Tips for Staying Productive When Traveling on Business

Sep 8, 2014
9 Min Read

Traveling for business is often frustrating and exhausting, but you still have to get work done or face an avalanche of tasks when you return to the office. But by being a bit savvier about how you work on the road, you can get more done and be less stressed doing it.

No one would ever claim that business travel is loads of fun, and much of that is because road warriors often get frustrated trying to stay productive while away from the office. No matter their good intentions, it seems delayed flights, overbooked hotels, noisy surroundings and bad connections undermine them.

But with savvier planning, anyone can become more productive – and less stressed – while on the road.

For example, some travelers say they find it a lot less stressful to stay at the same hotel chain – or even  the same hotel if they’re often traveling to the same destination. That familiarity cannot only ease the stress of trying to learn new surroundings, but can also garner some perks from hotels.

For example, extended stay hotels like the Hyatt House offer evening socials to help their frequent business guests network, providing the food and drinks within the hotel. All you have to do is show up and add some key business contacts to your contact list.

In addition, many hotel chains offer reward programs that allow you to accrue points. This can not only add up for some free stays during your down time, but can increase the chances of getting a room – a decent room – when bookings are tight or you show up late because you circled Atlanta for three hours. Such chains also track your needs, such as a preference for a quieter room away from the elevator and ice machine, which can mean you will be more productive when working in your room.

If you’re staying at an unfamiliar hotel, always inquire about the business center and its hours of operations. Before heading to your room, check out the center to see if it will meet your needs, or if the printer has an “out of order” sign on it. In that case, it’s worth asking the hotel to recommend a nearby Kinko’s.

Once you reach your room, immediately put away your personal items so unpacking won’t interfere with your work later. (An organized room also helps you avoid time-wasters such as searching for your socks instead of going over your notes for a big presentation.) Next, set up an area that will be just for work, such as at the desk or table. Begin charging your laptop and phone and put out writing pads, pens, etc.  Vow to keep the television off while working.

Here are some other ways to stay productive while on the road:

  • Do some prep work: It takes a little time, but it’s worth it to sync your calendars on your devices. Also, sites like GateGuru can help you keep track of changing gate assignments, security-line wait times or layover time adjustments. It also will list amenities in an airport, helping you to quickly locate a healthy meal or snack to keep you focused and energized.
  • Stay connected: Consider a MiFi device or Karma, which can ensure you’ve always got Wi-Fi. It can save you hours  of looking for a connection, especially important if you may be traveling to locations with spotty service.

And remember the Polar Vortex last year? Many business travelers were stuck without a way to recharge their devices in hard-hit locations.  A backup charger for your phone or tablet can keep you connected, and some even use solar power. At $100 or less, these “juice packs” can also pull double duty as protective smartphone or tablet cases. Think about Mophie for Apple or Android devices, or the ZAGG Sparq Portable Battery and Wall Adapter, a battery-powered backup charger. Third Rail  functions as a case for the iPhone and has an add-on battery, but also offers a USB port and cable so you can charge other devices.

  • Track costs: To keep track of expenses, there are a couple of options. The first is one that many travelers use: the envelope. They simply tuck it into a briefcase or other carry-on, with the flap tucked inside. That way they can easily slip in every receipt they collect and then total them up later. The second is using an app like Expensify, a free app that can help you keep track of your business expenses and mileage, letting users scan and upload receipts.
  • Just think: Many road warriors have balked at the thought of being connected on a flight because they say the time away from devices gives them the peace they need to just think. But to avoid the unhappy 2-year-old screaming across the aisle, invest in noise-cancelling headphones – not just earbuds. Why headphones? People are much less likely to bother you when you’ve obviously got those big things over your ears – you seem serious about cutting out distractions.

To keep track of any great ideas that may flash through your brain with some quiet time, use Evernote to clip web articles, capture handwritten notes or add photos of things that may inspire ideas. It also helps you keep everything at hand when you travel, ensuring you stay productive.

  • Don’t shirk workouts: Also look for hotels that offer gyms or access to nearby facilities. Research shows you’ll be more productive if you exercise regularly, and having a nearby gym allows you to get in a workout before starting your day. If there isn’t a gym, walk up and down the hotel stairs or find a nearby park. Stretch bands in your suitcase take up minimum room and helps you easily fit in a 20 minute routine each day.

Finally, don’t try to do too much while traveling, Acknowledge that it’s often an exhausting process, so set reasonable goals such as accomplishing one thing on each segment of your flight or not responding to emails until after you’re worked out or had a restorative meal.

What are some things you do to stay productive on the road?

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