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Balancing Work and Travel

Written by Jessica on March 20, 2011

Balancing work and travelAll digital nomads eventually face the challenge of balancing time spent traveling and time spent working. In principle, it’s the same as balancing a normal life with a normal job. It isn’t something you can figure out overnight and then forget about. It’s a constant back and forth between earning enough cash and taking time to enjoy your travels. You will be happy when neither work, nor travel, seem like a chore.

Here are a few tips to help when the road is wearing you down and work starts to consume what’s left of your energy:

Schedule your work time

The easiest way for me to get work done is to put it on a calendar and tell everyone about it. I tell my travel companions, my clients, even my mom. I do this about once a week. I’ll include in an email: “I’ll be at a place to stop and work in two days, expect I’ll be online through the weekend to answer emails.”

The simple act of communicating in advance helps me stick to my plan and informs others of my intentions. Because my clients are relying on me, and my companions have planned their time around my schedule, I’m more apt to sit my butt down and crank out the work.

Schedule your offline time

Just like your 9 to 5. When you’re not working, don’t work. There’s no need to make excuses or ignore the situation. Everyone is entitled to their time off. Schedule it and let people know. Set an out of office message saying that you aren’t checking email, or that you aren’t working. Be as specific as possible and if things are uncertain, say so.

It is ok to admit that you’re driving to a National Park in Podunk, Nowhere and you can’t guarantee you’ll have internet access. People that rely on you will appreciate your honesty. If you don’t check in, they’ll know why. And you won’t feel pressured to keep driving around looking for wifi.

Travel Slower

Most location independent professionals end up staying for months in one place. Regardless of your traveling experience, the daily grind of moving from place to place will wear you down. Combine that with long working hours and you’ll end up becoming one grumpy traveler before long.

Take time to sort out how many hours you need to work each week and adjust your travel accordingly. For people who have a steady hourly rate this should be easy. If you rely on passive income this task may be a bit more difficult, and should be reevaluated often.

Be flexible with your travel plans. Slowing down will make both travel and work more enjoyable.

Know what you NEED to earn and what you WANT to earn

Understand the difference between working because you have to and working because you want more money.

There is a difference between the money you need to eat and pay rent, and the money you want for T-bone steaks and top-shelf liquor. Do you know the difference?

It’s a lot easier to justify extra work when you have a goal in mind. “If I take this extra project, we can afford a side trip to Macchu Piccu.” It is also easier to turn down work when you know exactly how it affects your travel plans and budget. “If I turn down this extra project, we can enjoy the town we’re in a lot longer and don’t have to worry about rushing off to Macchu Piccu.”

It is impossible to make these decisions rationally if you don’t understand how much cash you need every month. Do the math first. You’ll thank me later.
For more on this see the Budget and Money sectionof Life Remotely.

Minimize Pointless Work

Recognize work that takes a lot of time for little profit, and stop doing it! No matter the type of work you are doing, there will always be tasks that take forever and never really make you any money. Spend an hour or so every month and analyze what you are doing and decide if it is helping your business. Getting rid of time wasters will open the door for opportunities that may be far more successful.

This may mean firing clients, cutting advertising, canceling projects, invoicing less often, answering less emails, or hiring an assistant. Your time is what is most important. Finding ways to be more efficient while working means more time spent enjoying life.

Do the most important things first

I have this terrible habit, whenever I get an internet connection, I do everything except what I really need to do. Sure, I need to finish that project, transfer that money, pay those bills, fix that bug. But for some strange reason I seem to think that Facebook is more important.

When you get connected, take the time to cross the critical stuff off your list first. Keep your customers happy, respond to urgent emails, get your business in order. When all that is done take the time you need to do personal things. I’m surprised how much time I waste mindlessly avoiding work. Make a PRIORITIZED list!


#1 Rob 2011-05-11 17:31
Excellent article. I've been location independent for the past 3 years now, and have only over the past 6 months started to put my efforts into starting an online business (previously I was taking jobs, living on my student loan etc), so this is where it gets serious, and articles like these are invaluable to keep me focused, so thank you :)

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