How to have a stress-free business trip

As a business owner, you likely travel quite a bit. Business trips, client visits, conferences, trade shows, and the occasional vacation getaway can make it difficult to stay connected with your team, partners, and clientele. However, stress does not have to be a bi-product of your mobility if you use the right tools and processes to streamline workflow and communication. This article will focus on four effective ways to reduce the stress associated with travelling. Consider the following methods to ease your mind for your next industry trade show or tropical destination.

Set an effective “Out of Office” reply message

Before leaving on your trip, it’s important to set up an “automatic reply” message in your email client. This is a predefined message that will automatically be sent back to senders of emails addressed to you. Automatic replies can be set up in Gmail, Outlook, Thunderbird, and most other popular email programs.

autoreply

There are some elements to include in your out of office auto reply to ensure its effectiveness:

  • Thank the sender for their message
  • Detail your travel start and end date
  • Explain the level of access you have to email during your out of office time (ie. No access to email, once per day, etc.)
  • Alternative contacts for various message types, such as sales, client support, tech support, finance
  • Optional: Phone number for emergencies (this could be you if you’re accessible or a colleague)

Having a detailed and specific auto reply message will set expectations for the sender, as well as inform them of estimated response times and alternative contacts if required. Most email programs will let you set up the auto reply for a specific date and time to correspond with the timing of your trip, so make sure you set this up before you leave.

Schedule your social media posts & other communications

Finding a stable and affordable Internet connection when travelling abroad can be tough, not to mention finding the time to access your email and social media. Fortunately, software can help you schedule out social media and email messages to help bridge the communication gap.

hootsuite

Hootsuite is a great tool for scheduling out your social media posts. Connect up to 3 social media accounts with the free version of Hootsuite and you can schedule out retweets/shares, and tweets/posts across your social media accounts. Scheduling messages to be published while you’re travelling will eliminate the gap in social activity. Download the mobile app on your phone or tablet to receive alerts if you have a few minutes to respond while you’re travelling.

Related Blog: HootSuite: Maximize Your Social Media Efforts – There are many social media platforms available and businesses find it difficult to stay active on all relevant channels. Hootsuite aims to solve this problem through its integrative feature set.

Outlook also allows you to create emails and schedule them to be sent at a future date. That way, if you are responsible for sending emails at a specific time, you can create those emails in advance and schedule them to be sent at the ideal time through this tool.

Build “To Do Lists” and perform “Time Blocking”

Building lists of action items based on urgency and importance can help you plan your time leading up to your trip. Take a look at the 2-5 business days before you leave. Based on your to do list, perform a time management technique called “time blocking” to populate your schedule. Time Blocking involves assigning a period of time to each action item and then scheduling them off in your calendar to ensure that you have the time and commitment to complete everything that you need to before leaving. The Mentor Works team uses this very effectively and it helps encourage a laser focus on the scheduled task. If a more urgent item comes up, this “time block” can be moved out and scheduled in another free calendar time slot, giving you a realistic and evolving capacity report.

Related Blog: Improve Your Email Management for Higher Productivity – If you don’t manage your inbox, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed, stressed out, miss important emails, or forget tasks. This article provides tips for improving email habits to reduce stress and make work easier.

Give yourself time to catch up

Similar to Time Blocking, you will likely need time to catch up with your email, team, and clients when you return from your trip. It’s important to schedule out a period of time immediately after you return for these catch up tasks. This will help avoid an overwhelming schedule when you return. If you have direct reports, setting up one-on-one meetings with them on the day of your return will help you get caught up and address any questions or issues.

BONUS: Travel tips and tools

Travelling can be stressful, however I’ve discovered some tactics and tools to make you more prepared and informed. Try a mobile app called TripIt; it will analyze your email and calendars to build out a complete travel itinerary. The Pro version will provide you with flight status alerts, seat tracking, airline point tracking, and more. You should also have a reliable offline map mobile app to find directions and search for hidden gems in your area. A couple of options are HERE Maps and the widely popular Google Maps, which was recently updated with offline search, traffic estimates, and navigation. It’s also a good idea to bring a small electric power bar. Airports’ wall outlets are in high demand; bringing a multi-outlet power bar can allow you to create more outlets to share with others. USB battery packs are also very useful if you find yourself low on power and away from a power outlet. Finally, bringing a Tide to Go Pen, dressing in layers, and bringing an empty water bottle to fill right before boarding the plane will make your trip as comfortable as possible. After all, travelling doesn’t have to be stressful.

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Chris holds an Honours B.Comm at the University of Guelph, Majoring in Marketing Management. As Director of Client Management & Development at Mentor Works, Chris specializes in strategic planning through customized funding strategies. Add to your Google+ Circles and follow @ChrisCasemore on Twitter.

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