There is a science to efficient business travel. The business trip doesn’t begin once you check into your hotel room: it starts while you are en route.
The journey to your destination is an optimal time to get work done. With a few routine tweaks and some rules to travel by, you can create a system that makes the most of that valuable journey time.
Take public transport and shuttle vs. the costly airport cab to the airport. For example, in New York City, as in many major cities and suburbs, there are impressive methods of public transportation or carpool shuttle service to get you to the airport. Use them! The roughly one-hour jaunt from a Manhattan office to JFK airport is valued by one sales rep for two reasons. "The $7 vs. the $60 I no longer incur saves me and my business a significant amount of wasted money, and it lowers my stress when confronted with city traffic." That time also allows for him to focus on the tasks ahead of him.
Decompress and read. You should catch up on reading to pass your wait time en route to the airport. "I figure out in advance which packet of reading materials needs a dedicated 30 minutes to page through and assign myself the reading to that time slot," says an HR manager who travels once every two months to her company's satellite offices.
Fly wi-fi. 2010 marks a new year where even more flights are offering in-flight wi-fi access, as well as seats with individual electrical plugs to keep laptop and PDA phone batteries charged. When booking flights, choose ones that offer in-flight Internet so you can actually use the laptop you're carrying with you. Check out Gogo Inflight to figure out which flights offer the service. For now, Virgin America is offering the in-flight amenity for free.
Request first class. Don't book it - the costs are staggering to you and your company. Survey your airlines miles points for upgrades, but also take advantage of your person-to-person skills. A frequent flier is a friend of the airline -- and, these days, every airline needs a friend. "Smile warmly and ask three times," says a tech consultant who knows the ropes. "First when you check-in. Inquire about openings in first class. If they don't offer, you may at least find out there is space." Second, she adds, "Politely ask the flight attendants at the gate." And the third and last resort is while boarding the aircraft. "I linger and board almost last to the flight and quietly ask if there are empty seats in business or first class. If you're pleasant and the flight attendant is in a good mood, he or she will quite often then slip you in." It’s much easier to get work done when you're that much more comfortable in flight.
Casually network. A confined space isn't the time or place to aggressively show off your sales and marketing skills. However, it’s safe to say that if you're traveling for work, there are others in the same boat. "I request an aisle seat for comfort but also to see who might be seated next to me and near me," says the tech consultant. "I may casually engage one person working on their laptop and bring up compelling topics and see if other people on the flight react or even join in." Of course, it's important to know when to leave people alone, too.
Whether the flight is a 45 minutes or 4.5 hours, your travel time is ideal for reading, researching, rehearsing, strategizing, and project planning. And while en route, savor the freedom to recognize that, while there is work to be done, you can also enjoy relaxing distractions. If investors, bosses, and clients aren’t aboard (or at least seated in your row,) it’s perfectly fine to indulge in a mindless Tom Cruise flick. Or catch up on sleep between those blocks of hard work.