Blog: Simplify Your Life
Simplifying Business Travel -- Part 2
Most people see business travel as an exhausting process -- pack, unpack, meetings, paperwork, airport security, rental cars, all with no vacation attached! Traveling for your job disrupts your workday and takes a lot of time out of your schedule. But having a set of procedures that you follow each time you hit the road on business can alleviate some of the stress and reduce the likelihood of a problem occurring while you're away from the office.
They Can Survive Without You!
Some people have the mistaken impression that if they leave the office for even one day, the entire operation will fall apart without them. Although some matters which come up while you're away will need your personal attention, most can be handled by your crew (that's what you pay them for!) By preparing your staff to deal with emergencies before you leave, you will reduce the number of times you must be interrupted while on your trip.
Take care of as many matters as you can before heading out. Return phone calls, respond to any outstanding letters, and inform important contacts of the dates that you will be unavailable. The fewer loose ends you leave, the fewer fires you should have to put out while you are gone. But if your staff should need your help, make it easy for them to find you. Prepare 4 copies of a written itinerary -- one for you, one for your secretary, one for your spouse or housemates, and and one for the front desk at the hotel where you are staying. Your staff will be less likely to panic if they have a clear idea of where you will be and how to reach you.
The most important step you can take is instructing your staff on how to handle specific situations during your absence. Clearly define what issues warrant interrupting your trip and tell your staff how to take care of any other matters that pop up. Have your voice mail message direct callers to the appropriate party and assign urgent matters to a colleague. The goal should be to present a seamless service to your clientele. Customers don't want to hear that a problem can not be resolved because "so-and-so" is out of town. Your duty is to TRAIN your staff to head off problems that occur while you are gone.
Staying Organized On The Road
Once you have embarked upon your journey, you may find that you're having a hard time staying on top of it all -- your schedule, your luggage, all the paperwork, the zillions of tiny receipts. Not to fear -- I've got some handy-dandy tricks that will help you maintain control of your belongings. If at all possible, only bring what you can take with you on the plane. Checking your bags wastes time and invites lost luggage. Pack two small carry-ons rather than checking a bag -- a laptop case or backpack for your work items and a pullman for your clothes. If you are forced to surrender a bag, check the personal items and hold onto your business materials. If you had to choose between losing your toiletries and your presentation handouts, which would be more tragic?
Keeping track of your expenses can seem like a real chore -- but it's easy if you do your record-keeping as you go. Use separate credit cards for business and personal purchases, and keep all of your receipts in one place -- a zippered pocket in your planner, an envelope, or a manila folder. Then, simply go through that day's receipts and mark your expense form each night when you return to the hotel -- recording the item purchased, the date, and the amount. You'll find this much easier than trying to remember where and when you paid $5 for parking -- especially on long trips.
And what do you do with the myriad of paperwork business trips seem to inspire? You may have brought a few documents with you, but the vast majority materializes once you have attended that first meeting (and heaven help you if you're headed for a lengthy conference or trade show!) Airline tickets, agendas, and presentation materials are all susceptible to being misplaced when you are in a strange environment -- so try to keep your important paperwork in one place in your hotel room. And be sure to put out a sign that says "Don't Throw Away" if you plan to leave a stack sitting out while you are gone (those housekeepers can be a bit too efficient!) Take a few moments to review the materials you have received at the end of each day. Categorize the information in a way that makes sense to you, discard what is unneeded, and make notes while the ideas are fresh in your mind. And keep a notepad nearby so you can make a running "to-do" list of items that require your attention when you return.
Scheduling Your Days
Most folks maintain a hectic schedule during business trips, running from one activity to another -- however, delays are unavoidable when you travel. So you should simply EXPECT something to throw you off track, and build in a cushion on either side of your appointments. Don't just leave enough time in your itinerary to travel from point A to point B -- assume that 43 different people are going to slow you down and you will have to make a detour to point C along the way! It's also good to have a contingency plan -- bring something to work on or read in case an activity is postponed or canceled. A delay can either be a source of stress or a gift of free time -- it all depends on how you use that unscheduled gap in your day!
And let's look at this scenario -- you've been in meetings all day from morning 'til afternoon. What do you do with your free time in the evening? More work? If you were at home, would you come home from a long day and immediately say, "Gee, I really should get more work done"? Some people do, but that's a completely different issue! Don't feel guilty about building room into your schedule for fun stuff -- sightseeing or going to a movie or having a relaxing non-business dinner. You are allowed some personal time on your trip, too!
When You Return
No matter how thoroughly you prepare for your travels, your return home will probably be punctuated by a barrage of telephone messages, a pile of unanswered e-mails, and a stack of unopened mail -- welcome to the information age! And this doesn't even include the work that you've brought back with you from your trip. Where do you start?
Go through your mail, voice messages, and e-mail, making note of any issues that require your attention. Add these to the list you've been developing while on your trip, then organize in order of priority. Now you can make the most efficient use of your work time and clear up the most pressing items first -- starting at the top of the list and work your way down.
Also, take a few moments to put everything away when you return, both at home and at work. Nothing makes a business trip seem so unfinished as a pile of clothes waiting to be hung up or a stack of papers that you haven't taken the time to sort. Go through the materials you have gathered on your travels and divide them into three piles -- "to delegate," "action items," and "to file." If an item needs to be passed on to someone else, do it ASAP rather than letting it clutter up your desk -- and the same is true with reference items that simply need to be filed away. Once you have cleared up these two stacks, the rest seems a lot less overwhelming.
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posted on: 11/30/2010 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips
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Simplify Your Life
by Ramona Creel
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I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!
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