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13 Experts Share Their Top Tips On Remaining Productive On A Business Trip

So, you’re travelling for business, perhaps meeting a client, or expanding your knowledge and contacts at conferences. No matter your task, you’re there to work, and that in itself presents a new challenge for some. Travelling is often enough to vex anybody, but as you bring your work with you, you find yourself managing different things simultaneously.

To help you better understand how to maximise your productivity, here are the leading speakers, authors and consultants in Leadership, Management, Productivity, Business, and Motivation, sharing their top tips on how you can make your trip as productive as possible.

Kevin, Kevin Monroe

Here’s my ninja tip for maximising productivity while on business travel… I leverage my time and travel by transforming on-line relationships through personal meetings.

Here’s how it works: a few weeks before heading out, I grab the postal code of my destination city and do a search on LinkedIn and Facebook to see who I’m connected with or want to connect with while I’m in town.

Then, I message or email them to inform them that I’ll be visiting their city, the purpose of my visit (speaking at a conference), and that I would love to connect with them while I’m in town.

Granted, this kind of networking isn’t for everyone — some people might think you’re a creeper. But if you’ve been successful in already establishing a value-rich relationship online, many people will jump at the chance to connect in person.

Combine that with my guiding principle for all relationships — enter the relationship with great anticipation, but no expectation of something amazing happening!

I’ve done this for years. It has resulted in amazing friendships, vibrant partnerships, and even some new business. Earlier this year, I was heading to Salt Lake City to speak at a Project Management Institute (PMI) Conference.

I reached out to a few people and here’s what happened. One was a guy who is a member of The Higher Purpose Community Facebook group I lead. I reached out via Messenger and said I was heading to town and would like to meet. In less than 10 minutes, not only had we agreed to meet, he booked me to speak to his team while I was in town. AMAZING!

Another guy happened to be attending the PMI Conference, and we agreed to meet for dinner after the session – as a bonus, I got a tour of the city. The third meeting was a guy who was also an alumnus of the Masters in Organisational Leadership Program at Gonzaga. We met for lunch and formed a great friendship.

BAM! Three meetings that were above and beyond the stated business purpose of my trip. That’s a win-win-win in my book and one way I stay productive while travelling.

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Christopher, Christopher Avery

Expect travel disruptions. After nearly 3 million miles on my regular airline, this remains my #1 productivity tip for travel whether flying international or domestic. Why? To reduce stress, and remain mentally clear. Because travel delays happen, and they happen regularly.

With mobile everything, you can do your office work anytime from anywhere. So when traveling for keynotes and seminars, I build in extra hours, extra nights, and extra days (especially for international trips where a mechanical issue can quickly turn into a 24-hour flight delay). If all goes well, which it does most of the time, I get lots of office time in wonderful settings. When delays happen, I’m the guy with a cool head while all around me are losing theirs.

Build loyalty with travel partners. Whether it is an airline, rental car, hotel, or credit card, when you gain a little status (usually called “elite” something), the best perk isn’t the upgrades. No, it’s the special phone line they pick up right away and say, “Hello Dr. Avery, I see you’re travelling today and the flight is delayed. We’ve backed you up on this different flight so you can relax. Is there anything else we can help you with today?”

Check your luggage. Nothing says freedom like handing off responsibility for my bag to others so I can enjoy my stroll through the airport. Then I’m also not playing overhead bin musical chairs with my fellow passengers. And, when it comes to enjoying a life of abundance, I know that if I can’t occasionally wait twenty minutes for my bag to arrive (see tip #1), then I am way overbooked and overstressed.

Dr. Christopher Avery, “The Responsibility Process guy”, travels 100,000+ miles a year coaching, speaking, and writing about mastering personal leadership. Find more travel tips in his latest book The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power.

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Jon, Jon Gordon

  • Keep a list of great ideas on my mobile phone in Evernote.
  • Go for a morning walk of gratitude that I call a thank you walk.
  • Do push-ups, sit ups and chair squats in my hotel room to stay fit.
  • Regardless of time change, go to bed when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light.
  • Be willing to talk to strangers. It’s amazing how many great people I have met on the plane that have led to great opportunities.

Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Julie, Julie Winkle Giulioni

International travel is an ideal laboratory for expanding one’s productivity – with lessons that inform time on the road and in the office. A recent wave of overseas business trips helped me refine my routine and amplify results. Try these four simple but high-impact strategies for boosting productivity.

  • Reframe the flight. Resist the temptation to consider transit a ‘vacation’ and conscious think/talk about it as work. Don’t download movies or television shows. Consider this time a retreat from day-to-day distractions and an opportunity to think deeply about your work.
  • Bring light reading. Between trips, tear out magazine and newspaper articles that interest you. Put them in a folder and pull it out during take-off and landing. I’m always amazed at how much reading ground I can cover during those short otherwise unproductive periods.
  • Collect 15-minute offline tasks. Keep a folder (hard copy of digital) of the small non-urgent tasks (ex: updating a resume, writing a thank you note, offering feedback on a document.) Pull it out early in the flight to generate some quick wins and momentum to inspire you to dig into larger projects.
  • Keep a ‘things to think about/problems to solve’ list. It’s healthy to get these things out of our heads and on paper. And it’s an ideal list to bring out and ponder during the serenity of a long flight.

Julie Winkle Giulioni has spent the past 25 years working with organisations worldwide to improve performance through learning.  Named one of Inc. Magazines top 100 leadership speakers, Julie is the co-author of the Amazon and Washington Post bestseller, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want, a respected speaker on a variety of topics, and a regular contributor to many business publications.

Social Media: Twitter

Adam, Adam Kirk Smith

The best way to remain productive on a business trip is to enter the trip knowing that your only responsibility is to get work done. Most business people are leaving their family, so there’s less responsibility to care for family while on the road. If you’re going solo, then there’s no responsibility to dine with colleagues or to accompany them for happy hour. It’s just you and your work.

Go with a checklist of to-dos and use the evenings and early mornings to check them off while you have more peace and quiet than you’ve probably had in a long time. Instead of always looking at travel as a means to explore new things, try using it as a different environment to do new work in.

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Barry, Barry Moltz

Store all your documents in the cloud by using a service like OneDrive or DropBox so you can access them no matter where you are. It is also critical to use a cloud-based email provider that syncs on all your devices.

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Jesse, Seapoint Center

Adjust to your new time zone as soon as your plane takes off – change your watch immediately, and eat and sleep according to the time zone you’re going to. Eat regular meals, but don’t use travel as an excuse to overeat. And make sure to get enough sleep during your trip. If you miss some sleep one night, make it up the next.

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Johanna, Rothman Consulting Group, Inc.

Be present on your trip. I go to conferences to speak and learn. I go to clients to teach and learn. If I’m not present, they are not getting the best of me.

I make time to read emails, and I limit that time to just one hour a day. I tell people when I will check my phone and limit that to specific hours. My job, on a trip, is to provide the best possible experience of my company to my clients. I don’t duplicate my office experience on the road. I recommend you consider how to make that work for you.

Social Media: Twitter

David, David Zinger

11 Minutes and 11 Seconds for Jet Jag versus Jet Lag:

On the outbound part of my business trip I work at the airport and on the plane. I work in 11 minute and 11 second intervals setting my watch on vibration timer so I don’t disturb other passengers.

This time is my personal E-zone or Zone of Full Engagement — I can do anything for 11 minutes and 11 seconds, I am fully engaged for each period, and when the time is over I still want to do more. I take a short break after each period for a few breaths or a sip of coffee and then start another period. Depending on how far I am going I can often complete 20 to 40 of these periods. Accomplishment contributes to well being and these work periods give me energy and satisfaction, they don’t drain me.

On the return journey I relax, rest, and rejuvenate with movies, daydreams, naps, and light reading so that I am fully energized for my family when I get off the plane. I have constructed my business travel for powerful, energising, and authentic Jet Jag not weary and depleting Jet Lag.

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Eileen, Eileen McDargh

Get enough rest. Without enough rest, you risk multiple errors, redundancies and having to do things over and over.

Use aeroplane time wisely. I get caught up on business readings, I write articles, and I prepare email. Watching movies on an aeroplane is a waste of time, in my humble opinion. I actually relish solitude on aeroplane trips.

In a hotel, I am always looking for items related to employment and interesting people who seem to have a story to tell, these are great examples of customer service.

Lastly, exercise. I rarely take an elevator unless I have luggage with me, I walk up and down halls, I use the gym. Rest and exercise are two critical things to keep the brain going. I always start with something containing protein in the morning, and I drink as much water as possible.

Social Media: Twitter

Art, Art Petty

Travelling is often necessary for a specific purpose, but incredibly distracting from a daily productivity perspective. I conquer this challenge and remain productive by maintaining a strict AM and PM workout regimen and leveraging the early AM hours (4:30 AM to 7:00 AM regardless of time-zone) for correspondence and creativity. I allow my executive coaching clients to manage parts of my calendar and I don’t let travel get in the way of serving them.

I also use Evernote, Basecamp and a few other tools to ensure there’s no disconnect in my content or activities. Truthfully, even after 30 years as a corporate manager and executive, and now as a solopreneur, I still find travel energising.

Last and not least, flight time is creativity time. I do my best problem-solving with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, no interruptions and by ignoring the wi-fi option (most of the time).

Social Media: Twitter, LinkedIn.

Stew, Total Leadership

Take Care of Yourself:

Business travel can enrich and enliven, but it can also drag and drain the body, mind, and spirit. To remain productive, do your best to keep healthy so you can be at your best during the times you’re engaged face-to-face with your clients, vendors, colleagues, or whomever it is you’ve travelled to see. There are many ways to do this, of course. Shift to local time as soon as you can for your sleep, nutrition, exercise, and staying in touch with loved ones. If possible, build in extra time in your schedule for rest and recuperation from travel’s rigors, and for some fun.

Get Stuff Done En Route:

How much time will you have for your actual movement on planes, trains, and automobiles?  And during how much of that time will you be left to your own devices and able to read, write, and just think? A rough estimate in advance of a business trip will help you choose what you might be able to accomplish if you devote that time, or some good chunk of it, to getting work done. Think of the long stretches as opportunities to focus uninterrupted on important tasks that require your full brain power, and use them for just that. In our highly fractured and distracted world, such opportunities are increasingly rare and especially valuable.

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Scott, Scott Berkun

Set your alerts to travel mode. Have set times to check in with your home office. It’s distracting enough to be on the road, but don’t let every email or slack interrupt you. Let your team know when you’ll be available and when you won’t, so they can plan accordingly and you can focus on the work you travelled to do.

Your mind follows your body. If you don’t get enough exercise, drink too much or eat poorly, it’s hard to stay productive. Don’t cram in too much on a trip – you might get it all done but when you return to the office you’ll be exhausted. When on the road block out half an hour, or more, a day when on the road to go to the gym, go for a walk, call your Mum, or whatever activity helps keep your mind balanced at home. This won’t make you a slacker – it will make you self aware and wise.

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So, that’s your business trip covered. Hopefully next time you depart on business, you can improve your productivity and results by putting these top tips into practice. If you find yourself venturing to places that don’t have English as a first language, you may want to check out this piece on how you can order beer, pizza, a taxi and coffee in 15 different languages.

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