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Business Travel : The Rule of Three for Productivity

  • Travel
  • 8 min read
Welcome to this first post in my Daily Blogging Challenge for the month of February 2022. Today is Tuesday, and the theme for the day is called Travel Tuesdays. In this post, I am going to share my experience with business travel. I developed this habit in the pre-pandemic era. In the coming months things will go back to pre-COVID19 levels and business travel will become a part of life again. The below might become relevant to me again, and maybe even prove helpful to you!

Click below for the audio version of this post

Travel for Business: The Rule of Three

You may wonder, what exactly does this Rule of Three Mean? During business travel, I follow this Rule of Three. I plan business trips for 3 days, and schedule a minimum of 3 meetings per day. I prefer to travel between Tuesdays and Thursdays. This rule is based on my own learning and mishaps, which I shall get into later.
The Rule of Three in a nutshell: In a 3 day trip, I schedule atleast 10 meetings or engagements, and I consider the visit a success if 7 of the 10 meetings actually take place.
Now you may wonder, why do I aim for a 70 percent success rate, and not 100 percent?The reason is simple. In India, we are blessed with multiple uncertainties which means even the best laid plans can go awry. External factors such as weather, political or social unrest, flight or train cancellations can happen any time. Add to that my least favourite: last minute cancellations by the person(s) you are going to meet. The icing to the cake? Uber and Ola drivers refuse to show up after accepting the trip.How does one minimize the impact of external influences? Below is my simple solution:

The Key: reduce local commuting time

I counter the uncertainties mentioned earlier by planning my meetings in such a way that I am less than half an hour’s commuting distance between two meeting locations. I do that by literally scheduling meetings in the same pin code or by referring to google maps before proposing times. That way, I do not have to leave a certain part of a city for an entire day!For example, during a trip to the National Capital Region (or NCR, i.e. Delhi area), all my meetings on Day 1 will be scheduled in Gurugam. On Day 2 in New Delhi, and on Day 3 in NOIDA. In Mumbai, Day 1 could be South Mumbai (or Lower Parel), Day 2 around the Bandra Kurla Complex or BKC. Maybe even the Western Suburbs, and the last day in Navi Mumbai. The meetings are also spaced out atleast 2 hours apart. Typically around 10 AM, second around 12 Noon, and the third around 3 PM.
This system has worked well for me, and every time I have deviated from this rule, chaos has ensued.
Case in point: In late 2019, I was on a trip to Delhi, when an opportunity came up to meet someone in Gurugram. That afternoon I supposed to be in New Delhi, with no plans to travel to the places in Haryana or UP. I had another engagement later in the evening, so there was spare time. I traveled all the way to Cyber City in Gurugram, only to find that the person I was supposed to meet had been pulled into a Company-wide Huddle. I was waiting in the reception area of this person’s office for an hour before I decided to head back. Four hours wasted, lesson learnt for life.

What is the origin of the Rule of Three?

I developed this rule as a result of my own bad habit, which I like to call “Stretching your day”.Back in 2011 and 2012, we used to live in Gurugram in the National Capital Region. During that phase, I used to believe in stretching the day : That is, I used to take the first flight out of Delhi. Which meant I left home around 4 in the morning to catch a 6 AM flight; and return home around 10:30 or 11 in the night. My logic was, that a 6 AM departure for a three hour flight to Bengaluru or Chennai allows me to land in those cities by 9 AM. In other words, I can have my first meeting by 10:30 AM or 11, a second around 1 PM, and I could probably squeeze in a third around 3 or 4 PM. Around 5 PM, I would head to the airport and fly back home. While traveling to Mumbai, the meeting schedule was a bit relaxed because of shorter flight time. Commuting times within each city (except maybe Chennai) was similar.
The downside: Long days impact family and family time.
Stretching the day works great in theory. What I did not realize was that it has an impact on the rest of the family. On the day of travel, one ends up sleeping only a little time because one have to be up early the next morning. Not to mention sleeping little when upon returning home, because of a late arrival time.Because of my schedule, my wife and my mother also used to get up and used to wait till late night till I returned home. Which meant sleep was ruined for two nights for three people. In case I traveled twice a week, more than half the week was ruined! The Rule of Three works much better, but the obvious downside is that I end up spending two nights away from home instead of one. But a three day trip twice a month is so much productive!

Breakfast meetings: the Secret weapon

You may recall I had mentioned scheduling 10 meetings over 3 days. However, 3 meetings over 3 days only add up to 9. Something does not make sense, does it? It does not, till the time I mention the secret sauce: breakfast meetings. On the second or third day of my stay, I plan a breakfast meeting, usually by inviting the other party to where I am staying, This meeting could be casual; say with a business acquaintance or a classmate or a work colleague. I believe meeting someone at 8 AM is awesome- the day’s madness is yet to begin. However, not everyone in my network agrees. What do you think?

Build in buffers

In plain and simple terms, always keep some spare time at hand while on a trip. You never know what may result from it.About six years ago, I was looking to start a podcast around digital marketing. It was called Digital PowWow. This was the second podcast launched by gaathastory after MyKitaab podcast. My co-host, Kiruba Shankar, was extremely enthusiastic about the idea. He lives in Chennai, and he had a business trip in Bengaluru. Given the distances and commuting time in my fair city, I was hoping to catch up with him over a call. Instead, he was gracious enough to visit our home, which was near the Airport.

We recorded two episodes of Digital Powwow podcast literally sitting around the dining table of our home. following which, he took off for a business meet. It probably was a detour of an hour and a half. But we were able to record some great content and the podcast could be launched. The subsequent three or four episodes were recorded over Skype, but that one visit laid a solid foundation.

The detour and was possible because of spare time, and of course Kiruba’s enthusiasm. But what if one of the two elements was missing? But remember,
Excitement and enthusiasm needs to be complimented with making time available.
I will leave you with the links to the first two episodes of Digital PowWow we had recorded. You can listen to them at the end of this post. That was all the way back in February 2016. It’s been six years, and the content may seem a bit dated, but it is still highly relevant.

Plan for the Unplanned

Detours during travel are great. “Planning the unplanned”, as I would like to call it, can It can be a visit to an old friend, a place of interest, it can be a professional engagement, or something new to try out. I had been doing that anyways, but in an un-structured manner. During my last business trip before COIVD times, I had taken some time off to visit the Trade Fair in New Delhi. What a lovely afternoon it turned out to be! I was working in the field of sustainable forestry back then, and a visit to the trade fair gave me so many ideas. More on that in another post.

End Note

Hope my travel experiences prove helpful to you in some way. Happy to hear your comments, suggestions and of course, travel tips!On a related note, I posted about my daily blogging challenge on facebook yesterday. Kiruba wrote back to me saying that he would like to join me in this challenge. How exciting!! It is great to have someone partner with you – it works very well for accountability.You can listen to the first two episodes of Digital PowWow Podcast by clicking below

Episode 1- Ratings, Rankings and Review Sites

Introduction to Digital PowWow

Wordcount for this post : 1,530. Time taken for drafting, editing, images and publishing- 1.8 Hours.
This post was updated on 2022-02-28