One of the biggest appeals to travel is the ability to lose yourself in the moment. You open yourself to new experiences, which in turn sharpen the senses and brings new ways of thinking and feeling … in short, it makes us feel alive. Nowadays travel has become a year-round possibility, and is no longer limited to a two-week official vacation where we can check out each year. So how do we travel, in search of freedom and forgetting, while taking our virtual work desk with us?
As we take advantage of the new facilities of travel, the unknown aspects of work – how, when and where we will do it – often become extra mental stress. We may pack all our work tools and a detailed to-do list, but often find that intention does not equal execution. Tasks at hand get pushed forward each day, creating a work backlog, and the projected 30-hour workweek easily becomes a 20-hour week once unknowns are factored in. So how can we keep the spontaneity of travel while not jeopardizing our future? These straightforward working-while- traveling tips can add ease to the journey and help accomplish tasks at hand.
Before you travel
As your travel day approaches, make sure you do you prep work. Even though it may be tempting, don’t over-cram before going. Plan to accomplish extra projects before you leave, especially if you have long travel times, but don’t overdo it, as it’s likely you won’t finish it all and this can cause extra stress.
Travel time can eat into working hours, especially for the constant traveler. When booking flights, research which airlines and trains offer wifi. Add a 45 min padding between layovers, or half hour stops between your commute. These time slots give just enough time to focus, begin and close your work session before new travel distractions set in. Always pack back-up work tools, like an extra battery and car charger. Unproductive downtime because of a dead battery is frustrating, as it will take away from exploring time when you reach your destination. An iPad with a keyboard cover can come in handy for written tasks on the go when pulling out the laptop is too bulky.
Anticipating different time zones is helpful if you have to hit the ground running. For places with a time difference greater than 7 hours, it may be wise start getting ahead of the jet lag. You can do this by booking a morning flight that arrives the next morning. Use the night before the flight to work through the night, so you can sleep on the flight and arrived rested and already on the right time zone, eliminating the pain of the groggy conference call when you’ve just landed.
If you communicate with people across different time zones, schedule “set” working hours for yourself when you know the majority of your colleagues or clients will be available. Making yourself available at the same time each day increases confidence and trust that you are accessible. If you set your working hours between 6am-2pm each day, make sure you really do switch off at 2pm and make the time to get out and explore. Respecting your own playtime will increase your motivation for when you are back at the “desk”.
One of the reasons we travel is to switch up the routine. However, our routines are usually based around an infrastructure built for productivity. Slow travel goes hand in hand with this ethos, as it allows you to settle into a new place, establish your own work rhythm and tools and maximize the output before breaking the routine and setting off again. One week per location is the minimum time stay to establish a good workflow, and one month per location would be optimal for getting into your work pattern and also to more deeply discover your new environment. Communal work spaces are available in most urban centers, and they provide peace of mind when it comes to connectivity, printing facilities and a calm work environment. Organize your work tasks by focus or connectivity needs … some tasks need more uninterrupted focus, and designated workspaces help achieve this. Less-intensive tasks can be done at the local coffee shop for a change of scenery, but make sure to pack headphones as traffic and children are usual deterrents.
Most importantly don’t let guilt or stress detract from the pleasure of your experience. If you find that one day didn’t pan out as planned, let it go and adapt the following day to compensate for lost hours. As long as you keep a level head and check your tasks daily, you will be able to maintain a high level of productivity while being on the road.