As someone seasoned by years of business travel, I've picked up a few secrets.
If you take the time to pause in an airport, stand out of the flow of traffic and just observe for a bit, you'll quickly notice two basic categories of travelers.
You'll see the people who travel occasionally and really don't have their act together. They're fumbling through overloaded bags, frantically dashing from gate to gate. Then you see the pros. They're calm and relaxed as they wheel neat, organized gear to their gate, right on time.
But something you can't tell from observing someone is whether or not they know how to stay productive while traveling. Here's what I've picked up that helps me stay on task while on the go.
1. Pick the right business card with travel rewards.
You may already know about travel benefits like how the Business Platinum Card offers 5X points on flights and prepaid hotel stays booked on amextravel.com. When using Membership Rewards® Pay With Points, I can also get 35% points back (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year) when I book a business or first-class ticket on any airline or any flight with my selected qualifying airline.
Eligible fares include First and business Class tickets with any airline available through American Express Travel. But in addition to the financial benefits of using my Business Platinum Card, my favorite perk is the access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection®.
Airport waiting areas around gates always seem to be filled with rambunctious kids or noisy travelers. I've found one of the best ways to be productive while traveling is to get myself a little peace and quiet by enjoying the lounge. It makes traveling for work, not feel like work. I get WiFi, complimentary food and drink, but most importantly, some quiet time to catch up on emails and projects before my flight.
Make sure you have a backup for items you must have in order to be productive. Phone chargers? I always carry two. Backup battery? Lifesaver when you're low on juice
2. Upgrade your travel gear.
I travel a lot, both for business and pleasure. (I try to combine them whenever possible!) One thing I've learned is that having the right travel gear—suitcase, laptop, backup batteries and even clothes—makes all the difference in the world.
If you're fumbling with awkwardly placed zippers, removable batteries or lugging a carryon suitcase with a broken wheel, there's simply no way you're going to stay productive while traveling.
Think about the features you want in your gear, do your research and invest in solid stuff. Durable suitcases that let you store your belongings logically make packing and unpacking easier. Lightweight clothing that doesn't wrinkle keeps you looking fresh even after a long travel day.
Assemble your gear thoughtfully, and spend a little more if you must in order to get great quality.
3. Have a backup plan.
I know lots of people who don't ever bother to backup their computers. (I think it's crazy, but it's the truth.)
Even if you refuse to backup your files regularly, the very least you should do is backup your computer before you travel—both your home computer and your laptop.
You never know what's going to happen. There could be a power surge at home. You could drop your laptop and shatter the screen. Back your stuff up before you leave—no exceptions.
Also, make sure you have a backup for items you must have in order to be productive. Phone chargers? I always carry two. Backup battery? Lifesaver when you're low on juice. When you plan for what can go wrong, you're less likely to miss a beat.
I know it's hard when business travel takes you out of your routine, but I find that if I skip my regular exercise when I'm on the road, I feel lousy.
You may have to get your activity in a different-than-usual way—a brisk walk or run outside or on the treadmill, an in-room yoga session or even walking up and down stairs for half an hour. These activities will not only keep your body healthy, they'll improve your focus and your ability to concentrate.
5. Carve out catch-up time.
It's easy to slip into the routine of dashing from one place to another without taking the time to reflect on everything that's going on in your company, your family and the world.
When I travel for business, I set aside one sacred hour each day to check in with my staff, read the news and reach out to my family. Some days I get up an hour early and do my catch-up before the day starts. Other times I carve out an hour after work and before dinner to make sure I know what's happening elsewhere.
Staying productive while on business travel doesn't mean ignoring events at home. It means checking in, getting up to speed and then getting down to work.
Efficient, cost-effective, and enjoyable business travel is, to a certain degree, a matter of luck. Canceled flights, screaming babies in the row behind you, a sick kid the night before you're scheduled to leave…these are all things you can't control.
But there are a host of things you can control—your gear, your business charge or credit card and how you schedule your days. Making the right choices can help you stay productive while you're traveling.
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