Over the years, I’ve traveled for business a lot — sometimes alone, but often with colleagues.
One time, I found myself traveling with a colleague I didn’t know very well. We were both rushed to get work done before the flight, so we gave ourselves very little time to get to the airport.
Everything had to run perfectly for us to make our flight, so of course, it didn’t.
My colleague’s meeting ran over, and I got stuck in terrible traffic — after losing track of time at the office in the first place. When we finally met at the airport, the line for security was much longer than normal. We knew for sure we were going to miss our flight, but we had a client dinner scheduled for just a few hours after we were due to land.
As we stood in line, struggling to stay positive, it was easy to wonder why we were doing this in the first place.
Have Business. Will Travel.
Considering the stress and expense of traveling, it’s tempting to skip it altogether. These days, we can get by with phone meetings and video conferences, right?
The truth is, though, that it’s much easier to win business in person. According to one survey, 81 percent of business professionals believe face-to-face meetings build better long-term relationships, and 47 percent believe they’ve lost clients because they didn’t take the time to meet in person.
You probably don’t need a survey to tell you that, though. You’ve likely experienced how much easier it is to get to “yes” when you’re in person. Moreover, contract terms and expectations are almost always clearer in person than through electronic communication.
Because of the increase in relationships and efficiency, business travel is a necessity for a large number of entrepreneurs. So once you accept that, how do you decrease the stress that comes with it?
Zen and the Art of Business Travel
The stress caused by business travel isn’t to be taken lightly. It’s easy to tell yourself to buck up, but the truth is that business travel can be quite taxing mentally. One study discovered that the World Bank employees who travel frequently were three times more likely to have more psychological claims on medical insurance than nontravelers.
Added to the normal stress that traveling employees feel, entrepreneurs face even steeper challenges. Logistics and guilt continue to factor into stress, but so will the daily stress you’re already feeling as you fire up your company.
Now that we’ve painted a bleak picture, there is some good news. These are tips I’ve picked up over the years to keep stress levels down as you travel. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll find business travel a whole lot easier:
Do your research. One of the unexpected sources of travel stress is lousy hotel accommodations. You either end up being too far from where you need to be or right in the middle of all the action, resulting in excessive noise.
Before you book anything — flights, hotels, car rentals — do some quick research. Reviews can help you know what you’re getting, and you can prepare appropriately.
Create a buffer. When my colleague and I encountered every obstacle possible, I learned a valuable lesson about creating a buffer. Give yourself at least five hours between your last task and airport arrival. I know that seems extreme, but it will be well worth it when you hit a few stumbling blocks.
Make sure to give yourself some time in your destination city, too. Don’t expect to be at dinner an hour after you land. You’ll need to get to the hotel, check in, and probably change clothes before you meet clients. Plan accordingly.
Pack smart. When possible, only travel with a carry-on. This way, you limit the risk of lost luggage, and you won’t have to wait at baggage claim. Make sure everything you bring will mix and match. You don’t want to spill something on your tie, only to discover that you have no other options. If everything is interchangeable, you won’t need to worry about surprises.
Go Zen. Even after all of your planning and packing, things are going to go wrong and get stressful. This is when you really need to tap into your breathing and stress-relief tactics.
When you’re stuck at the airport, take a walk instead of sitting at your gate. Stretch out your legs, breathe deeply, and grab a cup of coffee. If you don’t drink caffeine, suck on a peppermint. The smell of mint will instantly perk you up and take the edge off. If you’re on the verge of a breakdown, walk away for a few minutes. And remember, this too shall pass.
That day with my colleague was a stressful one. Thankfully, our flight was delayed (it was the first time I’ve ever been thankful for that), and everything turned out OK in the end. Travel stories don’t always end that neatly, of course, so when you find yourself stressed, just go back to the tips above. Ultimately, remember that the rewards will be worth it.