Improve Your Time Management on Business Trips

by Jeff Doubek, Day-Timer Spokesperson

For many business professionals, the majority of business trip planning begins and ends with the travel agent. You get your plane tickets, you get your hotel room, you get your rental car, and off you go. But, left out are plenty of time management steps that will dramatically improve your work productivity and reduce your work stress.

As in all planning, preparation is the key to setting yourself up for success.

Begin by checking the travel dates for your trip. Evaluate how the trip fits into existing work schedules, and determine how it fits into the values you have established in your personal and professional goals. Ask yourself: do you need to cut the trip short for family reasons? Should you lengthen the trip to accommodate visiting other clients? These considerations play important roles in your productivity, as well as your work life balance.

Plan Your Packing

If you are a regular or even occasional business traveler, you should have a Pack List. A Pack List should include itemized clothes to wear, for business and casual, as well as business tools and accessories. Include business cards, all charger cords, USB cables, headphones, and a small digital camera – it’s a great tool for capturing a thousand words with one photo.

When visiting a business or client for the first time, it’s always a good idea to determine what to wear. Make a task item to call their receptionist and get an idea of the company dress and culture. Then, as in all steps of planning, communicate to make sure your whole team is on the same page.

Improve Your Travel Planning

Your next project refers to the travel itself. This includes planning your commute, your parking, and your local directions. Call your hotel – or if it’s a daytrip the business receptionist – and ask about local information such as driving directions, places to eat, and rush hour traffic. While you’re at it ask about any area travel delays or inconveniences. These questions will ultimately save you time when it counts.

Go online and locate the local amenities. Key necessities include a breakfast joint nearby your hotel, a business/copy center (find out if it’s 24 hours), a laundry/cleaners, and a good spot for dinner. Planning ahead will save you valuable time and help manage stress on the road.

Study a map to orient yourself key roadways. There is no bigger time waste than being lost, and it will impress your clients that you know the lay of the land.

Create a Trip Schedule

Now, create an expectation for yourself for what you plan to accomplish on this trip. This includes creating a special task list for your trip – things you can do, and things you can’t do (i.e. meetings, phone calls on the plane, etc.).

Begin by developing a trip agenda, if there is not one already. Take into account what the meeting plan will encompass, and if it may include walking tours, conference meetings, meals, and other activities.

With the information you have, create an action list and a schedule. With your action list, be realistic and set a practical amount of tasks, with the hope of achieving them all. You have one shot at this trip, after all. With your schedule – be firm but flexible. Work in time for delays at every turn. Baggage claim waits, rush hour traffic, rental car lines, even potty breaks. You have to remember the human element in all aspects of your scheduling.

Determine Your Road Work

A major consideration for business trips is the work in transit. If you are flying there are many opportunities for work productivity – if you are driving work time is reduced, but still available. Create a list regarding the necessary tasks that pertain to both home and road project needs. Include phone calls, memos into your voice recorder for dictation later – even podcasts or webinars you can download to your laptop or iPhone. Be sure to include these and all activities in your schedule.

Next, plan some “breathe time.” Pains such as jet lag, sore back from driving, and tender feet, all add up and reduce your work productivity. Schedule yourself a break before and after your meetings. Take a breath. Regardless of whether you’re a road warrior, it’s vital that you consider the dramatic increase in work stress these trips offer.

Schedule Debrief Time

After your meeting, schedule yourself a wrap-up session in a coffee shop or hotel room. Organize your notes, task your next actions, assign follow-up duties, and plan phone calls and emails. This is your last chance to clear your head while the information is still fresh, and it will set in motion the next batch of activities as you transition back into the home office.

While on the road, your work environment may change, but your effective time management and expectations for work productivity can remain on track.

How Do You Plan Your Travel?

Do you have any thoughts or tips on improving time management on business trips? Please tell us your comments.