Once upon a time, if you confessed to wanting to know more ways to work remotely while traveling, you might have been gently shamed, called a workaholic, and advised to take a real break. But in this digital age, staying plugged into our phones and laptops while on vacation is pretty much second nature. Plus, a growing number of people are interested in becoming location independent, meaning there's a less obvious distinction between work and play.
Of course, an inability to switch off while traveling isn't always a good thing; if you're mentally tethered to your desk when your mind and body are actually in desperate need of a break, there's little point in leaving the office at all. And Americans are famously vacation-shy as most of us know. In fact, The Atlantic reports that 41 percent of Americans let their paid vacation time go to waste, suggesting we are a nation that is unable to enjoy personal time.
That said, there are times when working while abroad or during time off is completely necessary — and plenty of people actually enjoy doing so, which is totally fine too. Maybe leaving your emails unchecked during vacation just isn't an option if you run your own business, or you always seem to have looming deadlines waiting for you when you get home and actually work best from a beach. Or perhaps, you're a digital nomad who makes money as you roam. Whichever it is, it can be a challenge to balance your personal life with your work, but after a year of living as a digital nomad myself, I can offer some tips that I learned on the way. Here's how to work remotely — and be as productive as possible in the process.
If you want a vacation that's conducive to getting work completed, consider organized trips where (almost) everything is planned for you. I went to Morocco with millennial tour company, Topdeck and found that I had all the details of my exciting North African dream covered thanks to their expert team of guides and planners. The schedule around the country was great and in my hotel down-time, I was free to complete my work! This type of travel was a great fit for me as not only was I able to meet and socialize with others, but I also found that I was more productive when my accommodation, flights, entertainment and food was all completely taken care of and I was transported around the country to the best spots (Go figure!).
Pack Smart, Arrive Equipped
My life as a digital nomad wouldn't have been such a success had I not replaced my old, slow laptop with a brand new Mac before I left. At the time it felt like a super-expensive buy, but it turned out to be the best investment I made because it allowed me to work more efficiently. If you know you're going to need certain tools to get your work done before your holiday, make the investment. On-the-go chargers, high quality photography and computer equipment, wi-fi sticks and cable won't even be a waste of money if they pay off in the long-run.
Front-Load Your Work
Although it won't work for everyone and could induce high stress levels if you're not careful, working additional hours before you jet off for a break could help you switch off properly, once you arrive. Kristin Wong of Lifehacker called this technique "front-loading," saying it's her go-to method for ensuring sure she enjoys her vacation and stays on top of her work. She noted that working a few hours each day before you depart for a vacay can provide "buffer time while you’re away," and offered a method to work out the time you should spend doing this.
Wong said: "Calculate how much time you’ll spend working during your trip, then subtract that from your normal schedule and try to squeeze in the difference before you leave For example, during a recent trip back home, I knew I’d probably spend 28 hours that week working. My typical work week is 40, so I had to front-load 12 hours’ worth of work. I worked a full day over the weekend and a few hours during the week to make it happen."
Establish Boundaries And (Some) Routine
Although I never successfully managed this, I reckon my many months of work and travel would have gone even better had I created and stuck to a firm schedule. A fellow digital nomad, US-born Jakiya Brown (aka The Traveling Fro) has been on the road for four months and documents her envy-inducing travels on her blog and Insta. She told Bustle that integrating a routine into her travels has helped her immensely: "Each day I start my morning with a cup of hot water and lemon, play my 'feel good travel playlist' and plan out my day," she said via email. "Starting with the same thing every day kicks your body into gear and helps you form familiarity and routine. Some consistency in your day is needed especially if your environment, languages, people and living space changes on the regular like me."
Brown also advised working in small chunks to keep focused. "Now that I am a digital nomad and work for myself I choose to work for three to four hours and break up my day with other tasks so that I don’t get stuck in a rut or, even worse, writers block. This allows my creativity to flow and my work feels less forced," she revealed.
Enjoy Your Down Time
Of course, there's little point in using up your vacation time and booking an inducing trip (like my Topdeck one!) if you don't enjoy any of that time spent away from your desk. Working too hard and stressing yourself out whilst traveling will most likely impact both your trip and affect the quality of your work, so remember to take it easy at some point. If you do need to answer a lot of emails on your next vacation, be sure to slot scheduled breaks into your days too; there's plenty of science to suggest that taking scheduled breaks can help boost our productivity and creativity. You also don't want jetlag to eat into your down time, so choose a flight that allows you work within your schedule or employ some tactics to beat it completely. Whether you're prepping for a presentation on a plane or plotting a blog post for when you land, booking smart can help you optimize productivity during your travels.