A big part of my work is speaking about what I do and running workshops around the globe: training Web designers and developers to master skills for their jobs. This also means that travelling is a large part of my work. Given the nature of my role as a Web developer, all I usually need to get work done is my laptop and a Wi-Fi connection. I can build and write under these conditions fairly comfortably.
As a matter of fact, I’m writing this article on my way back from a conference in Barcelona where I gave a talk and ran a workshop two days ago. Knomo asked me to write an article including some travel productivity tips that I acquired from and during my travels. Some of this stuff is the result of lessons learned the hard way.
Here are my four top tips:
1) Invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones
I love working in public places. And since I’m frequently flying somewhere for a conference, I find myself working in airports and airplanes quite a lot.
This may sound familiar to you too. I quite enjoy getting work done while I wait for my plane to board. However, if there’s one thing I hate about airports, it’s the noise. Ever been working in a public space, getting work done and enjoying a few hours of productivity when suddenly a pair of chatty people come and sit next to you? Maybe you picked that spot out because it has that one working electric plug that everyone else was trying to occupy, so you don’t really want to move anywhere but you also can’t get any work done with all the noise and chatter around you? So now you feel stuck and you start getting distracted and suddenly start to lose your focus and can’t get any more work done. I can’t count the times I’ve been in a situation like that. Maybe you’ve faced a similar situation in a coffee shop or in an airplane. Moments like these bring my productivity down all the way to zero. And it’s these situations that made me appreciate noise-cancelling headphones the most.
Put those headphones on, play some classical music or, if you’re like me and prefer the quiet, play some white noise using an app like Noisli, and you’re back on track, in your own little mind cubicle.
These headphones are invaluable. Getting a good pair is not particularly cheap so you may want to put some extra money into them. I believe the productivity, work, and even sleep you can get from using them makes them well worth the investment.
2) Sign up for your airlines’ clubs and memberships
If you’re reading this then chances are that you also travel a lot. Don’t let your frequent flyer points go to waste. Collect them, if you don’t already, sign up for a membership with whatever airline(s) you fly with the most, and move up the tiers with every flight.
At some point, you’ll level up to gain access to airport VIP lounges. These lounges are fantastic. Free food, free drinks and snacks, free Wi-Fi, electric plugs, and even showers are only some of the things you’ll get to enjoy. Conditions like these make being productive at airports a lot easier. Sit down, relax, and get work done while you wait for your flight.
And when the time comes to board your plane, don’t forget to grab a couple of bottles of water on the way out to bring with you on the plane (or buy a couple if you don’t have access to a lounge)—the last thing you’ll want is to get dehydrated during travelling. Not only is that bad for your health, but it also affects your ability to focus and hence your ability to get work done. Airplanes are quite stingy when it comes to supplying water so don’t rely on them to help you stay hydrated.
You may even be able to use your points to upgrade your cabin which also gives you more room (quite literally, too) to get work done up in the air as well.
3) Download your airline’s apps and use an app like TripIt to manage your bookings
These apps help keep your itineraries organised all in one place, provide you with constant and instant updates of gate changes, flight delays, and check-in times, and more.
The British Airways app also includes the password to the Wi-Fi in the lounge area, in-app check-in and booking management as well as keeps track of my frequent flyer points and benefits. In addition to keeping me sane, they also keep me from missing any flights. I would have literally missed flights if these apps hadn’t notified me about a gate changes.
Missing a plane would certainly ruin any productive day you could be having. I can’t imagine travelling without these apps anymore.
4) Get organised
When I first started travelling, I was a mess. I used to carry one or two bucket-like handbags or a backpack in which I would throw all of my stuff, and then I’d have to start digging through all of that stuff whenever I wanted to find anything like my phone charger or headphones.
I lost a few minutes every time I had to open my bags at security queues to get my laptop, boarding pass or even passport out. A few minutes every time add up to a lot, and they add to your cognitive load. This got frustrating really quickly, and I knew I had to start looking for luggage that would help save me all that time so I can put it to better use.
I now own a few bags that come with built-in organisation. If you’re looking for a few good options, Knomo has some that are worth checking out. Their bags are made for digital nomads like me (and possibly you). Organisers are invaluable because they help offload some effort that you’d normally have to put into getting micro tasks done, so you can focus even more on the things that matter to you the most.
It’s time to board that plane now. I hope these few tips inspire you to think of better ways to make the best out of your transit time.
Stay focused, stay sharp, and stay productive.