Traveling on business used to give us an opportunity to get caught up on our work.
In my first book, Making Time Work for You, published in 1981 by General Publishing in Canada and Beaufort in the United States, (and out of print long ago) I had a chapter titled “Make the most of business trips.” There are not as much traveling of any kind right now, but it will be back.
Anyway, back then, I mentioned that I always had a “travel box” in my briefcase containing the essentials of a desk drawer, such as pens, highlighters, transparent tape, small stapler and staples, sticky notes, scissors, elastic bands, paper clips, and so on. At that time, I used a small plastic fishing tackle box with separate compartments for the various items. My working files and other papers were also in my briefcase. So, I was always prepared to take advantage of idle time, whether it was in the back of a taxi, a client’s waiting room, a hotel room, or on a flight to another city.
As times changed, my “travel box” changed as well, since computer bags are a lot more versatile than the old briefcases, and smartphones and electronic books eliminated the necessity of bringing along books, magazines and much of the paperwork. And in the semi-privacy of hotel rooms, taxicabs, airport terminals, and so on, it was easier to dictate to a laptop using voice-activated software than physically writing on scratch pads or typing on a laptop.
It was amazing how much work one could accomplish when traveling. Of course, now, in 2021, we no longer have idle time since we can successfully consume it with non-productive activities such as electronic games, aimless surfing of the Internet, playing with a smart watch and other electronic toys, or doing crossword puzzles on Jigidi, or more exotic activities like Mahjong or whatever.
I am not saying we should work every minute of the day, but at least taking naps would be a healthier and more productive use of time.
The way I see it, if I did not have to visit the doctor or dentist, or take a taxi to the airport, or wait an hour or more in the terminal, or spend two hours on a flight, and so on, I would be back at the office working. So why waste all this time only to be confronted by more work when I get back? Working that would deny any access to my family, recreation and renewal, adequate sleep, and exercise.
Utilizing otherwise wasted time keeps us from getting behind in our jobs, working overtime, and needlessly putting ourselves under stress.
When you travel it is amazing how much you can accomplished in such little space. On a small tray table on any flight, you can park your laptop or notepad and with the “travel box” at your side, you can complete a blog article or a book chapter or PowerPoint presentation on a 90-minute flight. And when you return the table tray to its upright position, your working area is once again organized.
Which might make you wonder why we cannot be as organized and productive at your desk in the office – when we are not traveling. Your “travel box” contents, which in this case will be the necessary materials and supplies specific to the project, could be spread across the desk while we work on a project, or series of tasks, and when finished we could return them to your files, bookcases, desk drawers, or wherever without even having to return your desk to an upright position. Clutter is distracting and reduces your efficiency. But organized clutter while you are working is fine.
The answer for many, of course, is that they do not work in isolation. There are other people in the office as well, and frequent visitors, and telephone calls, and ….
Wait a minute. We better handle those things in the next few blogs.