February 09, 2007
Many of you travel for your business life. We have very similar business related demands (early appointments, flights that cannot be missed, etc). Over the last few years, I've been collecting advice tips on how to travel with fewer hassles or calamities.
One of my techniques I call the Two Step Safety Dance. The concept is simple; redundancy doubles your chance to get it right. I got the idea from Tom Peters. He mentioned to me once that in his suitcase he always has two alarm clocks -- one electric and one wind up. Much like Jerry Seinfeld, he can't make his bets on the front desk (or the supplied alarm clock) getting it right. And if he misses a gig because he's overslept, he's outa business. Now I carry my own trusty travel alarm and have a wakeup call scheduled with the front desk. I ask them what time they have and syncronize my travel alarm to it. I have the wake up call, then five minutes later the alarm clock will go off as a backup. If I get the wakeup call first, I turn my alarm off. The other day, I had a speaking gig until 10pm in Houston and needed to be in Orlando the next day for a talk at 1pm. Tight. Gotta wake up at 4:30am, get a car at 5:30am, get to the airport for the 7:30am flight or miss the next gig. Fortunately, the wake up call came as promised, but I slept much better knowing that there was a backup plan. (NOTE: I THINK WE ALL LOSE SLEEP WHEN WE HAVE TO GET UP EARLY, WORRYING THAT WE'LL OVERSLEEP. WE WAKE UP AN HOUR AHEAD AND JUST TOSS AND TURN.)
The other two step safety dance (redundancy) has to do with flights. If you have to make a flight to make a meeting, don't stake your bet on one plane. Buy multiple tickets, the first non-refundable and the rest fully refundable or changeable. You cannot safely assume that if your first flight doesn't go (equipment, weather, destination city issue) that you'll be put on the next one. It may be sold out.
NEVER use the same rewards account number for any two flights you book. Use different credit cards if you book to flights on the same airline back to back. If they see duplicate reservations in the system, they may throw one out. Yesterday, I had a ticket on the 7:30am flight and also owned a seat on the 8:45am too. Good thing, the 8:45am was the most popular flight and sold out last week. Fortunately, my flight went on time, I called the airline and they refunded the money on my cancelled second seat. I don't do this all the time, but there are certain occassions where I cannot trust mother nature or an airline to get me to the church on time. And when you need it, the two step works like a charm in your harried gotta-be-there business life.
PS -- Unplug the alarm clock in your hotel room. It is not reliable. Many are hard to figure out. Some have alarms already set to go off at 3am -- waking you up in the middle of the night.
January 25, 2007
I've been hustling around the nation this week giving talks. First I flew to Indy, then NYC, then Vail and finally Denver. All since Monday. Lotsa plane time. Tons of tarmac time.
I've been in 15 taxis and car services too.
Before you think I'm complaining, hear me out. I had great time this week. I learned a lot of new stuff from total strangers this week. How?
I took the time to strike up a conversation with all my travel mates. The guy sitting next to me on the plane from New York City to Vail, the taxi driver that took me 30 miles to the airport to go to Denver and a frantic couple that got held up in security while their door was closing. I had great conversations and learned something just for you: You have a choice to hate or love travel. Silence is the key.
If you just sit in the back of the taxi wishing you were already there, you are not having a good time. If you sit in stone silence on the three hour flight where you are crammed in next to someone, you aren't moving through the journey of your life -- you are doing time.
I've learned that all you need to do is try three times, and you can usually get ANYONE to start talking. I do it when we first sit down, when the food comes and when they announce our descent. (note: they aren't listening to their IPOD, working on their laptop or sleeping during those times.) Usually, they start the conversation on the first try. "Going back home"? is my favorite conversation starter. Not terribly creative or stylish, but it works.
Try it next time you travel and you'll find that a three hour flight feels like a thirty minute radio interview. Time just flies when you're having fun.
PS -- You might make someone's day too. You might be a friendly voice to them during a moment of travel stress. You might be a node in their network and give them a real lift.
Recommended read: Up in the air by Walter Kirn. A good friend gave me this book and I just LOVED it. Funny, stylish and abrupt, this novel helps you laugh at your life at 30,000 feet. When you click on this link to check it out on Amazon, forget a few bad reviews from people that would be better suited to ready Harry Potter or John Grisham, this book is a must read for the frequent flier.
December 27, 2006
I'm back home from Texas, fresh from a family Christmas gathering. It was a long soujourn to snake it back from Bryan TX to the Hollywood Hills. The raw distance is overshadowed by the throngs of people also going from point A to point R. Most of them are filled with stress and artificial urgency. Many are sick. Alot of them, are quite noisy. The whole experience can be really stressful and take a great deal of energy out of you. Copuled with your deadlines and delays, travel can make you just lose it.
Being a traveler in "prime time" reminded me of the different techniques I have adopted over the last few years to cope with my constant state of business travel. I was on the road more than one hundred days this year alone, and it was a light year.
Recently, I came across a home spun remedy that is part meditation, part self-medication. I hum to myself very quietly when I am in a stressful situation. Humming helps me deal with travel stress. It works whether I'm stuck snailing my way down an elevator at the airport, while the final boarding of my connection commences or when I'm trapped sitting behind a screaming, sneezing baby on the airplane. I've found that the resonance of a hum (take the ah sounds that rhyme with God) disolves much of the trap inside me for external negative energy. I've even found it helpful to hum outloud, songs that are stuck in my head.
You might be wondering what other business travelers might think about you -- but don't worry, they are talking to themselves on bluetooth and couldn't look more crazed.
I first started thinking about this when I read The Power Of Now by Tolle. Wayne Dyer hammered it home with some of his meditation techniques. But the capper for me is the new book (Don't Get Scrooged) by Richard Carlson on how to cope with negative people throughout your life. One of his recommendations is humming to yourself and he gives some pretty sound reasoning for it.
Whether you are still at the family gathering (my family was awesome, by the way) or on the way back home, don't let negative energy or self-imposed stress get you down. Just hum and let it go away.
Recommended Read: Don't Get Scrooged: How To Thrive In A World Of Obnoxious, Incompetent, Arrogant and Downright Mean-Spirited People by Richard Carlson (who wrote Don't Sweat The Small Stuff)
November 15, 2006
As this is the cold and flu season, I'd like to give you some advice on how to travel safely.
Every year I travel between 150 and 200 days. The key to my year is remaining healthy. The way I see it, every major bout with a flu/cold will cost you about 10% of your annual productivity. Over the last few years, I've built up habits that reduce the number of colds I get per year. Currently, I average only one!
I won't dump all the ideas on you at once, I just want a few to sink in. Please don't think I'm a germ freak or Type A to even think about these things -- but in my business sick time is down time is lost time.
Here's my first installment of tips for effective business travel:
1. Wash your hands like Howard Hughes. Seriously. One the most common ways you will catch a cold is through touch. When you travel, you would be shocked to know how many commons you touch along the way. The pole in the train. The pen at the ticket counter. The laptop tray in security. Too many times we only wash our hands when we go to the bathroom. When I eat out, the bathroom is my first stop, to wash my hands. The rule of thumb is that you wash your hands for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.
2. Sub out sugar throughout your diet. One physician devoted a lifetime of research for a book to study the relationship between sugar and our resistance to bacterial infections. The more sugar you eat, the less bacteria your body kills. This explains (along with extremem weather) why the holiday season yields more colds and infections. Check out an article that summarizes the findings here.
A few years ago, mostly in response to the South Beach Diet, I replaced sugar in my diet with Splenda. From coffee to candy, I purged sugar out of my diet. Things that turn to sugar, especially potatoes without any oils, I stopped eating too. Not only did I shed a few pounds, I also resisted bugs that knocked other people over. This holiday season think diet = immune system fuel. Russel Stover makes a killer sugar free chocolate. Brocolli and ranch make a great substitution for fries and ketchup.
Recommdation: Count the number of commons that you touch next time you take a business trip. Count the amount of sugar you eat when you travel.