Travel is synonymous with vacation, right?

You lay out what you are going to wear.  You grab your toiletry bag and zip locks bags so you don’t have that shampoo fiasco…again. As you run down your pre-departure to-do list, you check your travel details (flight information if you are flying, map and directions if you are driving).  You grab your laptop, all the papers you need, and make sure you place your “Out of Office” auto-responder and voice message.  You are ready to go!

Seriously, how is this different from a vacation?

Many find that while being away from their desk/office, they become more relaxed and lose that sense of urgency.  Between delays, obstacles, and regular distractions – you may find yourself starting task later, deadlines looming closer, less frequent responses to emails, and less desire to want to do anything – let along work.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be productive while traveling.

The first step is making sure your accommodations will meet your needs.  Check with your hotel (or the location where you will be staying) and ensure they have wifi (or Ethernet) with good to excellent connection speed (no need to add additional stress because it takes 20 minutes to load a web page).

Next, get organized and plan your time.  Just because you are traveling doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy being away – the challenge is finding a balance.

When getting organized, determine the best way to manage your schedule.  Is it only available in one location (your smartphone, laptop, desktop, or that antique paper planner we have heard about in myths and legends?)  Make sure all of your devices are synced – this way if someone in your office needs to place something on your calendar, remove an event, change a date, or provide additional details, but cannot contact you directly (your phone may be turned off or without signal while traveling) – the updates can be made and once your device can sync – they will be available at your fingertips.

What about a portable to-do list, task manager, or notepad?

The chief complaint I hear is that when returning from traveling, that piece of paper with that amazing contact has disappeared or you were in such a rush to jot down notes that you can’t read your own handwriting.  There are an assortment of programs on the market (mostly free) that will allow you to have a “cloud” to-do list, task manager, and notepad – all wrapped up in one.  This way, you would be able to jot something down, when it is still fresh in your mind, on your smartphone (or laptop) and it will sync to all of your electronic devices so if one goes missing – something else still has the information available to you!

Now that we have that out the way – what about your own personal distractions?

Do you find yourself surfing the web more often now that you are away from the office?  It’s ok to take breaks and surf the web but schedule your breaks – this way, you can stay focused during designated “work time” and still know you are allowing yourself to have “personal” time.

Above all else, the biggest thing is finding your focus.  You know yourself better than anyone else.  If you know you need to unpack first or it will bug you the entire time you are trying to respond to emails – unpack!  If the slightest noise causes you to lose your focus, bring instrumental music (non-lyrical music) to play in the background.  Setup your work area and decide your workflow – when is the best time to work, how much work do you want to get done each day, do you have everything you need to be productive (snack, office supplies, equipment, etc).  Decide when you want to schedule breaks, meals, and, most importantly, the time you want to end the work portion of your day.