The days when business travel was equal parts work and pleasure are long gone. Now business travel is all about working until midnight the night before to catch up before you’re going to be out of the office, then racing to the airport hoping your mobile boarding pass will work this time, and then walking up to the gate only to have the gate agent eyeball the size of your carry-on and give you a disapproving look. And that’s just the beginning.
Keeping up with the flurry of emails, conference calls, voice mails and deadlines while you travel requires the keenest focus and discipline. In fact, while I write this, I am on a hotel bed in San Francisco, laptop in front of me, desperately attempting to focus after a couple of cocktails and rounds of laughter because I’m quickly approaching a midnight deadline that must be met.
I am by no means the expert on time and task management during work travel, but here’s a few tips that help me stay somewhat on track:
- Add deadlines to your calendar with notification alarms turned on. Having every project deadline on my calendar is too much for me, but when I travel, I put deadlines on my calendar with notifications turned on as if it was an actual meeting. Because my calendar syncs to my phone, my alarm on my phone will go off serving as a reminder for the task that must be completed.
- Execute tasks according to time and environment. When you are on the road, conditions will vary, so you have to be choosy about how you use tiny windows of time. For example, if you have five minutes and no Wi-Fi, perhaps you write the three thank you notes on your to-do list. Or if you are on a plane and the Wi-Fi is $5.95 for one hour, pre-write important emails and put them in your draft box, then hook up the Wi-Fi and hit the “send” button so you optimize the time you have access. It’s not so much the ridiculous nickel and dime charges as it is forcing you to focus on writing email communication versus wandering around social media while Wi-Fi is hooked up.
- Assign someone to be in charge of feeding you reminders. Work travel is inevitably wrought with schedule changes and distractions, so putting a fellow team member in charge of checking on your time management while you are out is a helpful time management tool.
- Provide someone with backup files in case something happens. You know the inevitable will happen – you won’t have Internet access, or your computer crashes – and all of a sudden you can’t send documents you promised. Making sure that someone at the home office while you are on the road has copies of documents and files will ensure on-time delivery even if you run into a problem.
- Set proper expectations for deadlines. In today’s constantly connected world and business travel across time zones, it’s important to understand deadline expectations. COB (close of business) in the west might mean 5pm, but on the east coast its 6pm. Or in my case, I promise EOD (end of day), which I explain in my world, is midnight!
This is what works for me, and frankly I’m still working on mastering this work-travel-deadline-management thing. But if my tips don’t help, don’t give up. It appears this is an important topic and lots of people have different ideas about what might work best:
It’s 28 minutes until my EOD deadline. WHEW, I made it. If you have any tips you can share with me, I’d really appreciate it.
– Jane Olvera Quebe, President