Woman drivingSince I’m writing this week’s Keys to Keeping Chaos at Bay while I’m traveling, they are fairly fresh in my mind. If you travel for work then I hope you find these ideas helpful.

  1. Let people know you are on the road so they won’t expect you to get back to them as quickly. You can leave this information in a message on your outgoing voice mail and, if you are going to be out for an extended period of time, set up an email responder, as well.

    (Note: If you are going to be out for one or two days, then my suggestion is NOT to annoy people who email you with a return email that says that you that you will be out “until tomorrow afternoon” or the like. Here’s an article I wrote about that topic.)

  2. Answer voice mail as you travel so it’s not all there when you get back in town. This means you must have a voice mail system that is easily retrievable. Make it a point to return voice mail within 24 hours of when you get the message, if at all possible.
  3. Keep up with your email as you travel. Not doing so is even more onerous than taking the extra steps to be able to access it while you’re on the road.

    There are several possibilities:

    a) you can have all your email forwarded to a web-based email system;a) you can have all your email forwarded to a web-based email system;

    b) you can set up your laptop to access all your email (and either leave the original message on the server or not);

    c) or you may use what I use, GoToMyPC, which lets me access my home office computer from any other computer. That way I’m answering my emails just as if I’m in front of my main computer. It’s convenient because all my deleted, saved, and sent messages are right there where they belong and all attachments I might need to send to someone are easily accessible.

  4. Create a productive environment for yourself when you are traveling.

    **If you are traveling by car, make sure you have all the items that will let you be comfortable and productive while on the road.

    **If you are traveling by plane, then make sure you have noise-cancelling headphones and the kind of work that can easily be retrieved while sitting in an airplane seat.

    **Once you arrive at your hotel, take a few minutes and get it setup. I will often move tables around to create a L-shaped workspace and I’ve been known to take 100 watt light bulbs with me when I go to Las Vegas (or stay at a W Hotel) because the lamps are so dim that it’s very difficult to see and get reading and work done. Learn what works best for you-and then create that environment as much as you can.

  5. Join loyalty programs whenever possible and then maximize your use of those particular airlines and hotels. There are small (and sometimes large) amenities that go along with being a member of a program. If at all possible, aim for the elite status which really gives you worthwhile perqs (including leverage) when traveling.
  6. Now, here are a few different perspectives on travel that you might find useful:

    **View travel time as a treat and a luxury. I never have enough time to read-either for work or for pleasure. Getting to the airport early gives me an opportunity to get some reading done. Even sitting in a middle seat in the crowded coach section still gives me a chance to read (or listen to) a novel that I’m anxious to get through-without interruption.

  7. In order to take such a view and use your travel time in a positive way, you need to find ways to shut out the outside distractions. At airports and on planes, Bose Noise-Cancelling headphones are the ticket. In hotel rooms that aren’t as quiet as you like, play soft music or even wear earplugs. The idea is to minimize outside distractions so that you can be peaceful.
  8. If part of your career involves travel, then hating it every single time you do it means you hate a (possibly) significant part of your job. One option is to get a different job. Another option is to adopt a different mindset about travel. I always say, “It is what it is.” As a speaker and consultant, I can either choose to work within a 100 miles of my home or I can travel. I am fortunate that people from many states want me to come and work with them–so traveling is part of that. I’m so fortunate.
  9. Recognize the energy requirements of traveling. If you need time alone to refresh and renew, then don’t try packing every single second of your travel with a meeting, contact, cocktail party, or conference session. Take a breather and go back to your hotel room and just rest for a little while. It’s OK.
  10. Feel free to spend a little money on getting some help. Tip a bellman, take a cab (instead of shuttle), or even hire someone to accompany you. It’s worth considering, sometimes.

Cut yourself some slack. Traveling is not as easy as being home. You can be wise about your travel or you can be foolish. Be wise.

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