Travel: Managing the Hours

This week and into next on BSOTK, I’m taking you with me on a marathon — and typical — Can-Asian business trip and sharing my impressions along the way. Four airports, four hotels, one trans-Pacific redeye, two rental cars and lotsa trains. With sushi.

Like a round of golf, business travel has a lot of down time. In a four-hour round of golf, very little time is spent actually striking the ball. Add in prep time, and it’s still under a minute per stroke. The rest of the time is spent getting to the next opportunity.

On a 10-day, two-continent, three-nation business trip, I’ll probably spend 12 to 15 hours in five or six meetings. And I have about four hours of video work to do. Add some prep time…call it 22 hours of work. Out of about 228 away.

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And there will be enjoyment, to be sure. We had some golf planned in Japan, but the weather is iffy and another Tokyo meeting, one we want, came up at the last minute. But there will still be lunches and dinners and time with people I like and don’t get to see often enough. And I’ll be in Japan, a place I love to look at, listen to, taste and savor. Not to forget Canada; summer is excellent in southwest British Columbia. I’ve already had great meetings and magnificent sushi, and I’m still in North America.

But there will be hours to manage. There always are. Part of the business. Let’s start with the simple task of counting them. Traversing those apple slices of the globe that we call time zones requires some careful arithmetic if you’re to keep up on all the interests you have in all the places you have them.

Don’t laugh; I’ve seen Phi Beta Kappas screw this up. Three hours earlier than home while in Vancouver; that’s easy. But Japan (thank goodness, all in one time zone), ordinarily 13 hours later than me (14 in winter) is now 16 hours ahead. When I get there, I will need to think 13 hours backwards when calling home; 16 for office calls.

“But can’t I just think eight hours ahead and subtract a day?” the Phi Betas ask me, nervously fingering their keys. No! No no no! Don’t do that! The International Date Line is there to trip your brain! Think to the west when you’re in Asia. If you try to do anything more complicated, inside of five minutes you’ll think it’s Thursday, April 9, 1938. And you’ll have a massive headache to boot. You can’t change the direction the earth spins toward the sun.

And that doesn’t even get into blog posting, which is done on Greenwich Mean Time (Eastern+4). So if this is late, sorry….

The hours you must manage on the plane are another matter altogether. People are scared shitless of long flights. And without some coping techniques, they can be scary. Ten or more hours with 400 increasingly fragrant strangers in an aluminum tube five miles over the world’s largest ocean is no small thing.

This is where you must manage your mind. Crave peace. Breathe deeply and serenely. Take off your shoes (your feet are going to swell a little; this is no big deal and it goes away soon after you land). Drink water. In your mind, shorten the flight.

Here’s how: Figure that the first and last hours of any flight are about settling in or getting ready to arrive. There you go; only eight hours left to kill on a 10-hour flight. Eating, bathroom, and stretching: another hour. Seven now. Two movies at two hours each: down to three hours. Split that reading and snoozing. Voy-la. Done. You’re in Tokyo.

I’m an impatient guy, but I have managed to master this technique. Of course, a big part of my success is the fact that I had no choice. Still, I usually arrive on the other side of the Pacific feeling reasonably good, if a little sleepy. That frees me up to enjoy where I am and get prepared for business. And more sushi.

Copyright 2013 Adam Barr

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