Ever return from a business trip feeling like you’re five steps behind on everything? (Come on, be honest, I won’t tell).
Instead of ending up with a pile of work waiting for you when you get back, check out these productivity tips from my own travels and some my favorite road warriors on how to keep everything from your workouts to your inbox in check.
The way I personally keep my sanity every day is by returning to my hotel room at the end of each night and striving for a zero inbox. We use Gmail at our company, so I use the “Unread Emails First” filter to bring everything I haven’t checked yet to the top of my inbox.
I use the Rapportive Gmail plugin, which gives me a quick snapshot of the person who sent me the email (including their recent Tweets or Facebook posts, if they’ve made them public.) Knowing who sent the email and how urgent it is to respond right away is the first step to email sanity.
The goal of “Inbox Zero” hotel time is to read every email, even if I don’t have time to act on it until I get back. I file them into trip-specific folders that say, “Needs Attention,” or “Longer Term.” Anything that truly requires an immediate response gets an email back that same night.
The reason this is an important tactic for a traveler is because you can never know when you’ll be distracted from answering your emails – a delayed flight, or stressful meeting can easily help me forget to respond to something, so I need to characterize it so I can remember everything.
Track Expenses as You Get Them
Nothing sucks more than getting home to a super-long expense report. Scott Orn, a venture capitalist at Lighthouse Capital Partners, tracks expenses as he goes by taking a photo of every receipt as he gets them, and sends them to his cloud storage account, immediately:
“It’s really simple to take a photo of the receipts I accumulate on a business trip and file them directly into my expenses folder for the month. I can share the folder with anyone who needs access to it, like our finance and administration teams. It saves a lot of time at the end of the month when I scrambling to get expenses filed and I never have to worry about expenses falling through the cracks and not getting reimbursed.”
Whatever software you use, tracking receipts by taking a photo of them as you go is a good alternative to accumulating them for a month and then scrambling to complete your expense report using an old-school scanner. Plus you can easily avoid losing receipts by creating a paperless paper trail.
Expense Magic will even file receipts into whatever expense report format your company uses.
Actually Use Those Sneakers You Brought
It’s easy to give in to the temptation of going to dinner or drinks with coworkers or clients every single day when you’re on a business trip, but the “I’m on vacation. . .I’m away from home,” excuse doesn’t fly when it comes to skipping workouts.
I’ve packed sneakers with the best of intentions and just not used them. But I try to make every effort to go for a jog or visit the fitness center in the morning, knowing that dinner or cocktail obligations will always seem much more fun to me than the gym.
Another option is to pack a yoga mat and do a workout right in your room. I love this “Nerd Fitness” 20-minute hotel room workout if you’re stretched for time.
Use WiFi-Less Planes to Your Advantage
Most people freak out when they find out their plane has no wi-fi. On the contrary, an internet-less plane can be the most productive, zen time to work on documents like presentations or proposals that aren’t entirely reliant on connectivity.
Think of the time in the air as dedicated focus time where you can’t get distracted by the latest LOLCat (guilty as charged) or IM from a coworker.
Save yourself from a conversation with your row-mate by plugging in some headphones and just cranking on whatever project has been eating at you when you’re usually distracted by phone calls, meetings or being online.
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