You bet. The last thing you need to deal with while wearing your road warrior shoes is disorganization. Travel is stressful enough without adding more misery on top of it just because you don’t have your act together. “The best ways to maximize productivity and minimize anxiety while on the road are to be really well organized and to anticipate the different business scenarios that could occur while you are away,” said Stephanie Winston, Office Depot Organizational Advisor and New York Times best-selling author of Getting Organized
. To help small business owners make the most of their business travel, Winston partnered with Office Depot to offer these tips for organizing your busy travel schedule.
- Ban Briefcase Build-Up: Your briefcase should be a mode of transport, not a long-term storage facility. To help keep your briefcase or tote clutter-free, get into the habit of keeping your briefcase open by your desk to receive nightly “homework,” such as papers to read and documents to edit. The following morning, spend a few minutes going through the papers and folders, and be sure to use Winston´s trademark TRAF – Toss, Refer, Act and File – system to ban build-up.
- Designate a Travel Bag: Preparing and maintaining a ready-to-go travel briefcase can eliminate the stress of packing and ensure that you´ll arrive with the right materials in hand. Keep your files in order by carrying a slightly larger travel briefcase that can accommodate the additional items you need on the road. Create a list of papers you´ll need to have during your trip and set up a “trip folder” to collect the documents and materials as they turn up.
- Utilize Compartments: When packing files for the journey, consider filing the documents systematically to coincide with the different parts of your trip. Work to be accomplished during flight “A” should go into one compartment in your briefcase, work for flight “B” in the second compartment, and so on. You may want to consider color-coding folders by location and/or meeting.
- Keep Passwords Safe: Passwords are a simple way to protect your information. If you have trouble remembering passwords, some laptops come equipped with a built-in fingerprint reader to provide biometric password protection for simple one-touch access to applications. My favorite program for keeping track of passwords is RoboForm. I’ve been using it to keep track of my passwords for a little more than a year now and it’s been a lifesaver.
- Keep Confidential Information Close: Reviewing documents when traveling or working outside the office can maximize productivity, but if the files include sensitive information, always make sure no one can see what you are working on. A good way to ensure your information remains safe from wandering eyes is to install a laptop privacy filter so only you can see the information.
- Travel-Sized Files: Having a flash drive on business travel can reduce paper pile up. This is one of the easiest ways to transport files to a remote location. Slip the flash drive in your briefcase and go.
- Lighten Your Load: Reduce baggage bulk by picking up copies of your presentations, documents or other materials when you arrive in town for your meetings.
- Quality Control: Plan ahead for impeding business trips by backdating deadlines or if possible, designate a colleague to oversee your daily responsibilities in order to maintain productivity while you´re away. And remember to pack a laptop with wireless capabilities or an airport card to utilize the growing number of WiFi locations in airports, coffee shops and retailers across the country. A virtual assistant can help you out here.
- Recording Expenses: When traveling for business, it can be easy to forget little expenses, such as morning coffee or a service tip, so be sure to keep track. By keeping an ongoing log of expenses, you can ensure that you will be reimbursed for all legitimate travel costs. It is also important to keep receipts in one centralized place to minimize the time it takes to file an expense report when back at the office. I always carry an envelope with me for slipping all trip receipts into.
Implementing just one of these tips can help make your business travel less stressful. For more great ideas, pick up a copy of Stephanie Winston’s book Getting Organized