Udaipur Rajasthan India

5 Strategies to Get Work Done While Enjoying Where You Are

January 29, 2014 | , ,

You’ve just arrived in a new location, and everything’s calling to you: new food to try, sights to see, beaches to relax on, and local neighborhoods to explore…

But something else is calling you, too: that nagging feeling that you should be working instead.

This is the constant balancing act for digital nomads and anyone who needs or wants to work while traveling. Just today, I heard the question once again: How do I stay focused on work when there’s so much to see and do?

And there are plenty of related concerns too: What’s the point of being somewhere new if I’m working all the time? What if I don’t get any work done because all I want to do is explore?

I remember this was a particular challenge in 2007 when I moved to Buenos Aires, planning to spend at least six months there and continue my editing work at the same time. At first, I felt like I was working all the time, and I thought, what’s the point in being here if I can’t even enjoy it?

But I realized that even though my days didn’t look like a tourist’s would, I was still soaking up local life, a little bit at a time. Every time I took a break and stepped outside, I was in Buenos Aires! Every trip to the supermarket, every attempt to converse with my new landlady, every foray out into the city, was a new experience, and it didn’t matter if it was for 20 minutes or six hours.

I still feel that way today, as I balance work with traveling in India. Yes, I’m spending most of today holed up in the guesthouse writing blog posts and editing videos. But this morning, we had breakfast at the rooftop restaurant while soaking up the glorious sun and enjoying the view of the centuries-old fort looming nearby. Even taking a break to find a store where we could buy water was an adventure, and a break from work led us to the lovely spot in the photo above (we’re in Udaipur right now).

And the reason we’re focusing on work right now is because we spent the last few days in the desert, riding camels and sleeping under the stars. It would be a lot harder to take a long weekend to do that if we were living and working thousands of miles away!

Over the years, there are a few things that have helped me maintain a healthy mind-set about balancing work and travel:

  • I focus on my desire to keep my clients and readers satisfied; this provides major motivation to continue to make work a priority no matter where I am.
  • I remind myself that the travel funds will eventually dry up if I neglect work for too long.
  • I feel thankful that I enjoy what I do and am usually just as happy to be doing things that make me money as I am to be wandering the world.
  • I marvel at having the freedom to choose how and where to spend my time.
  • I remember that despite the challenges, the pros of this lifestyle continue to outweigh the cons (and if that ever stops being the case, I have the power to change my lifestyle).
  • I enjoy every moment I’m able to spend exploring the world.

Sometimes, the mind-set isn’t enough to keep me focused, so here are some of the specific strategies I use to balance work and travel.

1. Set realistic goals and expectations.

When you’re moving around a lot, it just might not be possible to get as much work done as you’re used to. Or, if you’re going somewhere to engage in a specific activity, that might cut into both your work and exploration time.

If you anticipate these situations, you can work around them and not beat yourself up about getting less done. Depending on the type of work you do, your income may also decrease if you’re working less, so that’s something else to be prepared for.

Also remember that if you’re going somewhere new but planning to stay a few weeks or longer, you don’t have to be out doing stuff every single day.

2. Schedule specific working days/times.

When I’m working with coaching clients, I try to schedule all calls on just a couple days of the week, so my schedule can be more flexible on other days. I also often work at night so I can explore during the day.

3. Identify times to focus on travel rather than work (and vice versa).

We arrived in India in early January and spent the first few weeks in one place so we could focus on work. Then my parents arrived, and we were primarily focused on traveling with them. Now that we’ve parted ways for a few days, my husband and I are focused on work until we meet up with them again.

4. Focus on what really needs to get done, then enjoy your time off once those tasks are completed.

Work often expands to fill the time available, so get clear on how much time is available for work. If you really want to spend the afternoon at the beach, get focused in the morning to finish your essential tasks so you can enjoy your afternoon off.

5. Be flexible.

Even if you use all of the above strategies, there are still bound to be times when things go awry or your different priorities continue to compete. Muddle through as best you can, get back on track when things settle down, and more than anything, enjoy the journey!

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