Working While Traveling: How to Find a Happy Balance

Some jobs and bosses can’t quite wrap their collective heads around the concept of vacation time. You may be out of the office on business or burning up your precious stock of days off, but sometimes the expectation to work while traveling persists. After all, the workplace “fires” won’t put themselves out.

For better or for worse, the Internet has rendered even the dingiest park bench an ad-hoc workspace. But productivity isn’t as simple as securing a high-speed Internet connection. Bottomless mixed nuts be damned, your hotel’s lobby bar is not conducive to getting things done.

Working while traveling is an art form in and of itself. It takes determination, planning, and focus. Today, we’re going to open up the traveling worker’s toolbox and examine their most useful tools.

Plan Ahead

“It’s about working smart, not working hard,” said every old man ever. The age-old axiom holds especially true when you’re out of your comfort zone. Working smart on the road begins and ends with planning ahead.

When you’re on the road, every second spent searching for a coffee shop or trying to connect to the Internet is a second wasted. Book a hotel room close to a suitable workspace, ensure desk availability and Internet connectivity, purchase a long-distance phone plan, and, for heaven’s sake, pack your laptop charger.

Arming yourself with your essential workplace tools is everything. So, make a list a few days in advance and work towards crossing them all off.

Maximize Your Downtime

Out of office efficiency is all about maximizing your downtime. Instead of aimlessly scrolling through social media feeds or catching up on Netflix while in-transit, use that time to catch up or get ahead on your current projects. The same thing holds true whether you’re waiting at the bus stop or stuck in the back seat of a taxicab during rush hour.

The back seat of an Uber is far from a nurturing workplace environment, but you’ll just have to make do. Five-minutes of work here and 10-minutes of work there may not seem like a lot, but it all adds up. The more work that you do in-transit, the quicker you’ll be able to shut your laptop and be done for the day.

Get It Out of the Way

The longer you put off doing your work, the harder it is to muster up the courage to get it done.

Get your work over with as soon as you possibly can. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to put it off entirely. Plus, getting your work out of the way quickly will free your mind of the emotional burden of lingering deadlines. You’ll feel better having completed your work in a timely manner. You’ll also be reinvigorated with a well-earned sense of accomplishment.

Wake up, sip a coffee, and plug in until it’s done. You’ll thank me when you’re enjoying a guilt-free patio cocktail at 2 p.m.

Save As Much “Normal” As Possible

There are a lot of traveling businesspeople that welcome the never-ending flux of new and interesting office spaces. Most of us, though, prefer a regular routine. Sure, there’s nothing sexy about alarm clocks and day planners, but routines help keep us productive. The lack of routine is part of the reason why most of us have trouble getting anything done when we’re out and about.

There are things that you can do to maintain your routine while on the road. Visit the hotel gym, maintain your regular sleeping schedule, and eat at your regularly planned times. Personally, I like to grab an item from my desk at home and prop it up on the one in my hotel room to help recreate the at-home office atmosphere.

It may be difficult, but nobody said it was going to be easy. Do your best to maintain your regular routine to the best of your ability.

Know When to Stop

Many often feel the need to work harder, longer, and faster than normal while out on the road. The overcompensation is typically caused by our need to validate our treasured out of office time to the higher-ups. It may sound counterintuitive, but I implore you to fight that urge.

Sure, you may muster up the extra energy to squeeze some extra productivity out of your initial few days. However, the burnout that follows can do serious damage to the remainder of your week.

Productivity is all about consistency. It’s important to know how much you can handle on a day-to-day basis. Knowing when to stop and actually stopping will pay off with a more consistent output over time.

Invest in Noise-Canceling Headphones

Some distractions require a technological safeguard. Noise-canceling headphones keep the transient worker’s world spinning. With noise-canceling headphones and a little background music, you can drown out even the busiest airport departure terminal.

They don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to be comfortable. You’ll want to have a set that you can conceivably wear for long stretches of time. Sure, they can get a little expensive. But, if you find yourself on the road on the regular, noise-canceling headphones tend to pay for themselves in productivity.

Book a Temporary Workspace

If you’ve already struck out at the local coffee shop, park bench, and hotel lobby bar or you’re just looking for access to a working photocopier, I suggest researching local co-op workspaces in whatever city you’re planning on staying in.

These days, most large urban centers have office buildings that rent out workspaces by the day, week, and month. For a modest fee, co-op workspaces will grant you access to a photocopier, Wi-Fi, office phone, lunchroom, and sometimes even a gym.

Some people just can’t work in a distraction-laden public area. But, with the advent of rentable, co-op workspaces, thankfully they don’t have to.

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