You know that feeling that occurs on the first day back in the office after a business trip. The one where you stare at your calendar, unread emails, and to-do list, and feel completely swamped despite having just spent a whirlwind week networking and sitting in meetings. Yeah, that one. That’s the feeling we’re trying to alleviate in this article. We’ll provide tips and tricks for maximizing your productivity when you’re on the bus, so that you aren’t completely overwhelmed when you get back to regular operations.
Planning with productivity in mind
The most important thing to do to get the most out of your travel time is to plan accordingly. Look at your to-do list and select the best items to tackle on the road. We suggest using the SMART criteria to choose those tasks. SMART stands for Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-bound. These are the adjectives you should be able to apply to the items you choose.
What do you need to complete each task?
By that we mean, what kind of tools do you need and where are they available? For instance, if you need to call into a meeting, you probably need wifi to access your Zoom, Skype, or Google account. Most coach buses have wifi so you can pop into the office even when you’re on the road. Just make sure to bring along your earbuds so as not to disturb your seatmates. You’ll also want to consider whether you can use a screen on the bus. Some people have difficulty reading screens while in a vehicle. If that’s the case, bring along the print articles you’ve been meaning to read, a notebook to do some brainstorming, or recordings of presentations you’re working on. Whatever you have planned, make sure you’re equipped to complete your task. Nothing keeps you motivated like achieving goals you’ve set for yourself!
Motivation on the road
So, how does one stay inspired while on the road? Like we said, achieving goals motivates you to achieve more goals. That’s why it’s important to break down large goals into smaller, manageable tasks. Why do people write completed items on a checklist just to cross them out? Because it feels good! It drives you to cross out the other items. So make yourself a task list that is broken down so that you can cross out several items, enjoying little servings of pride as you go.
Networking on the road
When you’re planning work for your bus trip, don’t forget to leave yourself time to look up and meet your neighbor. If your company has rented a charter bus for a conference, you’re sure to be sitting next to a colleague. Try to pick a seat next to someone you don’t interact with every day. Introduce yourself and make that connection. If you’re stepping onto a shuttle bus for a hack-a-thon or tradeshow, take a moment to engage your seatmate. Find out where they work, and don’t forget to share contact information.
Depending on your company, you may or may not be booking your own accommodations. If you have any say in where you’ll stay, pick a hotel that supports work. That means making sure there is a business center. These days you can use your phone, laptop, and tablet for most remote work, but it’s always a good idea to have an emergency back up plan in case something happens to your device. You’ll also want to do some research into what your hotel is known for. Make sure you’re not booking a room at the biggest student party hotspot in America. Lastly, if you’re travelling for a conference, book a room in the hotel where the event is held. Immerse yourself in what you’re travelling to do, while eliminating transportation between the hotel and your scheduled engagements.
Remote work is easier than ever! There are hundreds of tools to make connecting with the office from the road simple and efficient. Before you board your charter bus, load up your devices with all the apps you need to optimize your productivity. SignNow, Slack, WhatsApp, Asana, Trello, whatever you use—download it, sync it, know how to use it. While you’re at it, make sure you pack your carry-on with essential gadgets so they’re on hand on the road. Take a wireless charger (if you’re on a bus, like a school bus or minibus, that doesn’t have outlets), extra batteries, tablet, hotspot connection, or even old fashioned printed documents.
The importance of downtime even when you’re in transit
In an article about the importance of downtime, Ferris Jabr writes, “Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself.” As much as we might try, we can’t be on every minute of every day. Our brains just don’t work that way. In fact, our brains need time to wander, relax, and process what they’ve learned. Don’t forget to give yourself a moment to drink water, visit a park, and be alone. It’s easy to convince yourself that downtime is a waste of time. But when you’re on a whirlwind work trip, it’s even more important to make the space and time to process.
Time to review
On the ride back from your trip, give yourself time to review what just happened. Compile your notes and meeting minutes into a report, even if it’s just for yourself. Highlight the next steps and actionable bullet points, then make a to-do list. This step of productive travel is vital! It makes all the running around, unfamiliar beds, and handshaking worth it.