— April 24, 2019
Like many others, I spend a significant portion of my time, over 50 percent, on the road traveling to other offices, seeing clients and attending events. We’re in an age where executives are increasingly expected to maintain a presence across multiple markets and must create an office environment wherever they are, be it the airport or a meeting room. And while open office formats come with their own challenges, as I’ve previously discussed, working remotely presents unique challenges as well.
We know that technology has given us a connected workplace that enables autonomy and the ability to work productively from anywhere. Yet, in reality, mobile employees are battling foreign and disruptive working environments. While they may be well intentioned to maintain maximum productivity on the road, distractions and unfamiliar surroundings can get in the way. I encountered these challenges early in my career, and as my travel time has only increased, I’ve had to find ways to adapt my behavior and make the most of my mobile hours. Here are my recommendations for maintaining productivity and making the most out of a work trip.
Change your mindset
I used to see travel as something that either interrupted work or was an added layer on top of my actual job. It took me a while to understand how much this mindset was hindering me. It’s better to view “work” as an activity rather than a location. If you limit work to your physical office, then travel is going to severely affect your productivity. Instead, focus on how you can continue your work rhythm throughout travel.
Plan and prioritize your tasks ahead of travel
As you’d prioritize any other tasks, look at your calendar ahead of any trip and cover some basic prep for it. I always wrap up any pending tasks before I leave, and make sure that anything that needs delegating in order to continue is done. This is what’s proven most effective for my sense of routine maintenance while on the road and is the best way to avoid pile-ups.
Show up the right way
When I first began flying frequently, I thought that the most effective way through an airport was to arrive as late as possible, hurtle through security and make it onto my flight. That way I would be offline for as limited a time as possible. The problem with this is that it still takes up a lot of time, and the gaps you might buy yourself are never enough to do any work. I started to arrive much earlier, giving myself 45-minute windows to work at the gate. It removed a heap of stress and I could block off solid work time.
What to include in your carry-on
Turning an airport into an office does require a few tools. I always make sure I pack a battery pack or two, universal adapters and wireless Bluetooth headphones to take calls while on the move. Making sure key projects are accessible via cloud-based collaboration platforms is also incredibly helpful in staying on top of work while out of the office.
Leverage the flow of travel to your advantage
Those 45 minutes when I’m at the gate? Perfect to hammer out a batch of mail replies before I go offline. The quiet hours during the flight allow me to focus on presentation slides without interruption. The commute I make on touchdown; I can always dial in some calls over a cab ride. Yes, travel is abrasive to your routine, but plan projects for the skies that are actually bettered by your being able to focus on them for a stretch of time or suited to quicker bursts and lower mental energy.
At the end of the day, travel throws random things at you, and so your resilience and reactions to the unexpected also count. While these tips have helped me stay productive on the road, it’s still important to find time for rest during and after a trip.
I always go for a run to explore a new city I’m in, or just clear my head and get some fresh air. Your version could be going on a tour, catching a movie or simply taking yourself out for a dinner. Traveling for work is tiring, but it is also a privilege, and setting aside that time will always make sure you’re reminded of it in the little ways.
Originally published here.