How to Juggle Calls, Texts, Zooms, Email, and Other Communication When Traveling
Too many people assume that when they travel, they’re off the grid and don’t need to communicate like they do at the office. If you’re traveling for a vacation, that’s understandable and I encourage you to indeed turn off your devices and enjoy the trip. But if you’re traveling for business or other reasons, there’s no reason you can’t keep the flow of communication moving like normal.
I average flying about 200,000 miles a year and sometimes go for months traveling once a week. During that process, I’ve learned a few things that can really make a difference communicating to family, co-workers, clients, bosses, and others:
1) Be careful about using email auto-responders that tell people you’re traveling and who to contact for immediate assistance. If you’re a full time employee it’s probably fine. But I never use them because I want my clients to feel that I’m there when they need me. I also find that email auto-responders are a bit dismissive (after all, nobody wants to be shuffled to an assistant or another department).
2) One reason I can avoid email auto-responders even though we’re a client based business, is because I purchase WIFI access on my airline. Delta and others are moving to provide it for free, but as I’m writing this others have not followed. While there’s no need to be online every minute of your flight, it’s always good to check in. Plus, whenever I’m traveling, something important inevitably pops up the minute the flight attendant shuts the door to the plane. Buy headphones if it helps with distractions, but I can burn through hundreds of emails, todo list items, or blog posts during a typical flight, just because I’m connected.
3) For the same reason, I pay for access to the airline lounge. It’s an oasis in the middle of the madness of an airport. I can always find a table to work, food or snacks, free WIFI, and they provide special ticket agents to help work out problems with your flights. There are numerous credit cards that provide free access to airline clubs, so that option may be worth exploring. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in an hour or two before or when connecting between flights.
4) If you’re traveling outside your country, pre-purchase an international calling plan for your mobile phone. Pre-paying is far less expensive than burning the minutes in another country without a plan. ATT’s international options have been a lifesaver for me, and it works for both voice calls and data.
5) As much as possible, stick to the rule of returning important calls and texts that day, and email within 24 hours. The secret here is to know your priorities. Family, close friends and clients are at the top of my list, and everything else can usually wait.
6) Work your to-do list. Lots of ideas pop into my head during trips, and most aren’t critical or urgent. However, I want to follow up later, so I keep track of those ideas in two ways. First, with a small Field Notes notebook, and second, with the Things app. Things is an incredibly elegant and easy to use productivity app that helps keep my ideas, tasks, and priorities in line. There are plenty of free options out there as well, so take some time and try them out. And as soon as I get back to my desk, Things is the first app I open to start work.
7) Finally, let’s talk about Zoom calls on the road: If I’m traveling, I do 99% of any Zoom calls either in my hotel room or ask for an empty office or conference room where I’m visiting. Here’s what’s important:
First – find a quiet place. You don’t want to Zoom with people running around in the background, or in a place where others can overhear your conversation.
Second – make sure the WIFI is solid. You don’t want to be breaking up or cutting out.
Third – check the background. In a hotel room, don’t have your unmade bed or bathroom behind you, or mirrors that might reflect your open suitcase. In most cases, you can slide the furniture around in such a way that you can get a wall or perhaps closed window curtains behind you. Here’s some more good tips for Zoom calls on the road. Ultimately, the goal is to look professional, no matter where you are.
My clients know I’m always traveling, but they never know when because I’m able to keep to a fairly normal working schedule – and that’s the key. Especially if you’re a freelancer or client-based business, when problems come up with our clients, I want to be there for them – no matter where I am.
While some may think these are the techniques of a workaholic, actually, it’s exactly the opposite. Because I can access WIFI on the plane, work in the lounge during flight connections, and understand my priorities, that leaves me lots of time to enjoy the trip – which is why I always take a good book on the road.
If you travel a great deal on business, let me know if you have any other helpful suggestions in the comment section below!