10 essential productivity tips for road warriors

Executives who spend much of their time on the road share their tips for keeping up with work and staying connected to the office.

Today, entrepreneurs and executives are just as likely to be working remotely as they are from a traditional office.  And, as anyone who has traveled for business knows, it’s not always easy to stay connected to colleagues and clients and get work done when you’re on the go. But these suggestions can help you be more productive wherever work takes you.

1. Know how to find a spot with good wifi

“When in a foreign country or different city, use Workfrom to find highly rated coffee shops or cafes with fast wifi,” says John Doherty, founder of Credo. “The [app] never led me astray in Prague, Vienna or Budapest.”

2. Have a roaming plan with plenty of data

“Whether you’re traveling across the country or across the ocean, make sure to set up the right roaming plan with your wireless provider,” says Don Mal, CEO of Vena Solutions. “Ideally this would include unlimited data.”

3. Turn your phone into a mobile hotspot

“Need to stay connected? Enable tethering on your phone, for wifi access on your laptop or tablet when a wifi hotspot isn’t available,” says Karl Sakas, president of Sakas & Company. “Ensure your data plan has room to cover this. You can use the TripMode app (for Mac or PC) to restrict certain services [and] to avoid burning through your mobile data allowance because Dropbox synched the whole time.”

4. Keep essential files in the cloud

“If you want to stay productive, you’ve got to have your data and your services with you at all times,” says Fraser Sutherland, marketing manager at Storage Vault. “A couple of years ago that meant keeping a [USB or thumb] drive on your person at all times. Now it means the cloud.” Using cloud-based services and keeping files in the cloud “means (as long as you have an internet connection and a computer) you can work anywhere in the world.”

5. Store an offline copy of important documents on your laptop

“Everything in the cloud it isn't always accessible,” says Elyssa Respaut, project manager at AmDee. “Sometimes I need to review files that are stored online, but I will be traveling to places where I may not have wifi access. [So] I spend a few minutes downloading all the materials I know I’ll need beforehand directly to my computer. Then, even without wifi, I can still work and upload any changes back to the cloud when I can.”

6. Use Google Voice

“The Google Voice app for your smartphone allows you to make calls from your phone but have your Google Voice number show up in the caller ID instead of your cell phone number,” explains Maura Thomas, founder of RegainYourTime.com. The service is free — you just request a Google Voice number. That way you don’t have to use your personal cell number for work business.

You can forward your Google Voice number to your smart phone “or forward to a coworker’s phone or receptionist when that’s more appropriate,” she says. “This gives you the flexibility to take calls while out of the office only when you choose, while still protecting your personal numbers.”

You can also use Google Voice for dictation. “Because I talk faster than I can type, Google Voice does a great job of capturing my words (pretty much verbatim), and then I can edit the text to use for blog posts, contributed columns and much more,” says Sangram Vajre, cofounder & CMO of Terminus.

7. Download an app for keeping track of tasks and projects

Wunderlist is a ‘to-do list’ organization app that can keep track of work projects and activities by creating reminders, due dates and collaborating practices with others,” says Jason Walker, president of the Americas at Deputy. “Even more, its capabilities can sync data between the employee’s devices while on the road.”

Other popular task/note-taking apps include Todoist and Evernote.

“Evernote helps you work more efficiently on the road by keeping track of everything in one place,” says Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum. “You can create a project to-do list, log reminders for yourself, take notes in a meeting, record a soundbite and keep track of photos. Once you’re back home, everything you need from your trip is in one place and accessible.” 

“I use Evernote on all my devices to manage business travel,” says Marc Roche, cofounder of Annuities HQ. “I store flight schedules, boarding passes, car rental agreements, gas and dining receipts and hotel invoices in a dedicated notebook, so I can access [them] all quickly and easily email [them] to the accountant for reimbursements when I'm back to the office.”

8. Use an app to keep track of expenses

Being able to “quickly expense your receipts and mileage as you go (even at the restaurant), [without having to] manually scan, organize and categorize receipts when you get home or back to the office, can make you more productive,” says Walker, who recommends Expensify.

“Expensify allows you to quickly upload receipts and execute expenses from any mobile device. Employees can take a picture of the receipt, and it will read and code the receipt details for an expense report.” 

9. Get a scanning app

“At conferences, seminars, exhibitions and mixers, we get a lot of business cards, which can easily be lost or damaged during travel,” says Bruce Orcutt, vice president of Product Marketing and Management at ABBYY. “A good solution is to digitize them straight away” and back them up to your Contacts and/or CRM system.

“There are some handy apps that do that, [including] ABBYY Business Card Reader, which automatically scans the card, captures the text and puts it into the Contacts on your smartphone,” he says. “It saves a lot of time, as you don't have to type anything, just point your smartphone’s camera at the card. You can create your own digital business card, too, and share it with new acquaintances if you run out of the paper ones at an event.”

He also recommends mobile workers download an app for digitizing and sharing documents, such as  FineScanner, “which automatically crops [a] photographed page, corrects the perspective, captures the text preserving the original layout and makes it easy to share documents with your colleagues back in the office.”

10. Carry a backup smart phone battery

“I travel all the time with a good back-up battery,” says Mike Ewing, general manager of Cruise Critic. “It adds [maybe] a pound to my bag, but I’m not the guy you see sitting on the floor next to the airport bathroom because it’s the only outlet in the airport. I don’t use the battery every day, but on those days that I do need it, a reliable (and charged) battery has saved my day.”

You might also want to consider a solar phone charger.

“I bought [one] to charge my cell phone during a camping trip last summer, but it's proven to be a lifesaver while on business trips too,” says Roche. “If my phone is running low on battery, I plug it into the charger and it replenishes the charge in less than an hour. I never need to worry about finding an outlet or having a plug-in charger and cord with me.” 

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