Sometimes you need to read or write some email during vacation. Perhaps you’re one of those tremendously envied digital nomads and work from any place you roam. Whatever your situation is, if you need to work and travel in the meantime, it can be a test to adjust both. Here is how to do that.
Front-Load Your Tasks
If you have a job that permits you to work ahead of time or set your own particular calendar, you can attempt to complete however much as could reasonably be expected before you clear out. Give yourself several additional hours every day the prior week you leave to do the next week’s work. Along these lines, you give yourself buffer time while you’re away.
Obviously, if you go this route, you likewise need to be aware of due dates and organize anything that is expected while you’re away. Even when I know I’ll have sufficient energy to work while traveling, I attempt to complete my due dates ahead of time, if something appears. Front-stacking is my own particular go-to arrangement, yet it’s not great.
For one, it’s easy to take your front-loading too far. Instead of writing an article or two before I leave, I’ll try to cram in a week’s worth of extra work. This makes for a really stressful week leading up to the trip, and I usually don’t finish everything I set out to do. As a result, I start my trip feeling unaccomplished and constantly distracted by work.
You can limit your front-loading with a little time-budgeting, though. Calculate how much time you’ll spend working during your trip, then subtract that from your normal schedule and try to squeeze in the difference before you leave. For example, during a recent trip back home, I knew I’d probably spend 28 hours that week working. My typical work week is 40, so I had to front-load 12 hours’ worth of work. I worked a full day over the weekend and a few hours during the week to make it happen.
Book the Right Flight
You don’t want jet lag to cut into your work or travel time, so pick a flight that works well with your schedule. Even better, use your flight time strategically and catch up on sleep or work.
Of course, your own time frames are going to vary depending on your destination time zones, but there are a couple of other factors you might want to consider. For one, consider the hours you’re required to be online, if any. If your boss needs you to be at your computer from, say, 7:00-11:00 a.m. you may want to choose a flight well after that time or at least pick a flight with Wi-Fi. Your peak hours matter, too. If you work well in the morning, you may not want to pick a flight that lands at 9:00 a.m. because you’ll spend the next few hours getting out of an airport and to your destination when you could be productive.
Bottom line, since your time is already stretched thin between work and travel, be strategic about the flights you book, and what you try to do when you’re on board.
Let People Know You’re Traveling
Even when I know someone is working while they travel, I always appreciate an out of office reply that reminds me that I might not get a quick response, or lets me know when I will get a response.
Like any other out of office reply, you might include the hours when you’ll be available, how quickly someone can expect a response, and when you’ll be back in the office. Either way, it helps people know why you might be slow to reply even if you’re not technically on vacation.
It limits your workload, too. If people know you’re away, they’re probably less likely to bombard you and you’ll also feel less pressure to reply immediately. This way, you can get your work done and go out and explore without being distracted by the time-sink of email. You can catch up on that email during your flight home.
Set Some Boundaries
When you’re in a new place, it’s tempting to forget your work and just go explore. On the other hand, you can also work so much that you never take time to enjoy your travel, either. When you stick to a schedule, you get the best of both worlds. Of course, a lot of unexpected things can come up when you travel: you get lost on public transportation and spend an hour getting back to your hotel. Your old friend from college finds out you’re in town and wants to grab a beer. Buffer some of this time into your schedule so that, even when you miss out on a couple of hours, you still get stuff done.
Bring the Tools You Need
During a recent trip, my laptop’s Wi-Fi kept acting up on certain public networks, and I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to fix it. Obviously, this cut into my work time, not to mention it was frustrating.
It was, however, a good reminder that the right tools can make your life a lot easier when you travel and work at the same time. For example:
1. A mobile hotspot (unless you want to use your phone for tethering) so you can get online anywhere.
2. Mobile battery packs in case your phone dies while you’re on the go.
3. Cable shorteners so you don’t have to dig around and untangle a mess of headphones and chargers.
4. A Grid-It to neatly organize all of your tools.
These are some general tools that will make life easier for just about anyone who has to work while they travel.
Take Advantage of Downtime
You want to optimize your time as much as possible when you’re traveling so you can get your work done and then enjoy your downtime. For example, you might:
- Catch up on your emails while you’re on the subway or train.
- If you’re traveling with someone else, finish up some tasks while they’re getting ready.
- Take calls while you’re walking from your hotel to a nearby attraction.