Career Advice

11 Tricks to Getting Work Done on the Road

Businessman working with laptop on airplane.

Can you really be as productive when you’re traveling between cities rather than working at your desk? How can you accomplish your tasks when you don’t have access to wifi, your phone died, or you’re in a different time zone than you clients?  The answer is that you can still be productive, you just have to plan ahead and get organized. Getting work done while you’re traveling might be different than you’re used to, but it’s an opportunity to be creative and challenge yourself. With these 11 tricks for staying motivated and productive while you’re on the road, your boss will hardly notice you left the office.    

With these 11 tricks for staying motivated and productive while you’re on the road, your boss will hardly notice you left the office.    

1. Figure out what you can do without Wi-Fi.

You may not have Wi-Fi for every leg of your journey, so it’s important to plan beforehand what you can and can’t accomplish without the internet. This includes downloading onto your computer, or uploading to a flash drive, anything you’ll want to have access to sans Wi-Fi. And going without Wi-Fi doesn’t have to be a roadblock – plane time can be great to accomplish long blocks of writing, when you don’t have any e-distractions to tear your focus away.

2. Schedule your time like a workday.

Make yourself a detailed calendar or schedule so you’re not at a loss for what to start working on when you plop down in your hotel room. Joseph Grenny, author and co-chairman of VitalSmarts calls this “making appointments with yourself.” He writes in the Harvard Business Review that “I am faithful to my calendar; if it says I am supposed to do something, I tend to do it. So I look ahead to big blocks of downtime during travel—for example a five-hour plane trip from San Francisco to New York.”

3. Make sure to have a way to charge your devices.

There’s nothing worse than having a full day of work cued up on your computer, only to have it die on you with no charger in sight. Make a double check that you’ve packed all of your chargers – and international adapters if you’re going abroad – before setting off. Also, it may be worth looking into a portable charger for your phone or laptop if you’re frequently in long stretches without an outlet.

4. Maintain a normal sleep schedule.

“Everything you do, you’ll do better with a good night’s sleep,” says Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post and sleep advocate. When you’re traveling, try as much as possible to maintain a normal sleep schedule. This can be especially difficult when traveling between time zones. But you can only be so productive when you’re running on few sleep hours. If you know you’re getting up early for a flight, going to bed a bit earlier than usual will help you have energy the next day. Running on a full night’s sleep will help you be more productive than any task optimization app can.

5. Print things out.

You never know when the person in front of you on the plane will lean their seat so far back you can no longer fit your laptop on the tray table. Printing out the things you need to read can prevent technology and Wi-Fi mishaps, and also can actually help you focus on the task at hand rather than being tempted to zip around different tasks on your computer. Likewise, consider bringing a notebook and pen around with you as you travel. This can help you jot down and diagram ideas quickly and easily while you’re on-the-go.

6. Be creative when things don’t work out.

“Your gadgets will not always work, there will not always be Wi-Fi when you need it, your laptop will freeze, and your cell phone will go dead,” warns Greg Rosner in his book Road Warrior Survival Guide: Practical Tips for the Business Traveler. He advises taking these roadblocks with a spirit of creativity. What will buoy you along, he says, is “your creative attitude to ‘get it done’ and accomplish the same task, with whatever you have available at the moment.”

7. Optimize tasks for the type of transportation you’ll be taking.

Think about what type of environments help you accomplish certain tasks best. For example, you might want to try doing phone calls using the hands-free capability in your car, or block off time to read a long document while you’re on the train.

8. Invest in a pair of noise canceling headphones.

Noise canceling headphones can help you tune into music without distraction, which many people find helps them focus on what’s in front of them. Alternatively, you may not even use the noise canceling headphones to listen to music, and simply want to invest in them for their capability to just drown out the little noises, and just let you work in quiet. Similarly, you might want to look into the type of earmuffs and earplugs that are used on construction sites. These won’t let you listen to music, but will let you tune into your work without being distracted by the chatty couple in the aisle ahead.    

9. Let yourself take breaks.

Travel can be exhausting, no matter how much sleep you got the night before. At the end of the day, it’s not always realistic to expect yourself to do the same work you’d have normally done while working in the office. Additionally, long blocks of travel can get you away from the rhythm of the day you’re used to, so it may be harder to allocate your break times accordingly. Make sure to schedule in breaks to your travel-work schedule, whether that’s doing yoga in the hotel gym, walking around a new city, or watching a TV show on your flight. These breaks will reward your hard work and let you recharge before you start your next task.   

10. Find the place where you work best.

It may be that you get distracted by the TV or feel cramped in a hotel room, and prefer to work in a coffee shop. Or it may be that you find coffee shops too loud, and prefer the quiet of a hotel room. Whatever it is, knowing where you work best and feel comfortable is valuable for getting your feet on the ground when you arrive in a new, unfamiliar place.

11. Invest in your own Wi-Fi hotspot.

Nowadays, many phones are enabled with the ability to generate a Wi-Fi hotspot on demand. Make sure you check with your carrier about the terms and conditions for creating a Wi-Fi hotspot on your phone, especially if it’s a capability you use frequently. Additionally, you can purchase a mobile hotspot device that gives you expanded internet capability, particularly if you are traveling abroad.

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