6 essential tips for keeping track of time while you travel

When traveling for work, you may be off your regular clock, but there is still a clock. Here’s how to pay attention to it when you travel.

I love to travel. I always have. And that’s one of the perks of running my own business; I have to log more miles to attend meetings or give a speech than I otherwise would. Along the way, like I’m sure most frequent travelers have, I’ve learned some tricks and hacks. While learning how to get through TSA painlessly or eat healthfully on the road have made traveling much easier, nothing has beat my calendar.

That’s right. I’m the person who takes my calendar with me everywhere — although online calendars have made this easier. In fact, I love my calendar so much I even started my own calendar app company. With it, I’ve found my own method of madness when traveling.

Remind yourself of important dates

I’ve gotten into the habit of color-coding or highlighting important dates on my monthly calendar. This could be for deadlines, speeches or the days I’m traveling. Let’s say that I’m delivering a speech on March 10. I’ll color code that date in red. This way I won’t schedule anything else for that day. I also won’t make any plans for the day before or after since I’ll probably be traveling on those days. More importantly, blocking out this time gives me a chance to think, prepare and practice my speech.

Keep time open before and after your trip

Regardless if you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you probably have a million things to do before taking off. It could wrapping-up a work project, packing or washing all of your dirty dishes. To make sure that all of these last-minute tasks are done, I take off work the day before. I also take off the day I return. This way I can unpack, decompress and ease my way back into the daily grind. That’s not to say I won’t respond to emails or phone calls. It just means that I leave my schedule as free as possible.

Account for travel time

I think sometimes we underestimate how much time it takes to travel. For example, if you’ve been to Denver, then you know it takes at least 30 minutes to go into downtown from the airport. As such, it wouldn’t make sense to plan a meeting at 4 p.m. if your flight arrives at 3:30 p.m.

The same is true when going from your hotel to a meeting or from a conference to a restaurant. Unless you planned in advance, you might have to travel across time. The last thing you want is to show up late to a dinner meeting with a potential client.

That’s why I schedule buffer and travel time in my calendar. If I have an appointment at 6 p.m., I put in my calendar that it’s at 5 p.m. This gives me plenty of time to get to the appointment on time. It also gives me a chance to collect my thoughts and prepare myself.

Prevent Time-Zone Mistakes

I’m sure that I’m not only one who has made a time-zone mistake. There have been a handful of times when I called into a conference call late because of this. While most online calendars and scheduling tools take this into consideration, always make a note in your calendar. Lifehacker published a useful article that explains how you can prevent time-zone mix-ups using Google Calendar or Outlook.

Create your travel itinerary

Google Calendar does a pretty solid job of putting together an itinerary. That’s because I can just view my monthly calendar to see the dates I’m flying, checking-in out of a hotel or speaking. I even create reminders on my phone. But apps like Tripit do all the legwork for me. You just forward your emails and the app automatically generates your master itinerary. This keeps all of my plans in one convenient location. This may not seem like a big deal but having a master itinerary keeps me organized while traveling. It also ensures that I don’t overload my schedule and when to plan buffer/travel time.

Keep others updated

As I’ve discussed in the past, sharing your calendar with others is important. That also includes your travel calendar. Sharing your travel calendar lets your clients or colleagues know when you’ll be out of town. If you’re meeting them, then they’ll know when to expect you and when you’ll be free to meet.

If you have family, then they obviously want to be in the loop. It’s only fair for them to know when you’re leaving and when you’ll return. That won’t just keep your family happy, it will also save you a significant amount of time.

John Rampton is the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Calendar, a company helping your calendar be much more productive.

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