The month of September absolutely flew by, which may have had something to do with the fact that I was away for three of the four weeks. Two weeks in Europe for our honeymoon (and also worth noting — my first two week vacation ever), and then a week out west for (mostly) work. Told you it was busy. And though I wish I could say that I have my business set up in a way that lets me completely disconnect while travelling, that just isn't the case, so I found myself with a number of tasks and to-dos throughout those three weeks that just couldn't be ignored, so scheduling in some work sessions was essential.
I haven't had too many opportunities to travel in the past, but since these past few weeks felt like a significant learning experience and I would love to incorporate more travel into my life in the future (just putting that out into the universe...) I was intent on figuring out this whole work/life balance thing while I was away, and I'm pleased to report that I did learn a few tips, which is why I'm here — to share them with you, of course!
Put in the work upfront
Whether or not this means actually doing the work before you leave so you don’t have to take it with you, spending some time scheduling, automating and setting up systems to help you run things efficiently, outsourcing tasks to someone else to help you out while you’re away, or something in between, spending that time setting yourself up for while you're away is so valuable. It might make things feel a little chaotic in that final stretch before you take off, but trust me — it’s worth it, hands down. When you’re able to disconnect without stressing about those final to-dos that didn’t quite get done, you’ll be thanking yourself for hustling to work ahead.
Set clear boundaries
— for yourself and also for others who may be affected (clients, collaborators, partners, family, etc). It’s up to you to set the standards and expectations for your vacation time, and this means both being realistic with yourself about what you can and cannot get done while you’re away, and also how much you’re actually planning on working.
If you’re in the midst of client projects or collaborations, explain to them what they can expect from you during your time away, how they can reach you (or how often you’ll be checking in), and any other relevant details that might put their mind at ease. The better your lines of communication are upfront, the less likely it is that you’ll find yourself putting out fires and having to manage unrealistic expectations when you’re away.
On the more personal side of this, I’ve also found that it’s best to explain to whoever it is you’re travelling with that you will need to spend a little bit of time working while you’re away, and give them the lay of the land so it’s not a complete surprise when you pull out your laptop to settle in for a work session, and you can both plan accordingly.
Schedule in the work time
Once you get into a vacation routine, it can be hard to pull yourself out of it in order to settle into work, and the last thing you want to do is leave something to the last minute so that you have no choice but to miss that amazing dinner you could only get a reservation to tonight, or find yourself starting at a screen instead of at that epic sunset with a glass of rosé in hand. I don't know about you, but if I know I have something to do in the back of my head it starts to weigh on me, making it hard to enjoy the moment I'm in, which is exactly the opposite of what you want while you're on vacation. Again, spending a little bit of time upfront looking at your travel schedule and figuring out when the best times for work sessions are will be absolutely worth it, allowing yourself to plan accordingly and fit everything in.
Pay attention to what will work best and when. On my last trip, I spent a good 3 hours on the flight working backwards in my inbox and writing email responses to outstanding messages. Uninterrupted time without online access can be pure gold, and then, once I'm online again, all I have to do is hit send. The same can be said for any work that doesn’t require you to be online. So write those blog post drafts, edit those photos, brainstorm for that new project you’re working on while you don't have the distraction of notifications buzzing in the background, emails popping up in your inbox, and the lure of endless Pinterest scrolls (or whatever your online vice happens to be).
Indulge yourself a little
Treat yourself to a glass of wine while you work, hunt down a cool little café in the neighbourhood you're staying in, or set a reward for yourself once you're finished. You're on vacation, after all, so don't forget that you can give yourself a little more flexibility and don't necessarily have to keep yourself to a work routine that's as strict as what you would abide by at home.
Get serious about unplugging
I know I’m essentially advocating that working while you’re on vacation or travelling is ok, because in my business, that’s just the way it needs to be at this point. But I also can’t stress enough the importance of disconnecting and fully embracing that vacation mindset as well. Pay attention to what you need and find a balance that feels indulgent and also doesn’t leave you returning to a more stressful work situation than when you left. Because that’s also not doing anyone any good.
When we were in Europe, I chose to not pay for a data plan on my phone, and it was such a freeing feeling to not have online access unless I was connected to wifi. I enjoyed the experiences more wholeheartedly without feeling constantly distracted, focused on living in the moment and took photos for pleasure without feeling a pull to share them instantly or that almost automatic (addictive?) tendency we have to scroll through social media platforms without any clear purpose, just because it's there and our fingers are free. Maybe there's another, non-travel specific lesson here?
So hopefully the next time you find yourself in a travel-with-a-side-of-work situation, these tips will help you plan out the time you do need to work so that you can fully enjoy the rest of it!