How Do I Stay Productive On The Road?

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

Reader Nick asked the following question in the Ask Lucky forum:

Love the blog! I’m just wondering, do you always need an internet connection to add content to your blog? For instance I remember in one of your posts, you were on the aircraft that didn’t have Wi-Fi and then again in the uber (obviously didn’t have Wi-Fi there), so how do you get your content out so quickly and efficiently?

Is it just a simple case of writing in pages and then cutting and pasting one you’re in Wi-Fi range? What about adding pictures? Same thing?

I know this isn’t about travel (well…kinda) but I was just curious. Thanks for all you do. Keep it up!

This is a fun question, because I suspect I’m different than most in terms of when I’m most productive. I write an average of about eight blog posts per day, and often I find that I’m significantly more productive on insane travel days, than on days where I’m just sitting in a hotel room.

Often when I plan crazy trips I say “well how am I going to be able to stay caught up on things with this sort of itinerary?” But often it proves easier than a day at a desk. Why?

I don’t think there’s any skill required to be productive while sitting at a desk with high speed internet, so I won’t go into that part of my “work” any further. Instead I’ll focus on the more challenging circumstances, where I find that I’m surprisingly productive:

When I’m tethering off my phone

With my travel schedule I have a lot of idle time. There’s always a few minutes while I wait for boarding to begin, then once I’m on the plane it’s usually another 30 minutes before the door closes. I spend a countless amount of time in Ubers and on trains as well.

Under those circumstances, being able to tether off my phone is a lifesaver. No, it’s not high speed Wi-Fi, but in many ways that’s a blessing, because it allows me to stay focused and not get distracted. When on my laptop and tethering from my phone, the speeds are fast enough so I can save a WordPress draft and schedule posts, but not so fast that I end up watching cat videos on YouTube.

Let me give an example of a “work day” for me on the road. A couple of days ago I flew Singapore Airlines from Frankfurt to New York, arrived at 11AM, had some things to attend to in the city, and then had a midnight flight to Vancouver on Philippine Airlines:

  • We had to wait for a gate for about 20 minutes on arrival from Frankfurt, so I was able to tether there, and crank out a blog post
  • I got two more blog posts done during the Uber ride into the city
  • I got another post done while taking an Uber ride from downtown to midtown
  • I got another two blog posts done during the Uber ride back to the airport
  • I got another post down while I was waiting for my Philippine Airlines flight to finish boarding

Hell, I’m writing this post from an Uber as we speak.

I know it’s weird, but the above circumstances are where I focus best and am insanely efficient. I hate being in cars and hate waiting, so rather than being frustrated about it, I just get in work mode and am so happy when I arrive and have accomplished something. Then when I actually have a fast and stable internet connection I can watch YouTube videos instead.

So tethering whenever I’m in a situation where I’d otherwise be bored works really well for me.


When I’m using a word processor to write

When I don’t have a stable internet connection or even the ability to tether (like on a flight without Wi-Fi), I spend my time drafting stuff in a word processor. Obviously it’s not ideal for posts with a lot of pictures, etc., but for posts that are wordier, it’s great. I can get all my writing done uninterrupted, and then can make everything “prettier” when I have a stable internet connection again.

Furthermore, I also take this time to edit and resize pictures, and then I have them ready to go when I have a stable internet connection again.

Also, before a long flight I’ll often load up some WordPress pages for posts I’m working on. For example, trip reports are time consuming, so I’ll insert all the pictures into a WordPress page when I have a stable internet connection, and then I’ll do the actual writing when I don’t have an internet connection. I just save a backup of it, in case the page crashes.

Bottom line

Obviously the above is pretty specific to blogging, though that’s also what the question was about. However, I think the general philosophy works for staying productive on the road, regardless of what type of work you’re doing. In a way, I find that I’m more productive and focused with slow internet, which is why being able to tether off my phone during idle time is such a lifesaver.

Anyone else have any tips for maximizing productivity on the road?

  1. Lucky,

    This was actually interesting, as I realized I largely have no idea what you do all day in terms of non-trip report work, even though I’ve been reading for years. I’d encourage you to post more about this in the future – was very enjoyable to read.

  2. @Ben I know you have T-Mobile for your cell phone service. I believe you also pay for your mothers phone on your plan as well, if I remember correctly. Have you moved your plan over to the new promotion they’re currently running? For $100 a month, taxes and fees included, you get 2 lines of what used to be called One Plus. You get 10GB of 4G LTE tethering, and probably a big plus for you, international data has doubled in speed from the plan you had before. It’s still slow but if it only takes 10 seconds for a page or a map to load instead of 20, that is a big improvement in my book.

  3. Were you able to tether before you switched to T-Mobile last year? If not, I’m sure that was a game changer.

  4. Ben, what software do you use to edit and resize pictures? I use picmonkey which I love, but it’s web based so is very difficult when not connected to the Internet.

    Also, if you’re standing in line for a while do you pull out your laptop and operate your laptop as you’re waiting in line somewhere?

    Thanks – Jimmy

  5. @Jimmy – for editing images if you’re not online, take a look at something like snagit from TechSmith. It’s a one time fee to purchase the program (I believe it’s $39), and you can then edit images on your laptop…

    @Lucky – great recap – I would more than likely go the route of writing all posts offline, and then just tether to upload, rather than writing as I’m tethered…

  6. Yes, Lucky, this post (as least for me), was far more interesting than some of the detailed menu post you do). I would like to see you drop a similar post in the blog from time to time……fully appreciate (make than envy) your time management skills!

  7. No wonder so many of these posts are basically just copies of previous posts. Cranking out one/two posts per car ride just shows how much effort you actually bother putting in

  8. Gary Leff: thanks for linking that post, such an enjoyable read. Like you commented on it, I really enjoy Matthew’s point of view and my only complaint with him is that he doesn’t write enough for my liking, I’m always left wanting more (in a negative way). Btw, your site is fantastic, too; it’s one of the few I frequently check.
    Ben: I really enjoyed that post about you and give kudos to you for your efforts/work. I’d also like to know the answer to RF’s question about your data. Thanks!

  9. Lucky,

    Thanks so much for answering that it’s really insightful. Love your work. Thanks again!

    Keep it up!

  10. This is hardly a job, it is a hobby, so don’t talk about working, as if you are some expert. You seem to be a dilettante.

  11. @John Smith… it it’s just a hobby…c’mon and change with him for 1month! I doubt you would stand longer than 2 weeks in terms of jet-lag or discipline! Ben always mentions he uses to sleep 8pm eastern time. Is that a life? Well….for +90% (including me) surely not. I love to travel in First class and stay in awsome hotels, but after 1-2 weeks I am always happy to get back to my normal rythm.

  12. As the saying goes.. if you want something done, give it to someone who is busy. They’ll find a way.

    I know that I am most focused when pressed for time… the subconscious knows that there’s no time for play, so you can focus on work.

  13. So glad you write your own trip reports despite being one of the biggest blogs! Most of your competitors have stopped writing.

  14. I also really enjoyed this thank you so much! It gives me more ideas about how to be productive on the road 🙂

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