I travel too much and it’s getting on my nerves and I’m looking for a sensible way to cut it back.
I love getting face-to-face with people and I like seeing new places and of course every trip has lots of photo opportunities. But travel, particularly by air, particularly in the twenty-first century, is increasingly irritating and fatiguing; and I’m trying, in the second half of my life, to take better care of myself. So I want to do less. Since I’m an engineer, I’m looking for a quantitative approach.
Introducing the Work/Travel Ratio · I’m returning from a trip to the SDForum Ruby Conference, which was perfectly OK. The trip from Vancouver to the conference (or nearby hotel) is about four hours, including flying, airport bullshit, and the driving at each end. My speech was one hour. I got in a couple of decent conversations and a mildly-useful visit to Sun HQ but, realistically, the only part I had to be there for was my one-hour speech. So in this case the work/travel ratio was ⅛ or 0.125. That’s the first one I’ve calculated, and it looks pretty poor on the face of it.
Let’s consider my February trip to the BRM. It’s about 15 hours door-to-door to Geneva via Frankfurt. I put in a solid forty hours of in-meeting time, plus another half-dozen hours of useful schmoozing in the evenings. So that gives you 46/30, or for a W/T of 1.53; a whole lot better than this week’s trip.
Even better was last week; face-to-face planning meetings at Sun. Eight hours of travel and 22 hours of work, for a W/T of 2.75.
This is a pretty rough-and-ready measure. But you can’t solve a problem till you can measure it, and at the moment I have a travel problem.
On the face of it, I am tempted to resist any trip with a W/T that’s less than 1.0.
Other Factors · There are mitigating factors, obviously. The most obvious ones would be an interesting destination or a Really Important meeting.
If I start applying this rigorously, it means I probably won’t be doing any more trips across oceans, to Europe or Asia, just to give conference talks. Unless of course there’s a substantial amount of work that can be filled in around them.
Is this unreasonable? Suggestions from anyone on alternate metrics would be welcome.