All that time you spend waiting for your flight, sitting on the plane, and commuting to your hotel can be productive time instead of wasted time. You just need to develop a strategy and create the proper mindset. Here are some tips to help you stay productive while traveling.
Plan ahead. You may be geared up to empty your inbox, but if your laptop’s not charged, you aren’t going to make much headway. Be sure to download any documents you need before you leave in order to accomplish a task you’ve relegated to be completed en route. This eliminates the need for wifi or using your mobile hotspot.
Use the time you have wisely. If you’re in a crowded gate or you have a limited amount of time, now is not the time to read through correspondence or memos that require your full attention. Choose some B-level items to check off your to-do list, like those articles you’ve meant to skim for the last six months, and you’ll actually be more effective than if you try to tackle something that requires serious time and concentration.
Determine to focus. Yes, distractions are hard to tune out, but if you put yourself in that mindset, you can do it. Soon, you’ll find they’re calling your flight and you have more things accomplished — and time flew by — because you were able to shut out the distractions.
Perhaps the trickiest part of business travel is getting the work that is generated from that travel done while you’re not in the office. Here are some ways to keep your productivity at its peak even though you’re not sitting at your desk.
You may not think this first tip is an effective use of time, but we think it can be a game changer. Creating a strategy for completing the work you need to do before you dive in will give you a guide to keep you on task and on track once you hit the ground. Using your travel time to get organized may be the most helpful thing you can do to make the best use of your time once you arrive.
Once you’ve formulated your strategy, organize your devices by decluttering your inbox by listening to voicemail messages, deleting junk emails, filing documents into folders, and clearing out old emails that you don’t need any more. Plowing through the plethora of unorganized details will translate into increased productivity when the real work begins.
Get your own hotspot. Don’t depend on the wifi at the airport or the hotel. Carriers have these portable devices, or your smartphone may have an integrated hotspot mode as part of their service. These provide truly high speed internet access on the go. For a monthly fee, which you may be able to expense, you have the peace of mind that you’ll have the internet you need to do your work anywhere, anytime. Plus it’s a lot more secure than public wifi.
Most of us file travel days in the “lost” category, thanks to the amount of time squandered getting where we have to go. With the fast pace of business, you really can’t afford to lose days to travel. Here are some suggestions for how to make the most of your time while you’re traveling.
First of all, be smart in how you book your travel. Even if your company has someone responsible for arranging itineraries, it’s worth the extra time to investigate the best options and communicate them to your travel arranger. Don’t let that investigation become a time sink, though. It’s not worth saving $50 if it takes an hour of your billable time to find that savings. Time is money, and your time per hour needs to be invested wisely each day.
Commit to getting to your departure gate at least 45 minutes before boarding begins. This will give you time to check email and stay on top of whatever needs your attention before you’re unavailable for 2 – 4 hours. Running your timeline right to the wire — and showing up to the airport at the last possible minute — creates stress, which makes you less productive. Organize your time so you can have time to be useful to those who need to hear from you.
These working vacations we’re so fond of, these take-your-laptop-to-check-email vacations we take with the family, may be harming our overall performance on the job.
A recent article by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) discusses the need for workers to take quality time off from their jobs.
These days, many folks cart laptops or at least smartphones with them and stay in touch during the entirety of their time “away” from the office. While this can be necessary at times, it can also lead to burn out and feelings that their vacation wasn’t truly a vacation.Time off is something that supports employee buoyancy; the ability to bounce back easily from stressors. Buoyancy is something every employer should encourage because an office filled with stressed out, grumpy employees with no tolerance for stress creates even more stress for everyone.
“True time off” can be taken if the employee plans ahead of time. Amy Fox, the article’s author, says that her company lays out a timeline for employees before time off that includes planning for who will cover, and talking with clients about what will happen during the vacation. She says that she encourages employees never to use the phrase, “if you need to reach me.”
At TravelPro, we like to encourage everyone to take real time off and not do any work at all. While I don’t do any work while I’m away, I do like to go through my email once a day to make sure I don’t have a jammed inbox when I get back.
It’s even possible to extend vacations because of the capability to take care of simpler tasks on the go and leave very important tasks until you’re back in the office. Since many of us can work anywhere, why not spend a few weeks out of the office working from an Airbnb or vacation rental?
How do you spend your vacations? Do you shut everything off completely, or do you cheat and work while you’re gone?
Leave your favorite practices in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.
Many people avoid taking vacations for one simple reason: they’re nervous that while they’re away, things will fall to pieces back at the office. (You know, because the whole business will shut down if we’re not there. Never mind the 12 years it was in existence before we ever showed up.)
The fact is, we all need some time away, especially in today’s ever-connected world. Vacations are not just important for your mental, physical and emotional health, they’re also important for your work performance. Just a few days away from work, emails and phone calls can help you become more passionate about your work again.
So, when you take time off from the office, truly take time off. No work, no answering emails in the mornings, no fiddling with your phone over lunch. Your boss doesn’t let you take a nap in the middle of the day, so why are you working when you’re on vacation?
Next time you’re planning a long vacation, use these tips to avoid work stacking up while you’re away.
1. Plan early
While your HR department or manager may only request two weeks’ notice, you’ll ideally want to notify your manager or colleagues a few months ahead of time. This will give everyone time to adjust to your absence and plan appropriate coverage for your work.
2. Get coverage
Depending on your job, there are likely certain things that simply can’t be ignored while you’re away. Since you’ve already informed your colleagues of your absence ahead of time, you’ll want to make a list of things you’ll need help with while you’re away. Many times, people are happy to pitch in, knowing that you’ll do the same when they need a break. Just don’t forget to bring them a souvenir.
3. Work ahead
Allison Carter of Roundpeg in Indianapolis (and the inspiration for this post) took a two week trip to Egypt, and spent two months working ahead to prepare:
I knew what my baseline work was, what was owed to retainer clients, and what I could plan for. So every week, I wrote an extra blog post or two to hold in reserve, saved a few more tweets to be scheduled. That way, I wasn’t scrambling in the week before I left to finish two weeks worth of work.
Although that may seem extreme, working ahead for a few weeks (or a few months.) will keep you from stressing yourself out pre-vacation.
4. Give clients plenty of notice
In Allison’s case, she began notifying her clients of her absence a month in advance, then sent them a final reminder one week before with contact information for a fellow colleague. “This way,” she said, “there were no nasty surprises when a client realized I was gone, and the transition was smooth for them.”
5. Stay on top of your inbox
If your email inbox tends to fill up fast, you may want to log in and do a bit of cleaning while you’re away. Don’t respond to messages or start reading too thoroughly – just log in and quickly delete any junk you don’t need. If you spot anything important, flag it so you know what to tackle first upon your return.
The last step? Enjoy your vacation, and remember to truly unplug. This may feel unnatural and difficult, but remind yourself that this is your opportunity to unwind and invest in your personal health.