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Officiency in the Media

Stay Organized on the road to lessen travel hassles

by KJ McCorry

Boulder County Business Report, www.bcbr.com
June 24, 2005

Traveling for business can take its toll, especially if you are disorganized. It’s hard enough keeping up with typical workdays, much less trying to travel on top of your other responsibilities.

Whether you take one trip a year or several, it is important to stay organized before, during, and after your travel assignments.

Planning will save you time and hassles while you’re traveling, but the more you can plan and organize while you are on the road, the easier it will be to come back to the office.

Track your travel tasks

The more you can plan ahead with your travels, the less stress you will have. Staying up late the night before a trip, trying to get everything ready and done before you leave the next day, can wear you out before you even begin traveling. Traveling is exhausting and stressful enough without the added pressure of last-minute tasks accumulated through lack of planning.

Developing some method to track everything you need to do before a trip helps minimize the last-minute frenzy. Effective planning ensures that everything goes smoothly before, during and after your trip. Whether you prefer to have a separate travel checklist or integrate action items into your master task list, it is important to have a method to track all those things you need to do and take care of before you leave on your trip.

Track city information in your handheld

Collect city information as you read or hear about it in one location. Having city information with you when you travel enables you to take advantage of recommended restaurants and sites to see wherever you travel.

To keep track of information such as hotels, taxi numbers, restaurants and things to do, create a new contact in your electronic address book and insert the city and/or state names in the company field. Then, in the notes field record any relevant information about that city that you hear from friends or read in articles. This information then syncs with your handheld for easy reference when you are on the road.

You also can create a section in your day planner for travel information. Create one page as one city or state, and then record travel information on that page.

Create a designated travel area for information

Create a designated travel area in your office where you can hold all your travel documents until you pack for your trip. This area can be a file folder or hanging file, a tray or a designated travel bag.

In this area, store items such as specific city or country information, your travel itinerary, reading material, meeting handouts and agendas, directions and maps and all the other information and supplies you might need for your trip.

If you travel regularly, use your travel bag for permanently storing items that you use on a regular basis, such as office supplies, paper pads, extra business cards, maps, reading material and company promotional material.

After you leave for your trip, you are still not immune from incoming paper documentation. Invariably you will collect more paper and information while on the road, all of which you will need to organize, sort and manage. Having a designated area and process for organizing this documentation makes it much easier to manage and file when you return to your office.

If possible, track all travel records and receipts in one location and tool. This approach keeps all records together where you easily can access them, and it protects them from being lost, ripped or damaged during your trip.

Minimize the paper

Minimize the paper you collect while traveling. Trade shows and conferences typically overflow with free handouts, and it’s easy to accumulate a lot more paper-based information than you can carry and manage when you get back to your office. Determine at the moment which piece of paper or literature would be the most valuable for you, request only that, and leave the rest.

When you pick it up, also write on the document what you intend to do with it: Read it, enter information from it into your address book, make a sales call or take some other action. Code the next action step directly on the document, which makes taking the action easier when you get back to your office.

Use travel time wisely

Traveling can be the perfect time to catch up on work and reading. For some, it can be the most productive time they have available. If you want to catch up on your reading during the trip, instead of taking along a pile of magazines and newspapers, consider tearing out and taking only the articles or sections you would like to read.

If you have Internet articles and/or e-mail newsletters you want to read, create an electronic “reading” file in your hard drive and e-mail software solely to store those electronic documents for reading on the plane.

Schedule time when you get back

Schedule time to get organized the day after you get back from your trip. Plan at least four to eight hours if you have been gone for more than four to five days. This should be uninterrupted time during which you address e-mails, read mail, catch up on your to-do list and return phone calls.

Avoid scheduling appointments and meetings your first day back in the office. Tell others that you will be back one day later than you actually will. This gives you time to catch up before you are deluged with communications from others. It usually takes a day to catch up on information in your office and deal with the information you brought back from traveling. You’ll get back to your normal daily routine more quickly if you address the backlogged items as quickly as possible.

K.J. McCorry is founder and president of Officiency Inc., a professional organizing company based in Boulder since 1996. She is a productivity and efficiency consultant who specializes in customizing systems for individuals and companies with office and computer organization. Her first book, “Organize Your Work Day In No Time,” was released in April 2005. She can be reached at www.officiency.com.