I didn’t intend this summer as an experiment in extreme productivity, instead it was a scheduled trip, a planned vacation after a hard year and a big book launch. I had dreams of getting my team in place, banging out dozens of essays and articles in advance and basically coasting through the summer with little more than the occasional Instagram update.
Somewhere between my natural talent for taking on more and more projects plus an internal team I’m still forming (I have four part-time people on deck – that I still need to train and set up before I can let loose) I’ve found myself of being in the position of being on a 5,000 mile road trip, living in a camper van, six months pregnant, with two kids – and a boatload of work to do.
So how is it going? Well, pretty well in fact. I’ve gotten very streamlined in my processes. When I sit down to work, I know that this golden hour or two is just the briefest of interludes, that I’ll be off hiking in the woods or swimming in a stream, or listening to music as we conquer some new stretch of highway. It’s also a relief to just get to work. My main anxiety has been around keeping up with my ambitious schedule, so when I have some good, fast internet, I start pounding on the keyboard. Here’s a few of the takeaways:
1. My list. I went back to paper. I am using Asana and keeping that updated, but I’ve also started writing everything out in my notebook as well, both for its analog convenience (no wifi needed) but also because it helps me think. I list the exact items I will work on, in the exact order they will be completed and I’m very strict with myself about following my plan.
2. I mono-task. I do one thing, bang it out and then the next. If I split up my time between three things, I might only get 1/3 of each done, but this way, at least one thing is always completed.
3. I only work on the “meat”. Social media, email checking/answering, FB groups, answering student questions and anything else that isn’t a “heads down concentrated task” never ever gets scheduled into my work time. EVER. No more! Those things go on all day and as I have time or a second, I’ll quickly check email or FB, then put the phone away. My work time is too precious. I use it to write, build, edit – but never to respond.
4. I have a really robust year-long plan. I know everything that’s happening in the next 12 months. It’s helping me stay focused on what matters.
5. I work at a sprint. If I’m slowing down because I need to do more research or thinking about it more, then I put that task on hold, do the research/reading/thinking during my downtime or the edges of my day and focus on something else. I really use my work hours to bang things out, not waste time. Sometimes I just need to sleep on something. So if I notice I’m not up to my usual pace, then I know it’s time to put that aside.
6. I think a lot. I love travel for it’s clarifying effects and I think there might be something to having a 6 hour maximum workday (I get probably 30 hours a week total). But it’s not like I just shut off after that. I can only do so much time of actual work, the rest falls under the categories of: preparing to work, emotionally gearing up, solving problems in my head, procrastinating and avoiding the truth (<– sometimes too much of this, ha!). I can do all those things and play junior park ranger with my kids at the Grand Canyon. I’m fantastic at campfire-procrastination with long soulful looks into the flames while I avoid absolutely all work. So much better than “making busy” as I used do for at least a few hours of every work day.
7. I’ve had to grow an even thicker skin about sucking. Some things are not going to get done today. But I know they will get done soon. Probably in the next two weeks. Definitely by the end of the summer. But instead of trying to put out 20 different fires at once, I’ve started really working in a focused way on one or two. And now those things are solved, those projects started or finished, or that piece written. My workload is actually lightening up as this summer progresses even though I’m working less than ever.
What about you? How do you find time to do it all? Have you ever had to balance travel and work?