The value face-to-face meetings bring to building relationships and scouting of new business mean train travel is an important part of entrepreneurs’ day-to-day lives.
The hours spent travelling can be used to your advantage whether it’s an opportunity to be ultra-efficient or recharge your batteries.
Here’s our guide to staying productive while on the move.
Create a ‘time block’ to concentrate on a specific task
Running a business requires dealing with a high frequency of short, but important tasks.
This makes it difficult to create distraction-free blocks of time to complete longer jobs like writing proposals, planning a new marketing campaign or looking at job applicants.
A commute can provide an extra time block, which is free of the distraction of colleagues and the (largely) phones.
Having made countless trips between her two offices in Peterborough and London, Nyree Ambarchian, a director and co-owner at PR company Stand Agency, has perfected her routine during the 45-minute commute.
Ambarchian will get out her laptop – a Macbook, to be specific, as they start up immediately – and won’t shut down until she arrives at King’s Cross.
“I work on anything that needs concentration or brainpower, be it a piece of content for a client or a proposal for new business. It’s also a great time for reading and making comments,” she says.
“I find that reports or draft documents, that at any other time I might procrastinate over, suddenly I can power through in less than an hour.
For efficiency and daunting tasks the train wins – the clock is running, so you can’t afford to waste time or get distracted.”
Booking in advance not only saves you money, but it also ensures you get a comfortable seat on busy trains, which can really help.
Hack your sleep
Entrepreneurs often pride themselves on being able to get by with a minimal amount of sleep, but not getting enough forty winks can reduce the ability to manage workloads and eventually lead to burnout.
Getting an insufficient amount of sleep can cause anxiety, irritability and impatience. It can also inhibit concentration and memory, according to research by academics at the Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine. And, these effects can culminate in poor productivity and a negative attitude towards work.
There are fitness trackers and smartphone apps that can help you monitor sleeping patterns and adjust your approach accordingly.
However, for someone like Micha-Rose Emmett, group managing director at CS Global, a legal advisory consultancy business specialising in citizenship, it isn’t always that straight-forward.
Emmett can spend up to three weeks a month outside the UK going between CS Global’s many offices, including ones in Zurich, Hong Kong and Lagos.
She admits that it is a struggle when she has to get by on little sleep, but tries to have power naps when possible when travelling. A short spell of intensive sleeping has been proven to lower levels of cortisol and hormones related to stress.
Use the time to recharge your batteries
While work can cause the brain to release dopamine, which can be good for productivity, you still need time to pause, reflect and recharge.
At any moment, a client may call you with a query or to arrange an emergency meeting and then you find yourself rushed off your feet again.
Emmett says she also likes to “look up and the sky and breathe,” because often running a business means you find yourself in a constant whirlwind, on the receiving end of a flurry of calls and emails and always looking at screens.
Get your inbox down to zero
Many entrepreneurs have cursed the productivity-sapping nature of email and some have even moved to alternatives communications platforms.
For those of us that still have to sift through hundreds of emails a day it’s worth creating a system to clear your inbox at set times during the day, rather than constantly dipping in and out of it.
Hugh Thomas, co-founder of fruit-infused sparkling water brand Ugly Drinks, prefers to write all his emails offline and the train is the perfect place to do this, especially in the morning.
“It means I have no distracting incoming mail and it makes the task feel a lot more manageable,” he says.
It’s also possible to triage your inbox on your mobile by marking anything unwanted as read or archived and labelling things you need to deal with as ‘urgent’ or ‘action’ for when you get into the office.
Doing this will mean that you won’t be daunted by the amount of administration you have to do and will arrive at your destination ready to get work done.