I have published two books – one just hit bookstores – and have had several plays produced. I fly for a living, so most of that writing has been done on planes and in hotels.
I knew I was in danger. Biz traveling is exhausting. If I didn't write while I traveled, 20 years would go by in a blink and I'd be "that guy" – the guy with the novel, essay, memoir in his head that never actually got written down, let alone published.
You have as much time as any other traveler. We all get 24 hours each day. Here are my rules for no excuse business traveling:
Window seats only: No one asks you to move and disturbs your work. (Sidebar here: No water before the flight. Otherwise, you will disturb you.)
No room service: They serve breakfast at 6 a.m. in most hotels. Be the first one down there. Don't worry about how you look. Room service takes 35 minutes. Eat from the buffet in five looking like a zombie and you can be back working in your room.
Onboard, don't access Wi-Fi: That way, you can't be tempted by Netflix or John Oliver YouTube videos or emails that can wait. You're in the sky to work. Gaze out the window for access to your Muse, but that's all the diversion you get until wheels down.
No small talk with the attractive person next to you: Get over yourself, Clooney wannabe. You're not so hot that they're going to change their connecting flight for you. This is a waste of charm and potential work time.
Fly out between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. whenever possible: Airports are ghost towns during these hours. You could arrive one hour before the flight and fly through security, allowing you to stay in your hotel and work a little longer.
No going to the hotel gym: Every hotel has stairs – run them. Or bring a jump rope. For strength training, I get under the bed and do push ups with the bed. (If they have high thread count linen, I get pumped!) Burpees suck, and are effective, everywhere. You have plenty of space in your room. Over the course of a year, I don't sacrifice fitness, but I save hours and am back in my desk chair working while you are signing in at the spa or searching for a "real" gym.
Bring your luggage to the gate, even if it is monstrous and there is no way on earth it is fitting in the overhead: Ten minutes before the flight, I promise they will announce, in plaintive tones, that they will cheerfully check your luggage for FREE to your destination and you can pick it up plane-side, eliminating the baggage claim cluster.
Uber takes three minutes, cab lines just under forever: Come on, keep up.
Don't board until your group is called: Sit down and continue working until they do last call. There is one airplane, and you have a seat. They start boarding 30 minutes before the flight. You standing up there sighing and hovering with your group 5 ticket is an utter waste.
Of course, you don't have to do any of this. You can get People magazine and compare who looks better in Stella McCartney this month, or play video games, or be one of those people who put masks over their faces and plugs in their ears and catch up on sleep. Choices, right? Me, I'm using my uptime as anything but downtime. I'm going to get all the sleep I need when I die.