Waking up at a bungalow two steps from the beach on Koh Tao Island, Thailand, I knew I had two choices: grab a coconut and relax on the sand or sit on my laptop and work. When you also have a tiki bar next door, fighting the urge to play can feel impossible. The best bet is to learn how to become a fast worker so you can maximize time spent in your destination.
Here are a few other tips to help you manage your time:
- Become either an early morning person or a late night person.It’s easier to get stuff done when you aren’t suffering from FOMO. Plus, working during off hours creates a system incentive and reward — if you tell yourself you can only go on safari that afternoon if you write 1,000 words, you will.
- Create a system of accountability.If you don’t have deadlines and lack a boss to answer to then it’s easy to procrastinate. Hiring a virtual assistant can be super cheap and you can instruct them to do things like call and email you to make sure you’re getting things done. Then, if you do not meet your goals, create a punishment. Writer AJ Jacobs, for example, will write high dollar checks to organizations he does not want to support (like the KKK) then make his friends cash them in if he doesn’t reach his targets.
- Use apps to track time.One of the hardest things about balancing work with travel is keeping track of international time zones. I often use apps like the international meeting planner by timeanddate.com, which easily allows me to see times around the world. It’s not only helpful to know an appropriate time to call your boss, but it also tracks what time your assignment is actually due in New York while you’re in Australia. Nothing is more embarrassing than thinking you have an extra day to do something and finding out you’re behind. The app Synchronize is free and helps you make sure you never miss a deadline.
- Get your most important work done before hitting the road.In my opinion, there are few things worse than saving a work assignment for a flight thinking that will be the ideal time to get it done. There is often unanticipated drama — flights get delayed and canceled all the time. Airlines go on strike. Even if you have to force yourself to stay up late, get the most important tasks done prior to take-off, then save non-dire tasks for plane rides.
- Practice the Pomodoro Technique.When I was working from a coworking space in Bali, it was easy to get caught up watching a torrential rainstorm or staring out at the rice paddies. There are plenty of focus techniques to help you manage distractions, though. For example, with thePomodoro Technique— which helps you manage distractions and create a better work/life balance — you set up a timetable consisting of 25-minute increments of effective work, alternating with breaks.
- Plan your day.As is the case at home, having clear objectives laid out at the start of the day will help you stay on track. This is paramount during travel where there are so many appealing distractions and opportunities to slack off.
- Make others aware of your intentions.Coworking spaces are fun because they are so social, but the degree of interaction can really put you off track. If you choose to rent a communal space, instead of a dedicated desk, put your headphones on and put up a Do Not Disturb sign. Sometimes you have to be this protective of your space, otherwise your work friends might interrupt to invite you on a tempting dinner excursion that will end up taking all night.