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How to Be an Effective Road Warrior

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When you are workshifting, you may not always be close to home. In fact, a lot of workshifters spend tons of time on the road. I’ve done my share of travel over the years, and when I’m on the move, I need to make sure my productivity levels are as high as if I were sitting at home in my office. However, there’s a great deal of uncertainty that comes with mobile working, so you must prepare before you even hit the road.

Earlier this month, I was slated to travel from the West Coast to the East Coast, followed by a trip to the Midwest before heading home. All of this was done in the span of eight days, six flights, four train trips and numerous taxicab rides. Yet during all of this whirlwind travel, my effectiveness didn’t suffer in the least. That’s because I had the right set of tools and tactics to get the job done — no matter where I was.

Here are four things you can do to be an effective road warrior every time you travel.

1. Travel measurably light.

This may seem like a no-brainer on the surface, but the term “measurable” is what is key here. If you can forgo your laptop for a tablet instead, do it. But be sure to pick up a portable battery so that you can charge the tablet in an emergency. After all, not all airlines have USB ports in every seat to charge such devices. Don’t rely on these kind of tools to be there for you. You must bring them along.

One of the ways you can pack measurably light is to have specific items that stay in your suitcase at all times. I have a Dopp bag that I keep fully loaded in my suitcase, only refilling it when I come home from a trip. I also have a collapsible water bottle that stays in there, along with a Grid-It organizer that houses all of the cables I’d need when traveling. I’ve made a point of buying extra cables to have in my suitcase so I don’t even have to think about looking for my iPad Lightning cable to VGA adapter.

2. Keep running checklists.

Checklists are your friend when traveling. I have mine in Evernote so I can add to them no matter where I am and what device I’m using. I’ve even taken a photo of my suitcase loaded up with my usual supplies so that I get a sense of what’s in there even when it’s closed.

I also have a checklist that outlines what I need to do before leaving town in addition to packing. The list includes things like customizing my email autoresponder in AwayFind (a service that goes above and beyond filtering email clutter), getting my currency exchanged, informing my bank and credit card providers I’ll be traveling and so on. This template allows me to easily check off what I need to do now so that I don’t worry about it later.

3. Set up boundaries.

I use my task manager to gauge what kind of tasks I can reasonably do as a “road warrior.” I then set boundaries for myself so that I don’t try to take on too much while in transit. For example, I’m more apt to do some writing associated with any self-imposed deadlines than for blog posts that are to be published with a preset frequency. Instead, I’ll prepare my blog posts before leaving so that I don’t have to worry about them while away.

I also make sure my boundaries are laid out to others in my email autoresponders. I inform senders that I am traveling and will get back to them within 72 business hours of my return. That gives me a reasonable amount of time to get my head back in the game and to respond to everyone in a timely manner. Of course, if any emails require a more immediate response, they can click on an AwayFind link and fill out a form that pings me instantly. While that has rarely happened, that boundary allows me to recognize when something sent by email is urgent, and I can react and respond accordingly.

4. Leverage the commute.

I like taking the train as much as possible when I travel because I have plenty of time and room to write and work. During my last train trip from Washington to New York City, I wrote more than I did during any other time over the eight days I was traveling. If you have the time and ability to take a train, do so. It’s a great place to do work.

If you’re flying, you can work with less distraction and disruption because the Internet isn’t as widely available in the sky. In fact, even if you can get Internet access, I suggest you beg off because it’s another boundary — a boundary that lets you deal with work that is better served with no connectivity available. I know many people who find airplanes to be their most productive places to work, and I’m right there with them.

With these four tactics in mind, you’ll be set for your next trip. Although you might miss your loved ones while away, your productivity won’t miss a beat — no matter where your travels take you.

Mike Vardy is a writer, speaker, productivity specialist and the founder of Productivityist. He has served as the Managing Editor at Lifehack and contributed articles on productivity to 99U, Lifehacker, The Next Web, SUCCESS Magazine and The Huffington Post. Mike is also the author of several books, including “The Front Nine: How to Start the Year You Want Anytime You Want,” and has delivered talks on the topic of task and time management at events like New Media Expo, TEDxVictoria, SXSW Interactive and creativeLIVE. He lives in Victoria, BC, Canada, with his incredible wife, daughter and son.
  • DrewT

    All of these are great tips — and need to be utilized… I do have one question, though… you tell folks that you’ll follow up within 72 _business_hours_? you give yourself (and expect others) to wait up to 2 weeks for a response?

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  • laptop nomad

    I am with DrewT on this. Can you not e-mail in the evening or call on Skype if out of the country. I just returned from India, and I kept up with all my clients needs. I have a toll free number to call if they need to reach me. If I was sleeping when they called I called the next day or sent an email to answer the problem. 72 hours is to long I am surprised you do not lose clients with that turnaround.

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