PS The hardest part about working on the road is the unexpected. Nothing throws me off more than not being able to work when I planned or not being able to do the work I planned. Maybe the internet doesn’t work as fast as you expected or your laptop suddenly is on the fritz– these have both happened to me recently. I try to be as creative as possible in finding solutions, I have to be forgiving with myself. It’s not the end of the world, and it will eventually get done because it has to get done.
I feel like I have ben traveling so much since the beginning of this year. The trips haven’t been too long, but it can be really easy to fall out of the swing of things when you’re constantly on the road. Luckily I’ve managed to figure out how to have fun on my trips while still managing to stay on top of my to-do lists. The first quarter of the year is the slowest work wise for me, which makes it a great time to book travel. (Not to mention it’s a nice break from the very hectic September-December.)
Of course, I work for myself so I can be flexible with my own schedule and balance my own work, but if you’re studying or even working remotely I think the tips are applicable.
My friends have crazy travel schedules for work (Maxie, I’m looking at you…) and I’m always interested to know how they get their work done while away from their desk. Please do leave a comment if you have an amazing tip or two! Would love to hear more!
1. Manage expectations: The absolute first thing I do when I know I’m traveling is to set my expectations for myself from the very beginning. Depending on the duration and timing of the trip, you might have different expectations for yourself. For a quick weekend trip, I’m way more relaxed about my expectations than I am about a trip that overlaps with the actual work week.
With that in mind, I know what to expect from myself given my travel schedule and work obligations. Some trips are more work and a little play, and others vice versa. When I set my expectations before the trip, I really minimize either stress (from not getting enough done) or disappointment (from feeling left out).
It’s also important to set expectations for everyone else. Even if you’re taking a few vacation days off at work, letting your coworkers know what to expect from you is so important. Right now, the people I inform of my travel schedule is my manager and the brands who I am talking to at the time. Even just a heads up that I’m going to be away from my desk for a few days with longer response times can bring everyone on the same page. My manager knows I’m not ignoring her if I don’t respond until nighttime!
Oh, and I find it helpful to let the other people on the trip know when/where I will work. Last week, when I visited my friend Alison, I let her know beforehand that I was spending the train ride there getting as much done as possible, but would likely have to spend a few hours working in the evening.
2. Build up to the trip: I do my very best to prepare ahead of time for the trip work-wise. I figure out what the internet situation is going to be (or what it won’t be) and go from there. Depending on the trip and the work load I have, I try to get ahead as possible. The better I go into the trip, the more efficiently I can work and the less stress I feel. Additionally, I spend time beforehand plan out everything that I’ll need to do while on the trip.
3. Figure out communication: This dovetails a little bit off the expectation note, but it’s a key element to seamless travel and work integration. Depending on the trip, email might be better or texting/phone calls. If I’m traveling via train, email is perfect because I can respond from my laptop if wifi works (or my phone as a backup) so I’m not disturbing the people around me. This past weekend, we drove up to Vermont and I took a bunch of calls from the car and stayed in contact mostly through texting. While in the Virgin Islands in January, email was better because I wasn’t always with my phone.
If I travel during the week, chances are I’m going to be working a whole lot over the weekend. Typically I try to keep my weekend hours to a minimum, so this is a change in my schedule. Figuring out how other people want to communicate is also important. Just because I’m traveling on Friday doesn’t mean they want me to bombard their email on a Saturday. Being clear about when communication is possible is just as important as how!
4. Plan your schedule ahead of time: While there are always unexpected things that come up, I tend to have a good understanding of what’s on the schedule. As much as I am an early bird, it’s so much easier for me to plan my “hours” for the day at night while on a trip. I definitely miss out on some fun things, but I know I’m fortunate enough to be traveling. The late nights are worth it. More often than not, I try to squeeze in an hour during the day (phone calls or emailing) and then stay awake as long as I have to before going to bed. It doesn’t always work out like this, but I find that’s how I work best so I try to make it work.
5. The day after: The day after a trip, in my opinion, is critical. Typically, I’m itching to get back to my desk and work schedule. (I love taking trips, but not working normally starts to make me crazy!) I try to keep my schedule 100% clear (something almost always comes up, but I aim for a clear schedule) so I can get fully back into the swing of things. Most of my work on the day after is catching up on the things that weren’t time sensitive that I skipped over while away. It can be boring, but I feel so much better by the end of the day.
The expectations element is really what it all boils down to across the board. If you can set expectations for yourself, your coworkers, and the people you’re traveling with you will better off. Add in a bit of planning and you can enjoy your trip while not getting too behind.
Anyone else have experience working on the road?