If you have frequent business travel, you know that being away from your home base can do a number on your productivity and your stress levels.
But you can make the most of your time on the road while you ensure things are running smoothly back at the office. It just takes smart planning and delegating. Recently, I contributed to a roundup of tips for business travel on the Insureon blog.
Give Yourself a Cushion
The strategy I shared with Insureon has consistently worked for me, my readers and the people who attend my productivity training sessions:
Maura Thomas (@mnthomas), founder of management and productivity training company RegainYourTime.com, says setting an out-of-office message on your voicemail and email may allow you to focus more on your trip. But she suggests adding day before and after your actual travel dates to give yourself some breathing room.
She says, “If people hear back from you before they expected, that will be a pleasant surprise.”
Empower Your Staff
Business travel for those who manage others need to make sure their staff is prepared for their absence.
The Insureon article has some good advice on this area. But I recommend a more hands-off approach. Instead of planning out every detail ahead of time, it’s more productive to simply choose a trusted staff member to step into your shoes while you’re gone. As I wrote for HBR, this approach has a couple of advantages. First, delegating responsibilities while you’re gone gives the staff member you’ve chosen an opportunity to grow. It also discourages you from constantly checking in and micromanaging from the road, which would show a lack of confidence in the staff member who’s filling in for you.
Manage Your Calendar While You Travel
The Insureon article recommends that business travelers put all activities during their trip on their calendar. That includes both business-related events, like meeting with prospects, and your personal activities, like hitting the hotel gym. The rationale behind this suggestion makes sense: Your staff could look at your calendar and tell when it’s a good time to get in touch with you.
But whether you’re in the office or on the road, I still believe that including only time-sensitive events on your calendar is the best practice. For business travelers, that means your flights, meetings, happy hours and anything else that has a fixed time goes on your calendar. Other things do not. Our workdays are unpredictable — especially on the road. Mapping each minute of your day just sets you up for spending extra time reconfiguring your calendar every time something changes.
More Tips for Productive Business Travel
- Hide your email on your phone. This reduces the temptation to check it constantly. (But first tell staff members that email is not the way to contact you in an urgent situation.)
- Don’t fear downtime. If your flight gets delayed, you might default to checking your email or doing other work. But it may actually be more productive to use this unexpected time to meditate or just let your mind wander. This kind of mental break really boosts your productivity and creativity.
- Go easy on yourself when you return. Try not to schedule meetings or appointments on your first day back in the office.