Before you pack your bags and hit the highway (or the airport), you must be wondering how you’ll stay productive as you travel. Let’s dive into the essentials of staying sharp on the road and the tools that will keep your productivity sky-high.
Your Hardware Arsenal
If you’re working on the road, you’re working digitally. That means you need the right hardware setup to stay powered up as if you’re in a mobile office. And you need something that can accommodate a variety of situations, from sandy beaches to snowy mountains.
Your laptop is the single most important tool. You probably already have one, but if you don’t or if you’re considering replacing it, here’s what to look for. You want a lightweight laptop that you won’t hate carrying around town when you want to work at cafes. It should have a long battery life, enough processing power for your work (video editors, for instance, may have to sacrifice lightweight to get the power they need), and a pretty durable casing. Along with your laptop, get a thick neoprene sleeve to help protect it from bumps and drops!
Don’t be held hostage by spotty internet. A mobile hotspot provides internet access on the go, even in remote areas. If you’re RVing, you can get a unit built into your camper – I have the Gateway router on the roof that uses a sim card on my AT&T cell phone plan. If you’re in a car or flying, talk to your cell service provider.
One of the best purchases I made was my Halo external portable battery. I can jumpstart the truck – more than once, charge electronics, power my laptop, and more, all on one charge. That way, if a bad storm hits and knocks out the power, it doesn’t even slow me down.
Working on the road can mean working in some less-than-ideal positions. Avoid the pain of a stiff spine or a tense wrist with ergonomic accessories. A laptop stand, a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and a good bolster billow can go a long way towards keeping you comfortable. Additionally, having these things means you have flexibility in how you use them, so you can change positions and adjust your setup as needed.
Some people like the sounds of the coffee shop, but even then, there are days when that couple in the corner has decided to have their knock-down, drag-out fight at top volume in public today – and you have a deadline. A good pair of noise-canceling headphones can make a big difference, giving you the choice of what you want to hear to stay focused.
What’s on your laptop is just as important as what’s in it. It can be hard to stay organized and productive on the road, so having the right system in place makes a huge difference.
First, make sure you aren’t going to lose your work. One beach day and an errant wave can trash your laptop. Invest in some cloud storage – Google Drive gives you two terabytes a month for $10. If you have your own website, you can build your own cloud storage system, using an app like NextCloud, for free.
When you’re choosing cloud storage, look for offline access and automatic syncing – that way, if you don’t have a decent internet connection, the program will compensate appropriately.
Depending on your employer, you may have to use a particular program. But if you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer, there are an endless number of options to keep you on track. If you like to keep things simple, opt for a basic Kanban app like Asana or Trello+. If you want something more full-featured, look at Notion, Stackby, or Zoho. You can also google project management solutions for your specific industry – you might find the perfect option, already customized to suit you.
When I have to go into a meeting, with a coaching client or with university faculty, it’s always on Zoom. However, I recommend having both Zoom and Google Meet – between the two, you’ll never miss. If you work in conjunction with someone else frequently, you may also want an instant messaging app like Slack.
Working on the road means using a lot of public wi-fi networks. Working while traveling internationally means losing access to some of your streaming services for entertainment. Investing in a VPN protects your information and helps keep you happy in your off-time. You can get an excellent service for a reasonable price from NordVPN.
Working on the road means you need to figure out how to put yourself in work mode. This is harder said than done sometimes – you can stay in and work, or go out and explore an exciting new city. Take a minute to figure out what will make you focus.
Mobile Command Center
Bring things to set up a workspace. The above tools, of course, but also, other small comforts. If you’re used to drinking a cup of coffee before you sit down at your desk, bring a small French press – you can brew your own coffee, and sip it as you go over emails to set the mood.
Creating a work routine is a good idea. It may be that on Days 1 and 3, you do X tasks, and on Days 2 and 4, you do Y tasks, or it may be that every day, at 8 am, you sit down with your laptop and work for the next four hours. Having a routine and respecting it, will help you slide into work mode – no matter where you are.
I just mentioned routine, now let’s discuss the opposite. You have to stay flexible. Maybe when you’re beachside, you want to work in the afternoons, so you can lay out by the water in the mornings. Maybe in a big city, you want to work later at night so you can spend the day exploring. If you aren’t going to get to enjoy the travel, there’s no real point in working from the road. Find a balance and stay flexible as your location changes.
Sometimes you lost your work vibe, or maybe you just have a big project coming up that needs your focus. In a pinch, most major cities have a co-working space, where you can rent a desk, an office, or even a conference room for a few hours or a few days. It’s a great option if you need the structure of an office while you’re traveling.