This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.
Every once in a while you need to do freelance work while you’re traveling.
Trying to stay on top of your freelance tasks while on vacation can be stressful, especially if you’re traveling with your partner or family. Trying to find a balance between work and play isn’t easy. It’s important to avoid letting work dominate your holiday time, even when you need to complete assignments while on vacation.
Here are the 9 steps I follow when I’m traveling, but still need to get work done.
1. Make Sure You Have all the Tools You Need
If you don’t have your laptop, memory stick, wireless dongle or any other piece of equipment you need to complete your projects, you’re going to be pretty stuck and won’t get ANY work done.
2. Block Out Distractions
Emails are the first thing on this list; nothing destroys your focus like the beep of a new email. Set your email program to manual sync and only check if it’s integral to your current piece of work. Other distractions could be crying children or chatting teenagers.
A pair of ear plugs or earphones will go a long way with putting you in a productivity cocoon. And if you’re concerned about people looking at your screen while you work, you can buy a privacy protection screen.
3. Cut Back on Social Media
Let’s face it; if you’re a freelancer, chances are you spend a heroic amount of time on Twitter and reading the articles that your idols have linked to. I know I do. It stands to reason that if you want to be more productive, you should cut back on it a little.
4. Try to Find a Dedicated Workspace
As with back home, having a dedicated workspace puts your mind into productivity mode, though while you are traveling this can be more difficult. The most obvious option is the kitchen table in the hotel, though this is hardly a stimulating place to work.
A coffee shop would be better; you can soak up some local culture and maybe get some inspiration for your work, but be careful not to be distracted (see number 2).
I’d recommend finding the local library, aside from no distractions there are loads of other benefits to this. For more information read 10 Reasons Why Working at the Library is Better than the Coffee Shop.
5. Take Advantage of the 80/20 Rule
Mention productivity and this rule is often one of the first things brought up. Vilfredo Pareto (Italian economist) observed that 80% of the wealth was owned by 20% of the population. He found a further emergence of the pattern when he noticed that 20% of the pea-pods in his garden held 80% of the peas.
The basics of the rule is 20% of what you do, gives you 80% of the results. If you can identify which 20% of activities are getting you results, then you can postpone or eliminate the other 80% that sucks up time. Sending emails is usually one of the biggest culprits for activities we do to feel productive.
6. Set Concrete Work Hours
Once you’ve identified your 20%, set yourself a time limit to get your work done, say 90 minutes, and you’ll be surprised at just how productive you’ll be in that short time. Parkinson’s Law suggests that a task will inflate in difficulty and importance relative to the time allocated to it.
If you give yourself 3 months to write a report, it will take you 3 months, but if you give yourself 3 days to write the same report you will write the report and probably exceed the quality of the 3 month report (due to greater focus). Some tasks do take much longer, so knowing when to take advantage of this principle will do wonders for your productivity.
My advice is to schedule your 90 minutes early in the morning and get your work done, then you have the rest of the day to relax and enjoy your travels.
7. Enjoy Yourself
If you are traveling, make sure to enjoy yourself, nothing will dull your enjoyment like thinking about the unfinished work sitting on your laptop. You are traveling for a reason, soak up the local culture and get some inspiration. If you are in Istanbul, go and barter with one of the traders at the Grand Bazaar, if you’re in Paris, take a stroll down the Louvre.
You’ll find that at these points where your conscious mind doesn’t have to think about work, your subconscious will be working overtime with all the stimulation.
Rest is the most important issue to address when on vacation. Most people who work and travel forget to schedule time between working and exploring. Saying “I rest when I’m asleep” isn’t good enough. Make sure you take an hour or two every day to just relax.
9. Remember Your Traveling Companions
It is incredibly important to make time to spend with the other people you are traveling with. Most of this time will be covered while you are exploring, but sometimes it’s nice to just sit in a local coffee shop or tea house and talk with your friends and family. If you are traveling with your partner, this is ESPECIALLY important.
My fiancée lives in Turkey and so when I visit I have to make sure I follow these rules. In fact, the two weeks I spent with her this summer were the most profitable two weeks I’ve ever had. If you can follow these rules you’ll discover that you can enjoy those magical travel experience without falling drastically behind with your freelance work.
What tips do you have for getting important tasks done while on vacation, without overdoing it and impacting your down time?