Use your travel time productively

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By Dorie Clark

I’m writing this article on a flight to Raleigh-Durham; I began it last week on a train from New York City, and added a few paragraphs a couple of days later on a flight to San Francisco.

Staying productive on the road—while navigating unfamiliar destinations, schlepping heavy luggage, and dealing with not-infrequent delays and inconveniences—can be a Herculean challenge. Here’s how to accomplish more while in transit.

You can engage in professional development by listening to podcasts. Many airport rituals are short and staccato—five minutes in line to check a bag, 10 minutes to get through security, five minutes walking to the gate and 10 minutes standing in line to board.

If you have access to an airport lounge (where it’s quieter), you can also use the time to make a series of short phone calls. Productivity expert David Allen, whom I profile in my book Stand Out, recommends keeping a “to call” list so that you can cluster the phone calls you need to make and bang them out in a row.

Though Internet access is becoming more common on flights, it’s still not a given. Even when Wi-fi is offered, it can be slow or patchy. That’s why I generally focus on writing projects that don’t require use of the Internet. I’ll download all the necessary information and supporting materials beforehand, and then go offline to complete projects like writing articles (including this one), edits to book chapters, client reports or interview questions I’ve committed to answer.

Travel has become a standard part of many professionals’ work life. Each year, US business travelers make about 488 million trips— around 1.3 million per day. With that much travel, we can’t afford to write off days in transit; using that time wisely is essential to getting our jobs done.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University.

Image credits: Didesign021 |


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