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Productivity on the road

Travel is always an adventure to me. Even as I hurry up and wait in line or spend hours in uncomfortable seats, I relish the opportunity to perceive the world in a new light.  My bags contain everything I need and new situations force me to think on my feet.  Some of my best ideas have come to me many miles from home, but the challenge has always been to follow through once I get back. Over the years I’ve learned that it takes some preparation to turn the energy of travel into tangible results. Here are some thoughts about staying productive on the road to take full advantage of your travel experience:

PRODUCTIVE IS NOT THE SAME AS KEEPING BUSY: You can of course fill your travel time with any activity, but to me, being productive means coming up with fresh perspectives that create value and meaning in the long term. Travel by train or airplane offers an opportunity to read, write and think without distractions. The absence of unnecessary “stuff” and “breaking news” is perfect for thinking about goals and intentions. Instead of dealing with everyday tasks, use the special occasion to look at your bigger picture: what are your plans and aspirations going forward and where would you like to take your life and business next? The writer Cal Newport has coined the term “deep work” for this focus on complex thoughts. Deep work doesn’t just happen; it requires a bit of planning.

PREPARATION MATTERS: To make sure you’re not stuck in an airplane seat watching inane TV shows or correcting crossword entries in the in-flight magazine, bring a variety of–preferably long-term–tasks with you. Keep everything simple to make sure the absence of WiFi or charge cables doesn’t interfere with your creative process. Pack a notepad and pen or make a list of tasks and ideas in a toy box. Since travel is (and should never stop being) an exceptional experience, prepare good reading or a few interesting questions for yourself. A synced app such as Evernote is also a perfect to keep travel documents together (how to send things to yourself in Evernote).

EXPERIENCE: Travel is a unique chance to pause and think outside the box. Make a deliberate effort to break out of your typical routines (for example, eat different food or try a new mode of transport). Take advantage of being “disconnected” instead of worrying about missing out on important calls and opportunities and instead watch as “must-have” stuff and “must-do” activities (updating your social media) lose their urgency. Are they truly worth the time and effort we spend on them?

Our everyday tasks and work schedule can be so overwhelming that we forget to explore. Travel is an opportunity to rediscover the curiosity we all need to understand ourselves and our place in this world. The biggest challenge is coming back.


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