5 (Road-Tested) Ways to Cut Planning Stress
Every year, a few career sites publish their top 10 lists of stressful jobs, and not surprisingly event coordinators consistently rank high on the list. So, how to cut the stress we’re all too familiar with in this line of work? Stop it before it starts—or at least know how to tame it. The good news is you can prevent much of the travel and planning stress from getting the best of you by taking a few smart steps. Here’s a few to get you headed in the right direction:
1. Find your own route.
As an event gun-for-hire, my flights are usually booked by my client’s travel agent, whose job it is to spend the minimum amount of time to find the cheapest ticket for me. And while I do respect the mission, their quest for thrift can leave me with stressful 20-minute connections; several exhausting puddle-jumper flights that could be done in one for a few dollars more; or 2 am touch-downs into questionable locales. Instead of just gritting your teeth and taking what’s offered, take matters into your own hands. Check out route options online, pick a few that work for you and send your ‘suggestions’ to the travel agent. By doing the legwork for them, chances are good you’ll get exactly the flights you need, minus the sprints through the airport, missed connections and middle-of-the-night landings.
2. Always be an early bird.
One of the best ways to prevent planning-related stress is to arrive early to the venue—and by that I mean at least day or more—depending on where your event is and its complexity. Granted, an intimate cocktail party at a high-end hotel a quick plane-ride away will be virtually turn-key compared to an overseas 4-day convention for 1,000 delegates, but in any case, the more time you get on the ground beforehand, the better. If your client balks at the extra cost, remind them that the additional one or two night hotel room stay represents a fraction of the total event budget and will enable the team to seamlessly and less expensively make final adjustments, upgrades and finishing touches before doors open—and possibly prevent having to spring into troubleshooting (or even crisis) mode during the event.
3. Leave the road to the pros.
Reducing travel stress is all about streamlining. One way to ditch some of the stress is to bypass the airport car rental desk, and rely on car services instead. Going rental car-free will save you time getting in and out of the airport, circling the perimeter on shuttle busses, or driving around town for hours lost while Siri ‘re-calculates.’ You’ll also save on hotel valet and parking charges which can help trim hundreds of dollars off your final bill. But perhaps the biggest plus is that with a car service doing the driving, you can use your passenger time to catch up on calls, emails and even sleep.
4. Be digital, analog, virtual and flexible.
Dying batteries, poor Wi-Fi signals and erratic cell service while in-transit or on-site can drive planner stress levels into the stratosphere—so be sure to stack the deck with a range of reinforcements before you head out. Among the must-haves:
· A rechargeable back-up battery for your mobile and another for your iPad so you can charge both simultaneously
· A spare backup battery with a solar panel to enable you to power devices even when you’re miles away from the nearest outlet
· A few thumb drives to swap large files quickly when Wi-Fi slows to a crawl or to facilitate late night printout sessions at the hotel business center
· A pay-as-you-go ‘Mi-Fi’ system to pick up slack when the hotel Wi-Fi slows to a crawl
· A Dropbox account or cloud storage for easy access to essential files
And the simplest stress-reducer of all? Good old paper. Old-school as it may be, a folder of paper versions of your most important documents can be a lifesaver when devices fail (theirs or yours). For peace of mind, I always travel with hard copies of final contracts, guest lists, contacts, flight itineraries, hotel confirmations, etc. Much as I adore all things digital, often I find paper versions can be accessed more quickly while traveling and they don’t eat up precious battery life.
5. Get away from it all, just for an hour.
When we’re in high planning gear, the last thing we planner types are thinking about is R & R, even though both are essential for well-being. When you’re stressed out and exhausted, productivity tanks even though few of us realize it at the time. To combat some of the effects of stress, taking a little time for yourself and by yourself is essential. Instead of hitting the gym where your colleagues are also likely to be blowing off steam, really get away from it all and book a massage at the hotel or nearby spa. Doing so will help refresh your body and mind and help you function better on the job. Can’t spare an hour for a massage? Then grab your bathing suit and at day’s end, take a dip in the pool to swim off stress under a canopy of stars. Among my favorite places for an end-of-day swim: the Diplomat Resort and Spa, Hollywood, FL; The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, CA; Bacara Resort & Spa, Santa Barbara, CA; Le Meridien, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Four Seasons, Hong Kong.
For more ways to cut stress and save time, check out these planner-friendly gadgets.