Why one-day commutes are so productive
Flitting between countries in a day might not be everybody’s cup of tea but, for pro commuter Mark Izatt, every trip is filled with pleasure and productivity
Business day trips by air were not something I had ever experienced or contemplated much before moving to New York. After a few months, I realised that – beyond the obvious destinations such as Boston and Washington, DC – there were cities in the 700-1,000-mile range that could easily be done in a day: Chicago, Atlanta and even Miami.
A decade’s worth of flying later, I brought those habits back home to London and quickly found that, when presence was important, I could be both in the office and on the move. The logic being that nobody misses you for a day.
Being able to spend one day away from my desk, sandwiched between two nights in my own bed were compelling enough on efficiency grounds but, in the context of Europe, there is a tiny bit of excitement in breakfast and supper at home and lunch somewhere entirely different.
Edinburgh and Glasgow aside, my typical ‘there-and-back’ destinations are Amsterdam, Zurich, Milan, Paris – there is a common denominator in that the airports are either close to the city centre or have efficient transit links.
Zurich is probably the most regular destination and the British Airways schedule delivers a long day if I need it. I’m just about to book a January trip and the 07:05 gets me into Zurich at 09:50 and the 20:55 back to Heathrow for 21:40. That’s 11 precious hours. Remove two or so hours to get from the gate to Zurich city centre and back again and that’s nine hours of useful working time.
Logistically, it’s all possible but it is the difference in mindset that really delivers a step change in attitude. You find yourself being able to fit more into less time because it feels like a little bit of a challenge – and a challenge unfettered by luggage or the need to divert to a hotel.
With a ‘fair wind’, and the advantage of the first and last flights of the day being on schedule, if not early, you have time for a coffee meeting, a full meeting, a lunch meeting, another full meeting, a coffee and a drink with a friend at the station before heading back to the airport. If you had stayed overnight, you wouldn’t have achieved as much over two days and would probably have ended up spending twice as much money – all of which makes a compelling case for having the extra comfort of flying Club Europe, which makes a long day more relaxing.
The practicalities couldn’t be easier. There is something comforting about checking in for both flight legs at the same time. It’s a weight off your mind – you’ve done your part and now you can focus on the reason you are travelling. All you have to do is get to the aircraft door on time.
The reward is a day that has more productivity, more contrast and an intensity that delivers results.
Pack your small bag with military precision – a power bank or two to last the day and some currency – not because you really need it these days but because it provides some evidence you’ve been somewhere!
Of course, there are additional benefits. You get to have three breakfasts – one at home, one in the lounge and one on board. Someone brings you drinks on the journey back and you gain an hour on the way home like some time traveller. And, best of all, nobody knows you are gone – they just think you were in a long meeting that day.
What’s more you get to have three or four bursts of digital productivity: prior to boarding outbound, as you travel into the city and then the reverse trip back to the airport. Beyond that, the moment when you sink into your seat for the return flight is the signal to switch off. That’s a lid on the day.
Sure, it’s almost comical to know you’re starting a journey that ultimately will end up with you back at your point of departure, but the reward is a day that has more productivity, more contrast and an intensity that delivers results.
Does this bleed over into leisure travel? You bet. I’ve met friends who were on a birthday trip to Vienna, dined on the top of a Swiss alp and had a long, languid lunch in Madrid. It’s all possible and all the more enjoyable as you travel unencumbered, with the knowledge that you are stretching the day and only giving up half your weekend.
Is there a downside? None that I can see. Not even that moment when your head hits the pillow and you drift off to sleep reflecting on the day’s achievements with a slight disbelief – “Did I really travel today?”
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