instructions I got from the company were fairly specific: no stripes and no sheen. So, I dressed for that in the morning, caught the Acela up to Boston, and arrived for my video shoot half an hour early and with no need to get dressed. The shirt was fine for the two later appointments, as well. I only had to back a change of clothes (except jeans) for the next day, and that was easy to stuff into the bag I carry every day.

Now, arriving the night before an event is a bit more difficult. You need to make sure you can accommodate clothing that will meet with the dress code, and you can’t just travel in your business clothes. So, you might have to drag along a carry-on with a suit or business casual clothing in it. To avoid this (except for a suit), I tend to change into the required clothes right before my “night before” travel, so I won’t need to pack it. This way, they won’t be as wrinkled or dirty when I need them the next day.

The key is to wear as much as you can and pack as little as possible. Keep your bag simple, and the short-and-fast business conference or meeting trip becomes much, much easier.