Messaging apps and collaboration tools might make it easier to work with teams in different offices and across time zones, but I'm still a firm believer in the value of a face-to-face meeting. And I'm not alone: 97 percent of business travelers believe in-person meetings are the most important component when building a client or team relationship.
Whenever I can, I schedule in-person meetings with customers, investors and even journalists, which is why I'm often on the move--traveling from one continent to another several times each year. Over the past few years, I've picked up the following tips for how frequent flying business leaders can learn to effectively prioritize tasks and manage their time on the road.
1) Prioritize tasks that aren't usually prioritized: During my travel time, I tackle the tasks I that I don't usually prioritize when jumping from meeting to meeting in the office. I'll go through my reports' success metrics and write performance reviews. I examine financial models in detail and read the 200-page research reports that sit in my inbox for weeks. Being in the air, on a train, or other form of transportation forces quiet, uninterrupted time. Taking full advantage of your time without any distractions (or options to leave) is essential to successful, productive business travel.
2) Invest in a privacy screen: If you're planning to work from the plane and are reviewing sensitive material--which, honestly, what isn't sensitive anymore?--you need to invest in a privacy screen. We bought privacy filters for everyone on Okta's exec team last year and encouraged everyone to use them whenever they aren't in the office. Whether or not you work for a security company, you can never be too careful when accessing company information in a public space.
3) Prepare to be offline: It helps that Wi-Fi is almost omnipresent on flights, trains and other modes of public transportation these days, but I always check my travel details ahead of time so I can download a local copy of a model or report if I'm going to be offline while in the air. I also use Evernote Premium to ensure the notes I take in meetings or while on the move are saved whether I'm on or offline.
4) Take advantage of the alone time and get creative: If you are forced to work offline, take full advantage of the quiet and use the left side of your brain. I often do my best brainstorming and creative problem solving when on the move. I've been known to tackle complicated business issues like development plans for a new group or organization, or brainstorm customer solutions around new products and use cases. You'll gain a new perspective and think about things differently after a few days outside of the office.
Business travel will always be time-consuming. And with 488 million business trips take place annually, it's clearly time-consuming for many business leaders. But instead of viewing it as a challenge, view it as an opportunity to get some neglected work complete and focus on building relationships. Be prepared before you travel to get the most benefit out of your travel time for both yourself and your business.