14 December 2015
As another working trip comes to an end I find that, yet again, my list of things to do during dead time is pretty much untouched, blogs John Bowen.
There were so many things that I was going to write while I had time to myself, but almost nothing got done - so much for good intentions.
Often the problem is that the situation that I encounter on the ground is very different to the brief and I have to use my dead time to react and re-plan, revise, research or whatever else I need to do to get by and deliver the required result.
Access to the internet is usually a big help in these situations, but on some of my trips cyberspace can be elusive; in China there are a number of restrictions for example, and sometimes hotels do not have adequate systems, even in countries that one might regard as being technically well advanced. On a recent trip to Dublin, I ended up camped in Starbucks because the hotel Wi-Fi was so useless.
Another complication for some trips can be when pre-prepared material needs changing. I arrived in Libya to lead two days of a strategic finance workshop, only to be told that the brief had been misleading and what I had planned would not work. It was no problem, in that I could present something that met the new requirement, but my slide packs for the two days had already been translated into Arabic, the delegates had been given copies, and there was no access to overnight translation services.
Fortunately I keep my slides very sparse compared with many speakers, and so I was able to write new material around the original slides. Fortunately, I can still function on adrenaline and a couple of hours' sleep for short bursts and the two days went very well.
On this most recent trip the problem has not been one of challenges though, more that in the US folks cannot bear the thought of someone being on their own in a hotel. They are very hospitable and won't take 'no' for an answer, so you find that your evenings are taken up at people's homes meeting family, neighbours, colleagues, and anyone else that they think might entertain you. It's lovely, but I have to interact with people for a living, and I do actually like my own company at times and with so many things planned to do I would hardly have been bored. If that sounds churlish it is not intended to be - and I do learn a lot from these unplanned encounters.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, as they say, and here I am back over the Irish coast, not much more than half an hour from Heathrow, contemplating the list of things that I was going to do that I wrote at about this point on the outbound journey two weeks ago. Never mind - it will soon be the holiday season. Maybe then I can get some of this stuff done.
John Bowen is an FM consultant