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Traveling Right: Making Your Trip Productive—and Bearable
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By Stephanie Winston

For some professionals, the idea of business travel becomes an overwhelming assignment, spending more time at airports and in security lines than actually conducting business. However, with a few simple organization strategies, business travelers can be efficient, maximize productivity and eliminate stress while on the road.

For more than 30 years, I’ve helped thousands of small businesses get organized. The key principle of being organized requires a little planning and the proper equipment. To have a productive trip, it’s important to be organized and anticipate the different business scenarios that could occur while you are away.

Here are a few simple tips that will help your next business trip to be more efficient and less stressful:

Organizational Efficiencies

Ban Briefcase Build-Up: To help keep briefcases or totes clutter-free, keep your briefcase open by your desk to receive nightly “homework,” such as papers to read and documents to edit. The following morning, spend a few minutes going through the papers and folders. Be sure to use my trademarked TRAF system, which is a guaranteed method to ban paper pile up by using these simple principles:

• Toss unwanted papers that are likely to pile up and use a shredder to avoid theft;

• Refer paperwork to colleagues who might need it;

• Act upon and finalize each task, and

• File papers for future use.

Designate a Travel Briefcase: Preparing and maintaining a ready-to-go travel briefcase can guarantee that you won’t forget the necessities and ensure that you’ll arrive with the right materials. Keep files in order by carrying a slightly larger travel briefcase that can accommodate the additional items you need on the road. I like the Foray Leather Wheeled Portfolio/Computer Case from Office Depot that has easy gliding wheels, along with plenty of pockets and compartments for business cards, pens, a cell phone, files, laptop computer and other essentials. It is also important to create a list of papers you’ll need to have during your trip and set up a “trip folder” in advance to collect the documents and materials as they turn up.

Utilize Compartments: When packing files for the journey, consider filing the documents systematically to coincide with the different parts of your trip. Work to be accomplished during flight “A” should go into one compartment in your briefcase, work for flight “B” in the second compartment, and so on. For visual reference, business professionals should also consider color-coding folders by location and/or meeting.

Reduce Carry-on Cargo

Minimize Paper Pile Up: Having a designated flash drive for business travel can also reduce paper pile up. I use the compact Ativa U3 USB 2.0 Flash Drive that comes with preinstalled software for portable, private and protected computing. The Ativa Flash Drive also comes with productivity features, including a password manager, file synchronizer, data encryption and McAfee virus protection, which scans for viruses before files are transferred to the computer.

Lighten Your Load: Ahead of time, I send documents to the local Office Depot Design, Print, and Ship Center to reduce baggage bulk.

Be Security Savvy

More and more people obtain confidential information from documents that should have been secured. It’s easy to gather sensitive information directly from your computer screen if you are not security savvy.

For example, reviewing documents when traveling or working outside the office can maximize productivity, but if the files include sensitive information, it can compromise your business. So always use precautions to keep information confidential.

While this may seem like a small issue, according to a recent study conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, fraud costs small businesses a minimum of $98,000 per incident. However, the crime doesn’t just cost money – it can affect a company’s reputation and credit as well. Identity thieves can run up bills in a company’s name for months before fraud is detected and those unpaid bills can damage a company’s credit score.

Here are a few suggestions to avoid putting your business at risk while on the road:

Keep Passwords Safe: Passwords are a simple way to protect your information. If you have trouble remembering passwords, some laptops, such as the high-performance Toshiba Satellite notebook computer, come equipped with a built-in fingerprint reader to provide biometric password protection for simple one-touch access to applications. This notebook also has built-in wireless for easier access to the Internet when traveling.

Keep Confidential Information Close: Reviewing documents when traveling or working outside the office can maximize productivity, but if the files include sensitive information, always make sure no one can see what you are working on. A good way to ensure your information remains safe is to install a laptop privacy filter so only you can see the information. For example, the 3M Notebook Privacy Filter darkens screen data from a side view allowing only the user to view information on-screen.

While I can’t guarantee a speedy check-in at the airport, integrating these tips into your everyday life should certainly help you make the most of your time spent between the airport, hotel and the office.

Stephanie Winston is an author and professional organizer.
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