How to Get Work Done While Traveling
You may need to cram in email while on vacation. Maybe you are one of those digital nomads who are very envied and work from anywhere . Whatever your scenario, if you have to work and travel at the same time, it can be difficult to find a balance between the two. Here’s how.
Preloading your tasks
If you have a job that allows you to work ahead of time or set your own schedule, you can try to get as much done as possible before you leave. Give yourself a couple extra hours each day before you leave to work the next week. In this way, you give yourself a buffer time while you are away . Of course, if you go down this path, you also need to keep deadlines in mind and prioritize everything that needs to be done while you are away. Even when I know that I will have time to work during the trip, I try to meet the deadlines in advance, in case something comes up. Front loading is my own solution, but not perfect.
First, it’s easy to go too far with front loading. Instead of writing a couple of articles before leaving, I’ll try to squeeze in extra work for the week. This makes the week before the trip really stressful and I usually don’t finish everything I was about to do. As a result, I begin the trip feeling incomplete and constantly distracted by work.
However, you can limit the pre- load with a small time budget . Calculate how much time you will spend at work during your trip, then subtract that from your regular schedule and try to account for the difference before you leave. For example, on a recent trip home, I knew that I would probably spend 28 hours a week at work. My typical workweek is 40 hours, so I had to preload 12 hours of work. I worked full day on weekends and several hours a week to make this happen.
Book the right flight
You don’t want to cut your work or travel time due to jet lag , so choose a flight that fits your schedule. Better yet, use your flight time strategically and make sure you get some sleep or work. Here’s what the Unreasonble.is business site has to offer :
The trick is to learn how to buy plane tickets based on the time difference. For example, if I am flying from the US to London and the difference is seven hours, I have found it better to book my flight early in the morning. Then I will deprive myself of sleep until I get on the plane (i.e., I will work all night until 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning), switch off for the flight and land in the morning, ready to fly. … It’s a great way to get a ton of work done before you fly out and then feel refreshed and in the right time zone after landing. I do this for the return flight as well.
Of course, your own time frame will vary depending on the time zones of your destination, but there are several other factors you might want to take into account. First, take into account the number of hours you need to be online, if any. If your boss wants you to be at the computer, say, from 7:00 to 11:00, you can choose a flight much later than that time, or at least choose a flight with Wi-Fi. Your rush hours matter too. If you work well in the morning, you may not want to pick a flight that arrives at 9:00 am, because the next few hours you will spend getting out of the airport and getting to your destination when you have the opportunity to be productive.
In summary, since your time is already stretched between work and travel, think about a strategy for the flights you book and what you try to do when you are on board.
Let people know you are traveling
Even when I know someone is working while traveling, I always appreciate the out of office response, which reminds me that I may not get a quick response, or tells me when I get a response.
As with any out-of-office response, you can specify the hours when you will be available, how quickly someone can wait for a response, and when you will return to the office. In any case, it helps people understand why you are hesitant to answer, even if you are not technically on vacation.
It also limits your workload. If people know you are absent, they are likely to be less likely to attack you, and you will also feel less pressure to respond immediately. This way, you can finish your job and head out to explore the city without the distraction of a ton of email time . You may recognize this letter on your flight home.
Set some boundaries
Our own Stephanie Lee has traveled and worked for months at the same time, and she said it was very important to set boundaries . Stephanie said she made a schedule where she would work until noon and then go out and research. She gave herself one day to do whatever she wanted. During the week she was tempted to break her schedule, she reminded herself that she had one day to explore as she pleased.
When you’re in a new place, it’s tempting to forget about your job and just go exploring. On the other hand, you can also work so hard that you never have time to enjoy the journey. When you stick to your schedule, you get the best of both worlds. Of course, many unexpected things can happen while traveling: you get lost on public transport and take an hour to get back to your hotel. Your old college friend finds out you’re in town and wants to have a beer. Allocate some of this time into your schedule so that even if you miss a couple of hours, you still have time to work.
Take the tools you need with you
On a recent trip, my laptop’s Wi-Fi kept working on certain public networks and I wasted an incredible amount of time trying to fix it. Obviously, this was cutting my working hours, not to mention that it frustrated me.
However, it was a good reminder that the right tools can make your life a lot easier if you are traveling and working at the same time. For instance:
- A mobile hotspot (if you don’t want to use your phone for a modem ) so you can go online anywhere.
- Mobile batteries in case your phone dies while you’re on the go.
- Cable shorteners so you don’t have to dig through the clutter of headphones and chargers.
- A grid for neatly organizing all your tools.
There is no shortage of travel gadgets and your own needs will vary, but these are some general tools that will make life easier for almost everyone who has to work while traveling.
Take advantage of downtime
You want to optimize your travel time as much as possible so you can get your job done and then enjoy your vacation. For example, you can:
- Receive emails while you are on the subway or train.
- If you are traveling with someone else, complete some business while they prepare.
- Receive calls as you walk from your hotel to the nearest attraction.
At the same time, don’t go too far. Last year, while traveling with my partner, he complained that I was constantly on the phone, doing work when we had any downtime – standing in line at a restaurant, returning to a hotel, etc. He was right – this is it was not only rude. I was not fully present and enjoyed the trip. Again, this helps establish some boundaries before leaving. Decide what counts as “downtime” and decide what work you need to do. If you are traveling with someone else, inform them of these rules in advance so they will be ready too.
Finally, my favorite way to work and enjoy travel at the same time is to work outside of my hotel room. It’s easy to take cover with room service and wiring, or head downstairs and work from the business center. However, when you head to your local coffee shop or bar, you usually get a better feel for the city. You are still doing your job, but at the same time you are exploring a new place. It can be difficult to balance both activities at first, but with a little planning it is fairly easy to combine work and travel with travel.