Time Management for Business Travelers: 5 Sanity-Saving Tips That Work

A recent poll conducted for Fairfield Inn & Suites found that 67% of the most frequent business travelers said they work twice as much on the road as they do in the office. But with all the extra time you’re clocking, how accomplished do you really feel at the end of your trip? If you’re sick of feeling like you’re in constant frenzy—and with little to show for it—when you travel for business, here are some sanity-saving time management tips for busy professionals.

Carve out some planning time:

According to time management expert, Brian Tracy, “every minute you spend in planning, saves 10 minutes in execution.” If this doesn’t motivate you to get planning, we’re not sure what will. Your trip itinerary is all you need to start your business trip to-do list. Some people prefer taking shorter “planning moments” the evening before to map out the next day. Others enjoy taking bigger chunks of time on, say, Friday afternoon to plan for the upcoming work week. Whichever method you choose, make sure to schedule some time for planning on your calendar, and stick to it—just like you would any other business meeting or appointment.

Maintain your to-do list:

Whether you’re using a productivity app, notes on your smartphone, a word processing program, or a good old-fashioned planner, creating and maintaining a to-do list is one of the best ways to keep your business trip on track. When you’re ready to sit down and get that to-do list started during your planning time, here is a simple, but effective strategy to try:

  • List out all the action items you need to complete each day. For example, “dinner meeting with client XYZ.”
  • Break each action item down into its component tasks—for example, your “dinner with client XYZ” is probably much more involved than simply just showing up at the restaurant—you’ll probably need to do some additional prep work such as asking local colleagues for restaurant recommendations in your destination, looking at reviews on Yelp, confirming a date/time with your client and scheduling the reservation.
  • Assign dates to each component task—TBD is NOT a due date! A due date not only makes you accountable for that task, but it is a simple, straightforward way to prioritize (no color codes needed!).
  • For action items that would be nice to accomplish, but won’t make or break your trip, list them at the end of your list in a section called, “on radar.”  That way, it’s not forgotten if you don’t have time to complete it.

Note: The initial creation of your to-do list can be time consuming, but once it’s done, all you need to do is maintain it on a daily or weekly basis. You’ll probably find that once you nail down your preferred list format, you’ll continue to use it even when you’re back at the office.  

Delegate what you can:

Is your trip to-do list looking too full? One of the surest roads to burn out is refusing to delegate work when you travel. If “I can do it myself better and faster” has been your professional motto, it’s time to start letting go and reaping the benefits! (If you don’t have direct reports, ask your boss what he/she recommends.) Delegation not only improves your communication and leadership skills, but also helps to relieve stress. Once you decide what you’re delegating, make sure your delegatee has all the information they need to complete the job. Once you’re confident they understand (and accept) the requirements, put it on your trip to-do list to check in on those items as needed. The key is to let your delegatee do the work and not to micromanage —if you build in checkpoints for follow-up while outlining expectations initially, you’ll come across much less overbearing.

Get familiar with your destination:

Before you arrive at your destination, get a handle on where things like restaurants, ATM’s, public transportation terminals, parks and shops are located in relation to your hotel and business commitments. Knowing this information from the get-go saves you valuable time so you can focus on your work once you arrive. Another bonus: If you know where you’re going, you’ll appear more confident, which helps reduce your chances of getting hassled by pickpockets or others that are up to no good.

Utilize Airport Time Wisely:

The airport and plane ride serve as great opportunities to stay on top of your work load. First, check with your airline to see if they offer Wi-Fi access on board. If not, you may want to line up a few projects that can be done without Internet access ahead of time—for example, writing emails. Simply save them as drafts and hit send once you have access to the net again…it’s that easy!

Also, many airports as well as specific airlines offer private lounge access to their guests for a nominal fee. Do your research ahead of time to see which option works best for you—you’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable with the price as well as the amenities (some lounges even go as far to offer showers and beds!). There are also membership programs for frequent business travelers, like Priority Pass, that offer unlimited access to their airport lounges around the world.

Make time to relax:

Work hard, play harder? According to some experts, this could actually be the key to your professional success. In fact, research suggest that strategic renewal—including working out, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, and more time away from the office boost productivity, job performance and your overall health. So after you’ve worked your 8-hour day and checked your emails, shut down your laptop and decompress—go sightseeing, read a book, take a bath, go for a walk in the park…you get the idea. Temporarily removing yourself from work actually appears to increase productivity, so why not give it a try? After all, the more productive you are, the more time you’ll save at the end of the day!

Plan for emergencies:

Let’s face it—travel emergencies are not only a bummer, but they can be huge waste of time (and even more so if you’re not prepared!). Many companies partner with travel assistance companies like On Call International to provide emergency services to their employees (if yours doesn’t, it couldn’t hurt to buy your own—our single trip memberships start as low as $55). An On Call travel assistance membership not only provides emergency medical evacuation to the hospital of your choice, but it can also assist you with other “travel time wasters” such as lost passports, delayed baggage, prescription replacement, legal assistance, and rescheduling your travel plans if flights are cancelled or postponed.

With all of this talk about business travel time management, we couldn’t resist sharing some tips on how to effectively fill your down time when you travel too! Stay tuned!

Safe Travels!


Photo Credits

Planner, Essential by JacQuLyne
Delegation, IG Movie Studios by Danny Choo
Working in the Airport by PastyPony