A day away from the office, perhaps visiting clients or attending an industry event, used to mean hours of lost productivity, and it wasn’t just the time traveling to and from meetings that was wasted. The time it took to catch up on everyday tasks once you returned to the office had a knock-on effect on your daily routine. Lost productivity, especially when you are on a deadline or have targets to hit (and who doesn’t?) has the potential to destroy any semblance of a half-decent work/life balance, as you attempt to get ahead of yourself.

Thankfully, life on the road doesn’t have to mean an end to productivity anymore. This is largely thanks to the mobile devices we all carry around with us in the form of our smartphones and tablet computers. But how many people are making the most of these very important business tools to drive their productivity and ensure their return to the office isn’t so stressful?

I’m a great believer in maximizing “dead time.” This is the time you spend staring out of train windows, sitting in airport lounges or waiting for clients to become available for your scheduled meeting (which they are highly likely running late for). Dead time once meant non-productive time (time you never get back) – but now, thanks to mobile technology, time wasted is a thing of the past.

So how do I optimize my time away from the office with the help of my mobile friends?

  1. Emails: If you’re anything like me, most of the emails you receive don’t need any action (most don’t even warrant reading). Take 5 or 10 minutes of dead time to clear out your email inbox while you’re on the road, and you won’t have to worry about returning to hours of work sifting through piles of junk to find the emails that need urgent attention on your return. I even do this while on vacation (often just after the kids have gone to bed). For me, five minutes of lost vacation time spent decluttering is much less stressful to me than the pain of returning to an overflowing inbox.
  2. Social Media: Social networks like Twitter and Instagram were built for the mobile environment, and most other networks can be just as effectively managed from a mobile device as they can be from your desktop computer. Use dead time to engage with followers, post updates from the road, share images, keep up-to-date with industry trends and target new followers. Thanks to mobile devices, you always have time to be social.
  3. Email Marketing: Before attending your next meeting, why not check in and see if a client has engaged with a previous campaign? This could give you a cool starting point for a more productive conversation. You can also use your mobile device to help build your list. When meeting with a prospective client, ask him or her to join your list and then collect the details from your phone or tablet (saves inputting details from business cards).
  4. Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Mobile CRM tools like Salesforce.com allow you to have a complete understanding of your relationship with a client. Check which products clients are currently using, understand any customer service issues they might currently have and just be better informed. Taking a few moments prior to a meeting to become better informed might just mean the difference between a sale and a non-productive meeting.
  5. Real-World Networking: Tools like Connect.com (set up by former iContact boss Ryan Allis) can help you identify whether any of your connections are close by. If a meeting is suddenly canceled or a night spent in a hotel alone doesn’t appeal, let your mobile device fill your time more productively.
  6. eBooks: While traveling, I spend more time reading than anything else. Reading a wide variety of material helps me exercise my creative muscles and (hopefully) become a more informed and productive marketer. I personally carry a dedicated Kindle reading device with me everywhere I go – but it is also possible to download an app to your mobile device that gives you instant access to a library of millions of titles.
  7. Voice: OK, this should go without saying, but no matter where you are in the world, your mobile device should mean you’re always available for a chat. For international travelers, services like FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype will help you keep the cost of those long-distance phone calls down.
  8. Maps: Thanks to services like Google Maps, I can navigate any city like a local. No more time wasted trying to figure out public transport when my phone can tell me it is possible to walk between meetings in under five minutes.
  9. Taxi: Or should I say “Uber.”
  10. Periscope: Why wait until you return to the office to share your insights and updates. Show the world exactly what you  are seeing in real time with mobile broadcasting tools like Twitter’s newPeriscope service.

How have mobile devices helped you and your team become more productive? Share your story in the comments box below.