Whether you travel the majority of the time, or once in awhile, having what you need to be productive on the road is a must. You’ll be working in your office in the sky as well as hotel desks, client offices and meeting rooms. So what is in the ‘must-have’ list to help keep you productive no matter what the environment?
Mobile phone / PDA
Make sure you have stored the contact names, phone number and email addresses of all people you will be doing business with on your mobile phone or PDA. Also have the contact names for all family and friends who may be taking care of your homefront, or who you’d like to contact while you’re on the road. Keep reading for worthwhile directory assistance numbers to include in your mobile phone.
No only will you need your laptop for business, but it’s invaluable for your non-work time when you can send emails and cards to family and friends; do online shopping; listen to music; or watch a movie or exercise DVD.
Connect virtually anywhere and anytime with your air card (available from major cell phone providers). While there is a monthly cost for air card usage (many are around $60/month), it’s a small price for having the ability to be more effective more of the time. No more downtime while at the airport waiting for your flight or sitting in a cab. And it’s less expensive than paying for hotel internet if you’re in a hotel for more than a few days each month. An air card allows me to be in touch more often, which isn’t always a good thing, as it’s easy to create expectations that a quick response time will always happen. However, the air card does allow me to get more of my work done while I’m away for work, so I can have more downtime when I’m at home. And that’s a very good thing!
I love, love, love my scanner from NeatReceipts. For years I have spent my Sunday evenings creating my expense reports. No more! I carry this scanner with me each week (usually in my luggage, as my laptop tote is overstuffed), and scan each receipt at the end of the day, or at least before I get home at the end of the week. I’d rather spend a few minutes each day taking care of this chore rather than a couple of hours on Sunday evening. This scanner is also great for saving any type of document, typed or handwritten. I scan every business card that I collect along my travels so that I have them in document format rather than stuffed in my bag.
I’d be lost (and very late!) without my calendar in which I track each business and personal appointment for the upcoming months. I use Microsoft Outlook, and there are lots of other calendars available for your laptop. If you’d like a calendar which you can share with family, friends or coworkers, Google’s Calendar (Google’s Calendar) is a great tool. You can easily add events, send invitations, share with friends and family (or keep things to yourself), and search across the web for events you might enjoy. This is a great way for family to know where you’re at, your flight times and important events. And since we’re so busy that we do not have time to do things twice, you can transfer and sync calendar entries between Microsoft Outlook 2007 and Google Calendar (How to Sync Outlook and Google Calendar).
Task or To-Do List Software
Any women who travels for work and has a busy home life (ok, that’s about 100% of the women reading this article!) have a lot of to-do’s to keep track of. Career, family, personal, friends, charity… and on and on the list goes. I keep track of every task that I need to get done, whether it’s a task for today or sometime in the future. If I don’t list it, I’ll forget it. I use Outlook for my Tasks as well as my Calendar, and there are lots of task or to-do list programs available. I created categories for my tasks so I can easily sort them. I set due dates for each, with as realistic a date as possible. Some are hard due dates that must be met; while others are ‘when I get a chance.’
I also have several tasks for each day (created with a macro), with reminders, that are for me and help me keep focused on my priorities:
1. Review my goals
2. Plan my day
3. Take my vitamins and supplements
4. Eat healthy
5. Work out
7. Take five steps towards my goals
Prioritizing the task list can be done by entering a numerical sequence before each task, or assigning an A, B, C, D code to it, with subcategories of A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, etc. I also really like FranklinCovey’s PlanPlus Software, which makes it very easy for me to prioritize my tasks. An easy drag-and-drop between A, B and C columns lets me prioritize in a few seconds, and the tasks also display in this priority when I print my daily calendar page. One of the nice features is a “PlanPlus Home” screen that shows you everything in one view – Prioritized Daily Task List, Calendar, and email. You can download a free trial at FranklinCovey.com.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is becoming more and more widespread, and saving wireless minutes and long distance bills are reason enough to sign up for Skype. A simple, small application that you can install on your laptop, Skype makes it easy and fun to call your friends and family and keep on talking without looking at the clock. If you know how to use an instant message application and a phone, you know how to use Skype. Your family and friends install Skype as well, as calls between Skype users are free. Call a non-Skype contact and the rates are low. I use Skype when I’m doing global travel and need to call back to the States, and the quality has been amazing.
Other features of Skype include conference calling, text messaging, file transfers, and your own personal Skype phone number.
Use a webcam to stay in touch with your family while you’re away from home. Set a regular time each evening with your spouse and/or children. Let the kids tell you about their day, show you their school work. This will help them (and you!) feel close even when you are away because they can see your face. They know that you’re okay, and you know that they’re ok.
What are your tools to keep you productive while on the road?