Lessons learned while traveling about behaviors that result in intense levels of productivity.

I get so productive on planes. I used to think it was because when traveling, you must creatively think about the most effective ways to complete tasks when you’re out of your normal atmosphere. It’s partly that. Eventually, however, I realized that it had less to do with my location and everything to do with my intention.

I compared my travel days to my office days to see what was different. It turns out there were three key behaviors that were dramatically different while traveling than while I was at the office. Here are the lessons I learned while traveling that I now try to apply to my everyday work.

1. Clear Space = Clear Mind

On a plane, my space is clear. It’s just me, my computer and my notebook. There’s no room for anything extra. I’ve learned that a bunch of stuff all over any desk creates distraction that we just don’t need. A desk cluttered with stacks of paper or file folders, articles you’ve been meaning to read, coffee mugs, food wrappers, etc. can actually distract your mind when you’re trying to focus. Declutter your space anywhere you’re working to achieve a ‘noise free’ environment.

2. Have a Clear Mission

When I travel, I always start with a plan. I don’t get situated in my seat and then think to myself, “what shall I work on now?” I decide beforehand that on the plane I’m going to complete the one thing that absolutely must be done by the time my plane touches down, because on the other end of the route, I’ve learned anything can happen. Whether it’s creating an employee schedule, following up on a customer inquiry, or finishing up reports, create self-imposed deadlines to inspire yourself to work quickly and efficiently. Write it down if you have to, keep yourself accountable and celebrate your accomplishments when you achieve them.

3. Stay Off the Internet

I never opt for in-flight WiFi, unless it’s needed for the one thing I’m committed to completing. This is probably the best habit I ever adopted. And learning I could live without my email for an hours-long flight help me set boundaries back at the office. When you’re not checking email, checking social media or reading news, you’ll be surprised how much faster and more focused your efforts become when it’s not interspersed with checking emails, checking social media or reading news. You don’t necessarily have to shut off your WiFi, but closing out of those programs removes the temptation.

When I think about these three simple habits that have made the biggest difference to my productivity, I’m reminded of Aaron Davis’ Championship Nebraska football team key habits:  They ran the football. They made plays. They blocked.

That’s it. Those were the primary habits that brought out their best work.

It turns out, how I work when I travel is really how I want to work when I’m in the office. I manage my space. I plan my tasks to hit the most important things first. I minimize distraction so I can focus and do my best work. That’s it.

Once you’ve got the key behaviors down pat, consider how the technology you use either hinders or helps your productivity. Do you work smarter, or harder? Tell us in the comments, or connect with us on Twitter

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