As PR pros, many of us may chuckle when students or mentees visit our offices and ask, “What’s a typical day look like for you?” With a fast-moving landscape of client work, news, social media and more, there really isn’t a “normal” day. That said, when expected interruptions such as offsite meetings and interviews morph into increased travel or extended projects, they might begin to have a long-term effect on your work.
I work in a place-focused business — my clients are cities, states and countries around the globe. Naturally, travel is a large component of the work. Whether or not your clients are widespread, you may find yourself accruing frequent flier miles for business trips to industry trade shows, for marketing missions or desk-side meetings with media.
Traveling early in my career has afforded me the opportunity to figure out what works and what doesn’t when replying to emails at 30,000 feet in the air, in a hotel room or in the backseat of a Lyft.
Here are some tips for staying productive with an inconsistent or busy schedule:
Schedule your out-of-office messages with discretion.
The simple use of an automatic response is to let someone know when you won’t be able to reply quickly. Overall, I use auto-replies for transparency. Always include the details of days you’re traveling and expected level of responsiveness (i.e., checking email periodically throughout the day or completely offline until nighttime).
The goal is to let people know if they should touch base with a colleague or if you’re still able to help them. In addition, only use auto-responses if absolutely necessary. If my first day of being out-of-office is all travel-related and I know I’ll be working a chunk of the day from an airplane, then I’ll opt to not start the auto-response until the following day when meetings start.
Over-communicate with your team.
Your colleagues should have more information available to them than what’s included in your out-of-office email. Provide them with your specific flight times before you depart so they know when they might be able to easily catch you in a free moment. But reschedule any regular check-ins. Depending on the length of your trip, it’s usually beneficial to also have a planning meeting before you leave.
Revamp your to-do list.
One of the biggest challenges when traveling is completing day-to-day work, when you’re clearly out of the office for something else that requires full attention. While I normally keep a running to-do list for projects each month, I plan ahead and shorten it when I’m out of town on business.
It’s important that you’re realistic about what you can accomplish in less time. I like to include projects with hard deadlines on one list while I travel, and keep a second list with projects to tackle when I’m back at my desk. Separating the two makes it less daunting than rereading action items that you aren’t able to tackle for a few days.
Utilize loyalty perks.
Did you know credit cards such as American Express offer free subscriptions to Boingo Wi-Fi? I can’t tell you how handy this is when working at airports. (There’s no need to click through advertisements in order to get free minutes.)
Beyond this, sign up for free loyalty programs with airlines and hotels to gain rewards and discounts while traveling.
Keep your energy up.
Even if you’re traveling for business and have all meals scheduled, it never hurts to have a few snacks in your carry-on bag. Making sure your stomach doesn’t interrupt you with a growl will keep you sharp on the go. In addition, always pack workout clothes. Though I’m guilty of not always using them while traveling, it’s nice to have the option to exercise and clear your mind after a long day.
Make sure your devices are charged.
I’d be remiss not to mention the need for portable batteries when traveling. If you’re at a trade show or live streaming an interview, the last thing you need is for your smartphone battery to die.
I swear by Anker portable chargers; some models also offer multiple USB charging ports to share with colleagues. In addition, you can use portable chargers to refresh your Bluetooth headphones and tune out background noise to keep your productivity top-notch.
This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of PRSA Strategies & Tactics.