4:30 a.m.: I’m faced with my first challenge—to quickly turn off the alarm without disturbing two cats that are using me as a sleeping surface and waking my husband. With a few stealth moves I slide out from underneath the feline pile and shuffle out of the bedroom without waking anyone.
4:45 a.m.: I find my way to the dining room table, fire up my computer, and quickly eat a Greek yogurt while the overnight e-mails download. Because I’m about to head to China for a big proposal meeting the overnight e-mails are more numerous and urgent than usual. I have a short window of time to review the latest version of the proposal and get comments back to my colleagues.
6:00 a.m.: I finish and send off my edits, run upstairs to wake my husband, feed the pets, and put on some workout clothes
6:15 a.m.: I’m jumping around to the enthusiastic encouragement of the trainer on the latest workout DVD. I don’t yet look like the “after” photos they show you in the infomercials so I’ll have to keep at it.
7:45 a.m.: I shower, dress, and throw the last items into my suitcase/briefcase. The car for the airport is waiting in my driveway. My husband and I review our logistics for the week since I’m about to disappear until Friday night. I really appreciate that he decided to leave the house a little late so that we could say good-bye in person.
8:00 a.m.: I jump into the car and dial into a case team meeting. The client is in the final stages of negotiating an acquisition and we are anticipating a public announcement next week. The principal on the project has the meeting under control. That lets me parallel process e-mail.
9:00 a.m.: I join the next teleconference just as it is getting started. Another case team meeting—this one for a pro bono project we are doing for a nongovernmental organization. We are finalizing the stakeholder interview guide and discussing the logistics for our first interview scheduled for later this morning.
9:45 a.m.: As I’m arriving at the airport I answer a call from our regional chair who is looking for input on potential candidates to fill an internal role that has become vacant.
10:30 a.m.: Settled into the business class lounge, I execute my international pre-flight routine: plug in all electronics, forward personal cell phone to international cell phone, text husband and remind him that I can’t get his texts while I’m away, and do one last synch of e-mail.
11:00 a.m.: Dial into the stakeholder interview, introduce the firm, the project, and then hand it over to the project leader to conduct the interview. I simultaneously pack up my briefcase and start heading toward the gate.
11:15 a.m.: Board flight, secure overhead bin space for my suitcase, ask a follow-up question to the person we are interviewing, and smile at the person settling into the seat next to me.
11:50 a.m.: Get a personal invitation from the flight attendant to turn off my phone, quickly apologize to the person we are interviewing and drop off the call, turn off my phone, introduce myself to my seat mate, and settle in for the 14+-hour flight to Beijing.
1:00 p.m. (Beijing time): After spending the last few hours eating, sleeping, and catching up on some paperwork it’s time for the “Superman drill”—transforming from plane slug to client-ready business attire in the airplane bathroom. Today, there is no time for the luxury of an airport arrivals lounge.
2:30 p.m.: I’ve cleared immigration and customs and I’m searching a sea of signs looking for one with my name on it. I don’t speak Mandarin and the drivers don’t speak English so after some universally understood hand gestures and smiles I’m on my way to the client site.
4:00 p.m.: Arriving at the client location I keep my eyes open for fellow team members, we’re all arriving from different corners of the earth and it’s nice to get a couple of minutes to align ahead of the meeting.
8:00 p.m.: Finally checking into the hotel. We decide that we’ve earned a quick social dinner in the hotel rather than immediately diving into e-mail and room service and agree to reconvene in 10 minutes.
10:00 p.m.: I settle into my hotel room. Do a quick workout (those DVDs are great when you travel), shower, and do a quick e-mail check.
Midnight: I call my husband, set my alarm clock, and crawl into bed—the end of another long day.