Three Reasons Why Travel Helps You to Get Your Work Done

May 1, 2008 at 9:10 pm 1 comment

Given that the length of a day can’t be extended, it is a challenge for many people to get their work done. This is especially true when the work in question requires concentration. Ironically, the office is often the worst environment for getting work done because of the multitude of distractions and interruptions. So here’s what to do: take a trip! Here are the reasons why:

  1. You get things done in preparation for a trip so that you don’t have to think about them while away. The bills are paid, the children’s schedule is in someone else’s hands,… and you have everything with you you need. How refreshing – and mind-clearing.
  2. You are in transition. While you are actually someplace at all times, the place you are in while traveling is inconsequential. Thus you don’t have to think about it. (Have you noticed how the monitors on trans-Atlantic flights are constantly reminding you where you are? It’s a great reason to travel first class: to have control over what you view – or don’t view.)
  3. You have few distractions. I know someone who met her husband in the seat next to her on a plane, but, in general, most people I know ignore their traveling companions unless they are ones they selected themselves. Ellen Goodman, a syndicated columnist, wrote – in 1984! – about how terrible it was when planes first added phones: “Now even this refuge has been violated.” But most people don’t talk on the phone on planes and even trains have their quiet cars.

Agatha Christie captured the glamour of travel in her books (although some of her passengers did not arrive at the destination they intended, if you know what I mean). But few of the people in her books were working while traveling, with the notable exception of detecting. Irene McAra-McWilliam, who gave the opening plenary at CHI 2008 in Florence, in an interview for eLearn Magazine, said, “Many places are excellent spaces for thought” and mentioned train travel as one of her optimal work environments. I agree, and find the Amtrak’s Acela from Boston to New York the perfect place to work. I wonder if anyone has studied the impact of the ambient noise or rhythmic motion on thought processes?


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mike Gualtieri  |  May 4, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Great post Lisa and absolutely true for me. The train or plane is blissfully void of distractions that disrupt my concentration. I can’t move. I am in a bubble temporarily suspended in time so I can write whether it is a report, presentation, or code. When I need a rest I can read the SkyMall catalog cover to cover and then get back to my work.
    Speaking of trains – one of my favorite movies is Runaway Train starring Angelina Jolie’s dad, John Voight.


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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa:


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