When Work Won't Wait: 5 Tips for Being Productive When Traveling

How to Manage Your Time and Stay Productive While Traveling
Bet you didn't think taking a break was one. Here are no-nonsense time management tips for the traveling worker.
These days, so many of us travel for work. I was one of them! I’d fly back and forth across the country several times a month for several years. The amount of emails or calls I’d receive while running around to meetings or sitting on a five-hour flight added up quickly. It took some practice getting used to the super commute, but after several months, I adapted a few tactics to help me stay productive. There are, of course, the obvious tricks of out-of-office memos or traveling on planes with Wi-Fi, but I’d like to share a few extra time management tips to help you feel on top of your game while traveling for work.

Take control of your inbox

On the road, I’ve found that it is best to reply to emails that can be handled in less than a minute and in a few short sentences – especially if you are working from your phone. Alternatively, pick up the phone and call people, it’s often quicker and provides less likelihood of miscommunication than an email. Save the longer calls or emails for when you return to your hotel or find a comfortable work spot, where you can thoughtfully reply. If it’s a time sensitive email, quickly reply that you are traveling and will have an answer by the end of the day or determine a deadline that works for both parties.

Don’t run out of juice

Figure out how often you’ll be running between meetings or when exactly you’ll have the opportunity to charge up throughout the day. Then, pack all of the chargers and gadgets needed to keep you from having a dwindling battery. For example, bring a spare portable phone charger, laptop charger, electrical converter (for overseas travel), spare headphones, and backup Wi-Fi. Having all of these in your bag each day might feel unnecessary, but in the end, it will keep you feeling more prepared. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to take a last-minute phone call on the way to the airport with my battery at 10 percent–having all these gadgets brings peace of mind when traveling.

Practice Time Management by Making use of waiting time

Traveling for work often means having to wait at the airport or train station, or simply waiting for a big meeting to start. I’ve found that adding 5-10 minutes of extra waiting time to a travel schedule can actually be a great time to focus on reviewing emails, organizing your inbox, and checking in with your clients or team. There are programs, like Google Mail Checker, a Chrome extension which helps you manage multiple email accounts at once, and apps (more on that below) that maximize productivity while traveling (and waiting!).

Download must-have apps to your phone

From business meetings to taxi rides to happy hour, your mobile device doesn’t often leave your side when traveling for work. That is why it’s essential to have apps on your phone that help you stay connected and productive at the touch of a button. A few that I recommend if you don’t already have them are Dropbox, Slack, and WhatsApp Messenger. Dropbox allows for easy access to files, images, and documents. Slack keeps all of your team communication in one place and reduces internal emails. If traveling globally, WhatsApp Messenger enables you to send messages for free from anywhere in the world as long as you have access to Wi-Fi.

Take a break: the best and last time management tip

Business trips are an incredible opportunity to both be face-to-face with clients and see the world–but they can also be exhausting. So, don’t forget to take a break every now and then to recharge. It can be something quick, like grabbing a bite at a new restaurant or taking a walk. Or if your schedule allows it, try to enjoy something new–a museum, a landmark, or even a show. I recommend doing about 15 minutes of research before your trip so that you can find those fun things to do. Once you’re in the thick of work and meetings, it’s going to be harder to research and plan. These breaks will help you feel more alert and productive while traveling. Plus, it becomes a great opportunity for photo ops or to make some new friends!
Which tip will you try on your next business trip? Let us know in the comments section!