Some business travelers might as well call themselves pack mules with the amount of weight they lug through airports in their briefcases. I’ve seen people carry briefcases that weigh as much as their carry-ons. The bags are filled with binders, folders, and loose papers. It’s enough to make an organizational expert run screaming from the room.
The problem is that a cluttered workplace clutters your mind. Not only is it hard to find anything, but it creates a sense of stress as well as its own inefficiencies.
But with some simple planning and strategizing, your briefcase doesn’t have to create additional strain on your body. We’ve come up with five ways business travelers can streamline the contents of their briefcase for travel. You may end up with so little in it, you might be able to leave it at home!
1. Unload everything from your briefcase and eliminate all non-essential clutter. Extra cables, extra equipment (could get by with a tablet instead of a laptop), and extra paper. How many pens and pencils do you need? If you have more than two, that’s too many. Put your loose cables into a small bag or cord organizer. Rather than treating your briefcase as a repository of “just in case” materials, try to plan ahead better so you’re not carrying a lot of extra stuff.
2. Get Evernote. This isn’t a sponsored post — the app simply is the best way to clip and save online content for reading later. You can also upload reports to it, save articles from the web to read on the plane, scan receipts and documents, and even scan business cards and save them to your phone’s contact list. While Evernote is primarily a cloud-based app, you can save certain notes and notebooks directly to your device. This way, even if you don’t have wifi access, you still have access to your most important documents.
3. Keep all your documents in the cloud. Price lists, special reports, contracts, and so on. I’ve known business travelers who would print several copies of each of these, and jam them in their briefcase in case they ever needed them. Instead, if someone wants a price list or report, open it up on your laptop or phone to show it, and then email it to them. Finally, use apps like DocuSign for people to sign contracts and agreements electronically, which lets you save and share the copies online.
4. Prioritize your work and delay your printing.
If you must carry paperwork, prioritize what you have to do over what you might do. The best-laid plans are usually just that, so be realistic about what you will accomplish. (Now, if you packed all your work onto Evernote and/or a cloud-storage service, you can load as much as you want.) Can you put off printing and carrying certain documents? If you’re going to give handouts during a presentation, can you have them printed once you arrive, rather than hauling them with you?
5. Is there an app for that?
Why pack a handheld calculator when you can use the one that came with your phone’s operating system? Why carry a book when you could read it on an e-reader? (For that matter, why carry a Kindle when your tablet has the Kindle reader?) Don’t bother printing out directions; use a travel app that offers offline mapping.
The biggest problem a lot of business travelers have is they can hoard documents like they’re doomsday preppers. But in this day and age of cloud-based storage and broadband wifi, you’re only a Starbucks or cell phone away from your important information. There’s no need to pack everything you might need “just in case.” Shed those unwanted paperwork pounds and see how much easier your next business travel trip is.
Business travelers, how do you travel light? What do you do to keep your briefcase or backpack pared down to just the essentials? Share your ideas in the comments below,on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.