For most of us, it's hard to get any real work done from a cramped airplane seat or the back of a taxi. Often, the hit on your productivity is twofold: Not only do you lose work time while traveling, but a trip can also lead to longer hours afterward as you strive to catch up on missed work. The end result is less time for family, friends, and yourself when you're home.
I spend about 30 percent of my time traveling -- between Funding Circle's offices in the UK, central Europe, and San Francisco, and also across the country for meetings. Whether I am traveling or not, I need to be as productive as possible during work hours so I can be present for my family and friends in my off time.
Through trial and error, I've figured out a few ways to stay productive on the road. Here are three tips that may help you on your next journey:
1. Organize your time in advance.
Time zone changes, jet lag, and endless nights of travel can make it easy to get disorganized on the road. To combat that, the first thing I do before heading for a long business trip is prepare my schedule. This means collecting notes and prep materials and ensuring everything I'll need while traveling is in my calendar, including logistical details and meeting agendas. I also write down my priorities for the time I'll spend in transit, and try to use 100 percent of that time on those projects.
By planning your schedule in advance, you can make better use of travel time. Block time on your calendar to work on your priority projects, meetings, and breaks. Dialing into the nitty gritty -- even breaking your calendar into 15-minute increments -- and pre-determining what work to get done where can help increase your productivity on the road.
2. Take care of yourself.
Staying active is an important part of my life, and it helps keep me clear-headed when it comes to work. During business travel, it can be difficult to devote that same focus to wellness, but I find I am more on-task on the road when I continue to prioritize my health.
I find that I'm much sharper if I work out as soon as I land and also first thing in the morning, no matter what the time zone. Use your jet lag effectively -- if you can't sleep, that's a perfect opportunity to check out the hotel gym. Many hotels are adding innovative and high-end equipment, which provides a great way to try something new and get an intense workout. Alternatively, you can check out a new yoga or spin class while you're in a new town.
Finally, don't forget to drink plenty of water during the flight and on the ground, and ensure you are eating well throughout your trip. It's easy to grab a greasy burger and fries at the airport, but opting for healthier options en route will keep you more focused while you're away from home.
3. Make the most of downtime.
Business travel can involve a lot of empty time: flights without Wi-Fi (or very slow connectivity -- the bane of cross-country flights), devices with dead batteries, or gaps between meetings. Rather than seeing this time as wasted, embrace the opportunity to disconnect and use the time creatively. I do a large share of my reading when I'm on a plane.
If you have a challenge you've been unable to address, try embarking on creative thinking exercises. Grab a pen and paper and draw out your thoughts, make pros and cons lists, and sketch out solutions.
Other times, the best use of disconnected travel time is catching up on sleep or opening a new book. I don't go anywhere without my e-reader, and have found that during travel it's sometimes much more "productive" to decompress and deepen my understanding of some other aspect of the world, versus trying in vain to connect to spotty Wi-Fi and bang away at emails.
You might find that the best ideas come when you aren't so focused on coming up with brilliant ideas.