This past week I attended the National Plastics Exposition (NPE) to do some videotaping for a client. As I walked the massive show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando I marveled at the booths. One had a machine that was literally as big as a house. Others had smaller, but still impressive, equipment, videos and displays. So I started to wonder if trade shows are a viable marketing activity for small business… or are they just for the “big guys?”

The answer is not as easy as you might think.

business travel tips, productivity tips

It has been a brutal travel season with unbelievable snow. In spite of that, business still needs to get done. In the past, four weeks I have spent more nights in hotels than in my own bed. If you travel, you know that means lots of time waiting. Waiting in airports, waiting in rental car lines, waiting in hotels-all while surrounded by people who are doing the same thing you are doing- waiting and working.

In the midst of all of this I have found that some of my best thinking and productive work occurs while I am traveling. I don’t think this was always the case but it is today. I started to analyze why and the reason is actually pretty simple. When I am at work I am constantly surrounded by people. Employees need time and attention. Customers want to meet, have phone conferences and, in my case, we are on location videotaping people and facilities for corporate productions. Add in the constant e-mails and texts and it feels like I am being bombarded by constant communication.

Don’t get me wrong, I love people or I would not be in business doing what I am doing. But, sometimes I just don’t have time to think.While business travel is not always easy, it does give you some time alone. Of course, it’s helpful if you are in business class so that others are working as well. I have started to plan my travel so that the time is actually some of the most productive time. That means I have less to do when I return home. Here are a few tips.

Bring projects of varying lengths. I use the time in the airport or on short flights to knock out those annoying little things that need to get done; the proposal that needs polishing, background reading, e-mails that I need to write or clean-up. I also bring at least one major project that requires lots of think time. On longer cross-country flights, I can get massive amounts of work done because no one is interrupting me.

Bring one business issue you have been trying to solve. I love to brainstorm ideas for things that I just can’t seem to get my arms around. I write down everything that comes to my mind and try not to filter out the good from the bad ideas. I just let it flow.

Bring at least one business book you have been trying to read. It’s hard to take the time to read something I want to read when work is piled up on my desk. When I read a book on a plane, it feels like I am doing something just for me.

Take time to do nothing. Most business owners love interaction. We love to be on the go and doing things. It is actually hard to do nothing. Try it sometime. Sit on a plane and do nothing. Sit in a hotel room and watch something really mindless on TV. Sit in a restaurant or bar and just watch people. Take a walk around the airport concourse. In other words, give your mind a rest.

I actually am enjoying travel these days, despite the hustle and bustle. That’s because I am using it as my quiet time. And, who couldn’t use a little more of that?

Once every two years a committed, vocal group of small business owners gather at the Small Business Congress presented by the National Small Business Association to help set priorities for advocacy. This year the conference was held in Phoenix and it lived up to its promise to bring together the true voice of small business. Those who attended from across the country had the chance to listen to leading policy experts from across the country about some of the issues that we all face every day.



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