In honor of World Productivity Day, I thought it would be a fantastic time to share a few tips to stay productive while traveling. One of the reasons I have the fortune to travel often is because I can work anywhere as long as there’s an internet hook up. When you’re not bound by a corporate office structure, it affords a lot more flexibility to live your life rather than your job live life for you. With that said, while traveling is a perk of working from home, you still need to make time to meet deadlines while away. It’s not always easy and sometimes you might have to spend more time in the hotel room or coffee shop than you would have preferred, but it is doable. These are some of the tricks I’ve learned in the last few years.
#1 - Set Office Hours. This was the most important lesson I learned and I learned the hard way too. It’s great to plan and work while traveling but it doesn’t work well unless you set aside specific times dedicated to it. I schedule a few hours early in the morning from 7-9am (if not earlier), venture out until lunchtime and then get a few more hours in during the afternoon. Usually around 1-4pm. There are two reasons for this. One, not much is open before 9am so there’s not a ton to miss out on and the afternoon is a high tourist time, perfect to avoid crowds. The second reason is because I tend to get the most action on email in the afternoon so if there’s a time of day I need to be present, that’s it. If necessary, I’ll set aside an hour or two at night as well. The point is, that time is specifically set for working. Whether I grab my portable office and head to a coffee shop or make a spot for myself in the hotel lobby, that computer is open and I am focused. When you don’t set that time aside, it’s hard to gage how much time you need to get all your tasks done and the lack of organization could end up causing you to spend more hours at the computer than you’d prefer.
#2 - Make the most of the time you set. Along with setting the time to work, making the most of it should be just as important. Don’t waste the three hours you’ve set aside in the morning checking on your Facebook feed. Unless your tasks have to do with social media, sign off all your accounts and mute your phone. Avoid any and all distractions so that you are solely focused on getting work done and getting out to explore. But don’t forget, just because you’re working doesn’t mean you have to be holed up in a hotel room. I haven’t been to one town or city without a local coffee shop or bakery that offers internet. Take your computer out of the hotel and sit in a cafe like a local. It might give you a little extra motivation to get your to-do list done.
#3 - Batch Tasks. One of the most efficient ways to work is by batching similar tasks together. My day typically blocks out by writing assignments, pitching assignments, and miscellaneous tasks. Schedule the hardest tasks or the ones that will take the longest amount of time at the beginning of your set work time. Getting them out of the way will help keep up momentum so you don’t get discouraged by the time you’ve reached your final to do. Getting discouraged could cause you to spend more time on it then necessary. The strategy of batching tasks is helpful because it forces you to concentrate on the same type of work rather than constantly shift your focus and mindset. It’s a more productive way to get things accomplished.
#4 - Prepare in advance. This is a big one and it will have a great impact on how much you’ll be on the computer while traveling. Regardless of your job, there are tasks that can be done in advance so that they’re off your plate at a later date. For me, these tasks might be writing and scheduling social media content or getting follow-ups out for a pitch that I sent recently. Two weeks before leaving, make a to-do list of all your regular tasks, all your deadlines and anything that you can think of that might come up during your time away. Figure out what can realistically be completed before you leave and execute them. By taking care of things that can be done in advance, you’re freeing up time to enjoy the destination rather than work on those tasks. It will also relieve some stress when you return.
#5 - Let your team know you’re traveling. Unless you want it to be a secret, be honest with your colleagues and your clients. Let them know you’re going to be traveling for a certain amount of time and that you won’t be as available as usual. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be there to handle emergencies if they come up or stay on top of your regular tasks. It lets them know that you might not be as quick to answer and that if there’s something that can wait to be addressed when you return, you’ll file it for later. This is helpful because it will keep clients and colleagues from piling on new responsibilities that aren’t urgent and they’ll most likely back off a bit on communications as well. And that’s great because you won’t be constantly digging out of emails. The bottom line - you’ll be returning soon and if you have a good relationship with the people you work with, they should be understanding and flexible to allow you to still handle things but keep it light