5 Tips for Working While Traveling

Maximize your productivity when plugging in away from the office.

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Rebecca Thorman
Rebecca Thorman
Working while traveling, whether you're on a business trip or trying to sneak in a bit of work while on vacation, can be incredibly productive and focused. Without office or home distractions, your efficiency can often go into overdrive. Here are five tips to maximize your productivity while traveling:

1. Package your tasks. Plan for specific times, like waiting to board, in-flight and hotel meals with specific activities. Bring your iPad, a notebook and pen plus your laptop, and be prepared with each depending on where you are in your journey. Electronic devices not allowed? Catch up on the latest business book in hard-copy. Or use your notepad to outline a proposal. Eating dinner alone at the hotel? Open your laptop and clear your emails. Have a list of pre-defined tasks you know you're going to complete. Using those in-between travel periods effectively to ensure you don't feel behind upon returning home.

2. Plan for no Wi-Fi and no power. While Internet access is available from your boarding gate to the sandwich shop these days, it is often spotty and unreliable. Plan for those moments of being offline; if you typically work in Google Docs, save a few key documents on your desktop in Microsoft Word, or ensure your favorite apps, like Evernote, have the offline feature turned on. In addition, it's important to keep your devices as fully charged as possible. Use those precious moments where you see a power outlet wisely; you don't want to get stuck with the dreaded black screen.

3. Research work and food spots. Use Yelp or Google to find the best local restaurants and coffee shops ahead of time; the worst place to set up shop is the hotel bar. Find places that are within walking distance, and use the opportunity to get some exercise. Look for free Wi-Fi in the reviews; most restaurants will allow you to work for a couple hours if you ask your server nicely. Try researching the nutrition facts of the menu too. It's easy to overeat and feel gluttonous and tired when traveling, but a few additions and subtractions to your order ("no cheese and extra tomatoes and cucumbers, please"), can keep you healthy and energized.

4. Don't try to do everything. You won't be able to sneak in a bit of sightseeing, attend to your inbox, go to the fitness center and prepare for your business meetings in two days, so make sure to prioritize. Ignore stuff that isn't important, like low-priority emails, and know that you can catch up on those items when you return. Focus on the reason for your trip – for instance, closing that important deal – and be kind to yourself if you don't mark anything else off on your list.

5. Stand, stretch and stroll. While travel moves us from one place to another, too often we sit during the journey. Take every opportunity to stand and stretch your muscles. Stroll back and forth while you take that phone meeting, and move your body. Take five minutes to meditate in the taxicab, or before you open the hotel curtains in the morning. Throw a towel on the floor and do some quick yoga moves too. Roll your neck from one side to the other to loosen those awkward kinks from contorting your body on the plane. Pay careful attention to your body; a few minutes throughout the day can save you a lot of pain for the rest of the week.

Being present during travel will help your productivity in spades. Take a few moments before you leave and during your trip to consciously plan an effective trip – for your job and for your well-being.

Rebecca Thorman's weekly blog Kontrary offers tips to create the career, bank account, and life you love, and is a popular destination for young professionals. Her goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. She writes from Washington, D.C.