Most businesses in this day and age are truly global, and this can be somewhat of a double edged sword. Although experiencing new cultures and travelling the world can sound exciting, the reality of business travel is often rather more mundane – you’re likely to see more of the inside of anonymous conference centres and hotels than you are of your destination in a lot of cases.
As business travel becomes more routine, so more and more of us find ourselves trying to work on the go – in locations far removed from our usual office environments. Remote work may conjure up images of sitting on some far-flung, tropical beach with a cocktail in one hand and a laptop in the other, but it doesn’t just encompass that – or working from home, your local Starbucks or an enterprise hub – often it can mean working during the act of travelling.
By its very nature, the act of travelling can be quite fraught – navigating different modes of transport, dealing with busy, crowded public spaces and then the often uncomfortable conditions of the plane itself. Within that environment, it can be very hard to get work done, but for many of us, that’s exactly what has to happen. So how do you stay productive in transit? Is it possible to get anything meaningful done while you’re in the air or based at an airport? It turns out there are some tips and tricks that can help you stay working even when you’re in motion.
Preparation Is Key
Like a lot of things with travel, the key to in transit productivity is simple – preparation. If you don’t come with the right equipment, then you’re preparing to fail. They key is being able to pack everything you need in a light and travel-friendly format. Get yourself a business travel rucksack to start with. These are both lightweight but sturdy and generally contain padded sections designed to house a laptop or tablet securely. Charger leads and a travel adaptive plug are also essential, because running out of power on the go will immediately put a halt to your activities. Even though you have a charger, it’s also a good idea to take a travel powerbank with you too – just in case you can’t locate any power outlets at the airport, or they’re all taken, or there is a problem with your charger. It may just buy you the time you need if your battery starts running low in flight as well. Another essential on-the-go productivity tool is a mobile hotspot, so you can access the Internet wherever you are. Don’t consider using public guest access WiFi at the airport – not only are these networks famously insecure and prone to scammers, but they can also be unbearably slow and are completely unsuitable for carrying out any kind of serious work. Here’s where spending a little can really pay off – it saves you a huge amount of time and frustration to have a reliable internet connection. You can use it during the transfer, in the back of your Uber or on a train as well – basically anywhere that you can get a signal. Other useful things to pack include an old school notebook and pen, so you can jot down thoughts and information quickly, a sachet of
Rehydration salts – dehydration is a productivity killer, and also inevitable on a flight, so use these to counteract it, and a sleep mask and neck pillow if you’re flying long haul so that you can grab some rest – being tired means you won’t be working effectively during the rest of your flight.
Schedule Your Work In
So, you have all the kit to be productive at the airport or on the plane, but that still doesn’t mean that you actually will be. Just as you would plan out your day in the office, try creating a schedule for your day of travel. Factoring in all the essential bits like getting through airport security or travelling to the airport means that you can identify the other chunks of your day where you’ll have the capacity to work – your available working time, even during travel. Use a scheduling app to assign tasks to this available working time and factor in breaks as well. Once you have this information, it’s easier to work out what you will realistically be able to accomplish during the day and give yourself a to-do list that you can actually complete. Plus, if you know exactly what you are supposed to be working on, it’s easier to get to it and not give in to the procrastination of browsing Duty Free instead! You’ll also be able to make sure that you have downloaded or hard copies of all the materials you might need to get the project done, just in case there is a problem with WiFi. For example, if you have a multi-leg journey, and you know that you’re going to have a two hour stay at the airport, allocate about an hour and thirty minutes of that as working time. Pick a maximum of three projects to focus on in that window of time., and put them into your calendar as tasks. When travelling you often end up with awkward small blocks of time like this, and if you aren’t rigorous about assigning them an achievable task, you’ll more than likely just end up wasting them. Planning is the way to make them count.
Minimize Your Distractions
Distractions are a problem no matter where you are, but noisy, crowded public spaces are one of the worst culprits if you’re trying to deep dive on that report or word an important email. While you can’t escape the crowds entirely, you can make life a little easier. If you have a longer wait at an airport, it’s definitely worth paying the fee for the club lounge. Many are now owned by airports themselves and can be accessed for a fee, or you may find that the airline you’re travelling with has one. If you fly with work frequently, it’s definitely worth looking into an annual pass if one is available. It means that you have access to food and drinks without wasting time queuing up in the airport terminal for ages, there are usually plenty of power outlets to charge up your electronics and a quiet atmosphere where you can focus and get some work done. However, if the cost of a lounge pass is too much, there are other things you can do to grab a little peace and power through that presentation. Sites like Foursquare are often great sources of information to locate the best place to work in an airport. You can work out where is the quietest spot, where there is WiFi if you need it, how many power outlets there are and whether you can get a decent cup of coffee! Investing in a pair of noise cancelling headphones can also help you to block out the world and power through in the main airport and during your flight as well.
If you’re making the mistake of seeing all the hours you spend in the air as the ideal time to get to grips with some serious work, then you may well be mistaken. Although you are a captive audience and things are relatively quieter, there are a few factors which will make taking on a complex task in flight a little trickier than you may have anticipated. Firstly, the act of travelling itself and the fact that you’re likely to have had an early start means that your energy is likely to be depleted. Secondly, at high altitudes, the change in oxygen level and the dehydrating effects of flying means that your mental state is usually not at peak capacity. It’s better to try and get the serious work done while you’re on the ground, and then store up some less challenging, lighter tasks for after take off. You could write out some email responses and line them up ready to email to fax when you land., or take the opportunity to clear up your hard drive. It’s also a great idea to use the time for development – reading that management tome or those articles and newsletters you’ve had bookmarked for a while and have never had a chance to get round to. Or do some free thinking and mind mapping while you’re out of the office and away from incessant distractions. Make sure to allow some time just to rest and kick back too – you may be straight into meetings or a formal dinner when you arrive at your destination, so you’ll need some time to relax and recharge your batteries. If you want to stay productive, it’s a good idea to avoid consuming any alcohol during the flight as well. It enhances the dehydrating effect of flying and reduces you mood and mental state, so refuel with plenty of water and juices instead to be more focused and energised during the flight. Remember to take a few walks up and down the aisle to stretch out during your journey too and keep your blood flow going. If you’ve taken a small amenities bag on board the plane, you should be able to pop into the toilet and freshen up before landing – some eye drops, a spray of deodorant and some mouthwash will allow you to come off your flight feeling good and ready to continue your working day.
With a little bit of planning, you can be productive on business travel and also enjoy your flight.