In my last video, I talked about one thing I am struggling with now that I am on the road full time:
If you ask me, traveling and working and combining the two is really a challenge in itself.
People often assume that I travel to great places and then just sit down at a nice coffee shop to work and focus.
But it’s not that simple for me, unfortunately.
When I travel and visit new places, there are so many things I want to see, do, experience and try.
And especially since I am my own boss and no one tells me what to do day in and day out, it’s much too easy for me to say, “You know what? It’s such pleasant weather today, let’s go to the beach. I’ll do my work later.”
And then, quite honestly, when I get back from the beach a few hours later, I am too tired, and I do not get any work done.
But the other extreme happens to me regularly, too.
When I am very excited about a project, it’s very hard for me to take a break. It would be easy to work all day and all night.
But then, what’s the point of traveling to a new place? If I only work all day, I could have stayed at home.
That’s something I really struggle with.
I think there is such a thing as too much freedom, and that makes things difficult.
I, personally, have a lot of freedom. I mean, I can do whatever I want anywhere in the world.
I struggled for a long time to find a balance that gives me the best of both worlds – travel and work.
Since then, I have already found some tricks that help me be more productive.
I am far from perfect, but I am getting better. 🙂
Plan the basics
I usually put all my appointments in my Google calendar, but to create a schedule, I actually prefer to use a PDF template.
I purchased this template on Etsy and the program I use is Goodnotes.
I prefer to draw my plans manually because most of these things are not fixed schedules yet.
Typically, they are just vague ideas or plans.
Putting them in a Google calendar when they are not set just does not work for me. This simple calendar really helps me understand what my upcoming weeks will look like.
But I also use this handwritten calendar to keep track of more things:
As you can see here in my calendar, I have marked the dates with gray dots. This means that I have already booked a place for us to stay.
We are constantly traveling. We stay in hotels and Airbnbs, sometimes for just a day, sometimes for four weeks. So, it could be easy for a few days to fall through the cracks. But I want to avoid spending a night without a hotel.
Another benefit is that the longer I know in advance, the better I can plan. Then I can travel much cheaper than if I book a hotel only at the last minute.
With red, I mark the days when I most likely will not be working. Checking emails and easy tasks, yes, but concentrated work is probably not possible.
Let me give you an example:
We have a pretty big trip coming up next week.
First, we have to take a two-hour bus ride to the airport on Monday. Then we fly to São Paulo, to Madrid, and to Vienna. In Vienna, we arrive late at night, so we have to stay one night in the hotel. The next day, we take a 4-hour train ride to my parents’ house. The next day I have to run many errands, get my car out of storage and register it again, and visit my grandmother. And on Friday we go to a cabin in the mountains where we will stay for the next two weeks.
Chances are very high that I will not be doing much deep work on those days.
Because we all know what happens: you are traveling, you are flying, you are tired, you cannot sleep, there’s a time change, you have jet lag, all those things.
They affect my productivity tremendously. I do not expect to actually get any productive work done, and I do not force myself to do anything.
If I manage to get something done, it’s like a nice cherry on top.
And one thing I always try to do is make sure all the client work I need to get done is finished before the big trip starts.
For example, I had to write an article for a magazine by Wednesday, but I finished it and turned it in earlier this week.
This way I can travel in a much more relaxed way without all these deadlines in the back of my mind.
Planning my goals
The second thing that helps me is that I plan my year in “focus periods”.
I used to plan my goals for the whole year and then break them up into quarterly and monthly goals. But that does not work for me anymore. I need much more flexibility than that.
What I use instead are focus periods.
Basically, for each period, I decide what goals and milestones I want to achieve during that time.
This way I always have a deadline, which is essential for me.
But the most important thing about these focus periods is that they have a flexible time frame.
The time frames usually become clear to me when I take a look at my travel calendar.
My current focus period ends this Sunday, the day before this travel marathon begins.
I started this period in early April, when we returned from a round trip through Brazil. Since then, however, we have always stayed in the same place.
When I stay in one place, time becomes much more predictable, and I can plan better. That’s always an excellent time for a focus period for me because I can get more work done.
If I am constantly on the go, I know that I will get a lot less done.
The next critical point for me is that I always include some buffer time.
As you can see, my next focus period starts after this long trip home.
Over the past few years, I have gotten much better at estimating how much work I can get done in each focus period.
It also helps that I can see how many days I can work – thanks to my calendar.
But to be honest, I am not quite done with all my tasks for this focus period this time.
So maybe I’ll finish on the plane. Or on the train, or somewhere on the way back home.
But if not, it’s not a big deal to me. Then I’ll just start my next focus period a day or two later, and that will allow me enough time to get it done.
And my next focus period will go until the middle of July.
Until then, I will be in Austria and things will be much more predictable.
After that, I think we are going to go to Portugal and Spain, and I have no idea yet what’s going to happen there – so this is how far ahead I will plan.
Another thing that helped me a lot was to just travel slower.
Instead of moving from one place to another in a few days, we usually like to stay in the same place for three to six weeks. This seems to work best for us.
And then, of course, it’s much easier because we have enough time to really see the things we want to see and also enough time to get the work done.
It almost feels like we have a “normal workweek” and only do things on the weekends or in the afternoons after work.
But in reality, we do something fun during the week because there are fewer people around.
And the weekends are typically our workdays.
We also regularly sneak in a nice walk on the beach in the afternoon when it’s still nice and sunny, we do not wait until late at night.
Then we prefer to just keep working longer that night when we return from our walk.
If we are doing a quicker trip where we are only staying in one place for three or four days before moving on, I usually try to schedule two days for activities and one full day for work.
Plan my week
The last thing that helps me is that I always plan my week.
At the beginning of the week, I usually look at my hand-drawn calendar to see how many red days there are, how many travel days we have, and what other activities are coming up.
I also check my Google calendar for appointments.
This gives me a good idea of how much time I have available during the week.
I guess most people have an idea on Sunday evening of how stressful the coming week will be, how much client work or urgent work is coming up.
So, I get a good idea of how many days I can plan for activities.
After all, I still want to be able to get all the urgent tasks done.
Also, the ones where I have to plan ahead because I am not available when they are due.
And especially I aim to reserve some time to work on my goals because they can all too easily fall under the radar and get ignored – which I do not want.
Once I had a look at my calendars, I usually know how much time I have for fun activities, I then always plan those first.
I always look at the weather for the upcoming week and decide which days would be best for those activities.
I always have a “bucket list” for each destination where I try to rank them by places I absolutely have to see, places I’d like to see, and places we might be able to visit if we have time.
And I put them on my calendar.
I fill the rest of the week with work activities.
Then I just try to stick to that schedule as best I can.
Every so often it works out, sometimes it does not, but I learned that I have to stay flexible and just try my best. 🙂