I have just settled down from a whirlwind of 10 days of nonstop traveling that involved air travel, rental cars and extended driving in my own vehicle as well as overnight stays in different hotels.  Most of the travel was to attend business conferences and a professional development program. Now that I have taken a pause I’ve reflected on what worked well in managing my time and the things that I can do better to improve.

What worked well for me was organizing my work ahead of time for different time pockets that I knew that I would have:

  • work at the gate in the airport while waiting for the plane
  • work on the airplane
  • work in the evenings at the hotel
  • work in the car while driving
  • work during breaks at conferences

I made “to do” lists for each of the above categories using the sticky note application on my computer.  So here’s how I divided my work.  For work at the gate of the airport I was able to work on longer term projects that required about 2 hours of work.  I used this time to write a few client reports.  The work of the airplane was about 6 hours so I divided this time into reading professional reports and proposals, organizing my document files and napping. Work in the evenings at my hotel was realistic.  I aimed for responding to email, social media, reviewing and summarizing information learned during the day at the conferences and action items and created an action plan. During conference breaks, I used that time to check emails, respond to voice mails and social media messages.  While driving I listened to my speeches that I pre-recorded and practiced along with them.

Here’s what did not work so well for me. I did not get enough rest or allow enough down time to enjoy the cities I traveled to after the work was done.  I regret that I did not plan ahead to be able to network with people I wanted to spend more time with.  I should have taken the time to email them ahead of the meeting to schedule time to meet. My luggage was lost on one of my airline trips which caused a major waste of time shopping at WalMart to pick up a “head to toe” outfit to look presentable. I pulled it off but it made for a very hectic day and created extra stress.  My schedule was so compressed that I did not take the time for my daily exercise inside or outside.   The most exercise I got was walking through airports and taking the stairs instead of the elevators.

So here are 5 tips I pulled from this recent experience:

  1. Plan in advance who you want to meet with during social time you may have at business conference.  Make sure you have clear objectives for your meeting.
  2. If you have the opportunity, schedule enough down time between trips – an extra day before or after to enjoy the city you are traveling to.
  3. Pack an extra change of undergarments, a shirt and basic grooming necessities in your carry-on bag. If you are required to check your carry-on luggage you will have your minimal essentials.
  4. Organize your work ahead of time for how you will spend your travel and business conference time with organized “to do” lists.  Larger tasks for larger blocks of time and smaller tasks for smaller amounts of time.
  5. Create an action plan for work you want to implement from useful information you learned.  Organize it by subject so that it can be easily implemented.

Plan effectively.  Using your time well will reduce your stress and increase your productivity when you travel.