Traveling for Work: Time Management Strategies for Working Women Who Travel for Work

March 18, 2024

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In my most recent 8-week Bright Method program, during one of the corporate breakout sessions, work travel came up – specifically, how to leverage the Bright Method when you travel for work frequently. It was a great example of how we can use Bright Method strategies in a specific scenario to bring more clarity and peace of mind to our lives, so I figured I’d share here for those in a similar spot. Enjoy – and share with a friend who travels often!

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Full Transcript

 Episode 46. Traveling For Work

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey, hey, and welcome back! All right, so today we’re gonna talk about traveling for work, and this is gonna be particularly relevant for those of you who travel often for work. Now, this is a topic that came up in an industry breakout group during one of my programs. So, just for context, when you take a Bright Method program, you learn the bulk of the curriculum in pre-recorded video lessons that you get to watch on your own, do it when it works for you, all that kind of stuff. But we also get together each week and have a full group call. Then, for three of the weeks, we also have industry breakout calls, and that’s for people in the legal world, medical world, corporate world, and then the business owners, and if you don’t fall neatly into one of those, I help you kind of figure out what’s the best fit for you based on your time management pain points.

And so, yesterday, as I’m recording this, during the corporate breakout group, some of the women were asking about how to leverage this system when they travel so often for work. And in that context, it was typically like, “I travel two or three to four times a month, a few days at a time. I have a decent heads up when it’s coming but I’m still struggling to know how to leverage the system in those scenarios.”

And so, we dug into this, and I think it’s just a really interesting topic that some people deal with that I think it’s helpful to talk about. From a time-management perspective, how can you best approach travel for work? So we’ll dig into it. Hopefully you’ll get a couple nuggets, and I would love to hear any further tips that you have on this front if this is you.

So, the way I think about this is really thinking about the work travel as the before period, the during period, and the after.

The Before Period – 2:05

So, for the before period, I want you to think about in the, let’s say, week before a work trip, what could you do during that week to make future traveling you’s life easier. So, for example, at work what I would do is think about looking at that travel week’s work and the following week’s work and say, “Is there anything that I could do ahead of time, like schedule to do let’s say even two or three weeks before that travel when I normally would have done it a little bit later. Could I do it earlier to make my life easier when I’m traveling?”

Just to be really clear here, you could even say, “I’m gonna get this work done early, but I’m also not even gonna send it out until a certain time,” and you could even calendar the time you want to send it out and say, “Send out the project,” so that you’re not necessarily getting that boomerang of edits and feedback and all that kind of stuff early and end up just having to work through the time that you were planning on not having the work on this thing. You could even do all of the work but not send it out. I’ve had some clients do that. Just want to share it with you.

On the flipside of that, if you see a massive deadline due on a Monday, let’s say, after you’ve been traveling the whole week before, you could also early (if we’re looking at this, let’s say, a month out) move that deadline so that it’s even later that week on Thursday. But it just gives you a little bit of breathing space knowing that you’re gonna be out of town the whole week before, and if you can’t do a lot of the work early, could you move the deadline out so that when you come back from travel, you can still get some work done on it before it’s due.

So that’s what I would look at out on the work front. Look at the week that you’re traveling’s work and the following week’s work and just think, “Can I do any of this earlier or can I even push some of the deadlines out to give me some more breathing space?”

Similarly, at home, I would think about what’s going on that week that I’ll be traveling and even right after it, and is there anything I can do, again, to make life easier and have it run smoother? So do you need to set up any pet care? Do you need to set up extra childcare? Things like doing laundry a few days in advance before you would pack, figuring out when you’re gonna pack and then when you would like to do laundry so that runs smoothly for you.

One thing I used to have to do a lot when we used to travel a lot for depositions is I would have to really think about what am I gonna need to wear during these travels and is it dry cleaned already, because often it wasn’t, or it was (I should say) and it was still at the dry cleaners. So really kind of thinking about, “How many suits do I need? How many work dresses do I need? How many –,” whatever you like to wear. “Does it require dry cleaning, and if so, when will I do that drop off and when will I do that pick up,” and calendar it because that’s the kind of stuff that easily falls through the cracks, at least for me, and then you’re trying to pack, and you’re like, “No! It’s all at the dry cleaners,” or “It’s all wrinkled at the bottom of my closet, and I need it.” And so, that will really help relieve your stress.

So that kind of wraps up some examples for the before. But really just taking a step back, and this is something that can shift with you as it evolves. As you start thinking this way, you might add more and more to the list. But almost have a checklist for the before periods of time for these work travels. “What do I do?” At work, I look at the travel week, look at the week after, figure out what I need to do (push them out, or do the work early). At home, I set up extra pet care. I set up extra childcare. I do laundry at this time because I’m gonna pack at this time and make sure my dry cleaning’s done.” Anything that will make your life easier, awesome.

The During Period – 5:31

Then we want to think about the during, and this might make more sense of why I was saying kind of clear your work decks for the week of travel so that you do work early or can do it after is I really believe — and you might completely disagree. In my experience, when I’m traveling for work, the better work trips are when I have very little other work to do on the work trip. Because what I’m typically traveling for, whether it’s deposition prep or depositions or things like that, it’s really typically intense work. It’s very time-consuming work. It might extend beyond what you planned. The client might be like, “Let’s go get dinner or happy hour after this,” and you want to be available to do that from the client relationship standpoint. There can be all these things, and because it’s also intense work. I was typically pretty tired at the end of it.

So I just throw that out there that, to the extent you can, clear the decks for the days you’re going to travel beyond what you’re traveling for on the work front. I would plan to do as little work as possible on the foreseeable things I know about knowing that I’m gonna be tired but also there are gonna be curveballs that hit that I’m going to have to do probably some work on some other stuff, so let me get rid of as much of the foreseeable stuff as I can so that I can be more available for those curveball things and only have to focus on those.

Similarly, I would think about when you do have time, what is your goal? Let’s pretend you just didn’t have any curveballs that came in the door. That’s where I personally like to focus on just staying on top of email if I can, processing as much as I can, dealing with (especially if I’m tired) the little stuff and just clearing that plate, and then maybe scheduling when I’m gonna do that heavier-lift stuff and telling them, “I’ll have it to you next Thursday or the following Monday,” or whatever it might be.

But really just trying to stay on top of email was usually my default. That doesn’t mean it has to be for you. But have some sort of clarity around, “When I’m traveling, when I have time, this is the work task or no task,” also own the rest if you want to. But what is your default when you have extra time on travel so that you can plan accordingly, you’re not planning to do five hours of extra work on top of it, but you also have the clarity of, “This is what I do when I have this kind of surprise down time when I’m traveling.”

Another random thing to throw out there for during is maybe a daily reminder to gather receipts. If you are better at this, rock on. I was terrible at this, keeping track of all the receipts when I was traveling. I worked with a partner who, it’s so simple but so smart, is every time we traveled for work or every time she traveled for work, she would get kind of a larger envelope out and write receipts and what the trip was for and who the client was, and then she would shove a pen in there as well. She’d keep it in her purse or her bag, and then as things came up, she would always put the receipts directly in there and scribble on it what it was for. It made doing the receipts, the processing, so much easier. She would hand it to her assistant and basically the assistant could take the envelope and run with it. Even if you don’t have an assistant, it’s still just a great way to corral the receipts, and it was something I was always in awe of, and I thought it was a great idea.

I will say, I struggled to always put the things in the receipts. I just tend to, I don’t know, blank out when I’m paying for things. So no judgment if that’s you too, but just know that I think if you can adopt that approach, it’s a really, really smart one.

So, to wrap that up, if you needed a daily reminder to gather all the receipts and just kind of stay on top of it that way, that’s another thing you could calendar that really might help.

So, to recap the during portion of it, to the extent you can, I would clear the decks as best you can. I would plan on doing a little, little bit of work. If you have time, have clarity around what you do when you stumble upon that time. Do you stay on top of email? Do you rest because you’re away from your kids and you just want to sleep? Do you just have fun? Whatever it is, just have the clarity of, “When I stumble upon time, this is what I do.” You can have reminders to gather receipts.

One more thing you can do also is if, particularly, your office is in one time zone but you’re traveling to another, what you might want to do ahead of time is block your availability during the hours you would normally be available. So what I mean by that is if someone in your office might schedule a 9:00 AM call their time but that’s gonna be 7:00 AM where you are, I would block 9:00 to 11:00 your time just to give yourself the breathing space even if you’re not in meetings during that time so that it’s blocked so that no one inadvertently puts something on your calendar that’s gonna make you be awake at 7:00 AM and ready to go on a trip.

That was something that came up with a client, and while I think it’s always tricky when you’re traveling, you kind of want to balance, “Am I available or am I not,” really think about — I mean, even if you just did it minimally, from where you’re gonna be from 7:00 to 8:00 AM, you just block your availability proactively so that nothing gets put on your plate that early.

The After Period – 10:31

Okay, turning to the after portion of this is really thinking about how future you is going to feel and what will be on her plate when she gets back. So if you’ve been gone for three straight days and, let’s say, you’ve been in pretty much full-day meetings and calls and things like that while you were gone, chances are your email’s gonna be pretty overwhelming at the end of it. And so, what I want you to just think about is think about that for future you. Block your full day from meetings and availability to the best that you can knowing that you’re going to need a lot of that day to dig out of your email inbox and get status updates on other projects, figure out what your action items are coming out of all of that, all that kind of stuff, maybe deal with some fires. Really having that time will be invaluable, and you will really want to thank past you for blocking it out for future you. I will also say that also knowing it’s coming will help you when you’re on the trip because you know you have that time to dig out when you get back.

When To Block Time for Your Travel – 11:30

And so, one thing I want you to think about is when do you do this for each trip that you have? When do you sit down with your calendar and block the things that we’ve been talking about and organize your schedule and think about this stuff? It probably is gonna depend mostly on how much of a heads up you get for your travel. If you get good heads up for most of your travel, like you can look ahead at your next two to three months and you know what your travel is, basically, then I think probably just once a month you can sit down and review your upcoming month or two of travel. At that point, I would have that checklist of things you go through for each trip, things like blocking out your availability during the trip, looking at that week’s work plans and the following week’s work plans, and evaluating, “Do I want to move any of this work up earlier? Do I want to ask for an extension now?” This during stuff, blocking availability while you’ll be traveling, reminders to gather the receipts. You could calendar all of this stuff on the front end even a month before the trip.

After, you definitely want to block it as early as you can. So during that session that you hold with yourself where it’s just like “travel schedule” or whatever you want to call it, have a checklist in that calendar event that tells you what to do. “This is what I do for before. This is what I do for during. This is what I do for after. For the after, I block time when I get back.” And so, you could have time protected in your calendar to look ahead at your next month and every single month look at that upcoming travel schedule and start calendaring all of the stuff that we’ve been talking about for each trip so that future you gets the benefit of all that but you’re also taking the pressure off of perfectly calendaring all of this stuff every time you get something put on your schedule for work.

If you have less of a heads up, like it’s not quite so laid out, you might need to do this every week or every other week. You know, you can kind of defer to what works for you, and then you would probably have less of a heavy lift each time because you’re not doing a whole month of stuff but you’re just looking ahead at your next two or three months of your schedule and of your travel schedule and looking ahead and plotting it all out.

As I said, that checklist of things that you do will likely evolve over time as you figure this out. As you get intentional with this stuff, you might be like, “You know what would be really awesome for me to do ahead of time? This,” and so, you add it to that agenda, and you save it going forward. And then every month as you sit down or every week as you sit down and look at your travel schedule and plot all of this stuff out, then you get the benefit of, “Ooh, yeah, that thing that would have been really helpful, now I’m doing it for every trip going forward.”

Okay, so just to really clarify this in case I know sometimes I can get excited, and I talk a little bit all over the place, what I would do is sit down and think, “How often do I want to look at my travel schedule and plot the type of stuff out that we’ve been talking about?” Is it once a week? Is it every two weeks? Is it once a month? It just depends on how much heads up you get and how often your travel schedule changes. Calendar that. Calendar maybe half an hour, an hour even if it’s just once a month. “Figure out travel schedule.” Then in the event details, give yourself a little agenda or a checklist of what you do. I would title it, “Before,” “During,” and “After.” And then under each of those, I’d give yourself bullet points of exactly what to do. Spell it out so that your brain doesn’t need to carry this load. Spell it out. Look at the travel week of work and the following week of work. “Is there anything I want to do ahead of time or push out for deadlines?” At home, “Do I want to set up extra pet care or extra childcare?” “When am I gonna do laundry? When am I going to pack? When am I gonna need any dry cleaning done?” Really spell it out for yourself in an agenda format. Then save it going forward. So you repeat  this every month, every week, every two weeks, whatever it is. Save it going forward so that agenda is there each time.

Then, as you learn your own practices and preferences and how trips go, you can add to this checklist or delete things from the checklist that will help future you’s travel and life around the travel go a lot smoother. You can really make this your own, but I think it’s really smart to look ahead, get intentional about how you want those travel weeks to go so that you can maximize the chances that it all goes more smoothly than it might normally be going.

All right, I hope you got some good gems out of that. I just love this stuff. I love thinking about how can we get intentional but in a realistic way that will really help out future us using our calendars. I just love how we get to apply this system to everybody else’s life, to your specific life. It can really mold to you and help fit you, and that’s what I think solid time management is all about.

So, if you’re interested in learning the whole Bright Method and understanding the whole system underneath it and then really tailoring it to specific situations in the ways that we’re talking about in this episode, that’s what we do in The Bright Method program. It is so weirdly fun and, to me, it’s a life-changing system that can bring a lot more clarity and intentionality and less stress to your life.

If you’re interested in learning The Bright Method, I’m gonna run my next one in late September of 2024. It’s an eight-week program for professional working women to learn the system, and then as I said, really mold it to you, your industry, your situation, your life, your family, all of that. If you want to jump on the waitlist, you can on my website at www.kellynolan.com. I’ll also add a link directly to the waitlist in the show notes, and thank you for being here! Feel free to share this episode with anyone who travels a lot for work and thank you for that. Thanks for helping me spread the word, and I will catch you in the next episode!

[Upbeat Outro Music]

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