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stop trippin

The most productive thing I’m doing this year—no business trips

This originally appeared at LinkedIn. You can follow Brad here

For the past 20 years I’ve traveled 75% of the time during the week. The companies I’ve invested in are distributed around the US, in Boston, New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Kansas City, and a few other places. And I live in Boulder, Colorado. So I became very familiar with the drive to and from Denver International Airport.

Last June I quit. Cold turkey. No more travel. I simply cancelled all of my upcoming trips and declared myself a no-fly zone through the end of 2013.

It was a bold experiment in self-preservation. I struggled with a deep depressive episode in the first half of 2013. I was functional, and got my work done, but I was in a continuous state of joylessness. I simply didn’t want to do anything. And when I did something, it was devoid of any satisfaction. Something had to change.

For seven months I got up and went to sleep in my own bed, next to my wife Amy with our dog Brooks at the foot of our bed. I didn’t experience the stale smell of an airplane a single time. I didn’t have any delayed or missed flights. A TSA person didn’t feel me in any inappropriate places. I didn’t have grab an imitation candy bar, disguised as an energy bar, a single time.

Instead, I mastered videoconferencing. I have always used some version of it on occasion, most recently Skype and Google Hangouts. But I never put real effort into setting up the appropriate infrastructure, which includes hardware, software, audio, and connectivity.

We installed a high end Mezzanine system from Oblong in our office. In two other rooms, we installed very large TVs with Mac Mini’s and optimized audio systems tuned to Skype and Google Hangouts. We made it simple to set up, turn on, and be in a conference. At Techstars, we installed a Lifesize system in every office. Suddenly, we had high end access points in virtually every city I regularly did business in.

Most importantly, I shifted my interaction modality to video-conference. Sure, I still end up on some audio conference calls. But they feel to me like sending letters through the mail instead of using email. Old school. Tired. Something my parents do, except for my parents always call me with video now.

I’ve continued to optimize my computers at home and the office for video conferencing. I’m surrounded by monitors ranging in size from 13” (my laptop) to 90”, with a bunch in the 27” and 65” range. I’ve learned how to have a separate audio channel. I’ve figured out how to deal with the least-common denominator effect, when someone shows up with a crummy connection. I’ve figured out how to use BlueJeans Network to merge my Oblong system with someone using Skype, while allowing someone on a mobile phone to dial in via audio.

And I stopped traveling. Completely. I decided not to travel for business in 2014. When I look at my schedule, I have a trip each month for pleasure—Miami in January to get warm, Memphis in February for a weekend with my dad, Cabo in March for spring break, and Boston in April to run a marathon. But more importantly, I have no business trips. And that makes me happy.

This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share their secrets to being more productive. See all their #productivityhacks here.

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