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How to Stay Focused When You’re Traveling and Working Remotely

We’re getting deep in summer mode around here. That doesn’t mean that work needs to stop, but neither does the fun. Last week, Lisa Rollins shared how to work when your children have the summer off. Today, we’re welcoming another summer scenario: staying productive while you’re traveling and working remotely. Caroline Peterson is a pro at traipsing around the world while growing her freelance business, and she’s here to teach us how to balance work and travel.

Take it away, Caroline!

The beauty of working remotely is the freedom it provides.

From setting your own schedule to working in cute cafes, and taking lunch breaks by the pool–it’s great! Oh, if only it were all that glamorous, right? Mix in traveling for a work trip, vacation or, heck, even visiting family and then … things can get a bit trickier.

The demands of traveling, especially overseas like I do, can be quite taxing both mentally and physically. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is open my laptop once I arrive to my destination.

Just this last year alone, I’ve been to seven countries and traveled domestically to four different states to visit family. I often feel pulled in a million different directions from wanting to do the tourist things and spend time with family to knowing I’ve got deadlines to meet, clients to pitch and content to write.

Travel, much like my mantra to life, is all about balance.

I have found that allowing myself some fun, while also maintaining my business obligations, yields a much better success rate and leads to a more fulfilled work/life balance. And who doesn’t want that?

These are some of my tips after a few years of trial and error.

1. Determine your schedule.

Before I leave on a trip, I lay out my schedule taking into consideration any necessary travel obligations, like travel time.

When I see it right alongside meetings, prior obligations and anything fun that may be pre-booked for a trip, I get a good glimpse at the overall itinerary.

Next, I plug in what I know ahead of time needs to be done for work while I’m traveling. I’ve been using the incredibly powerful (and simple!) project management tool called Asana. It has a calendar option where I can set and move my daily tasks to different days.

If something unexpected comes up the morning I planned to batch edit photos, I simply move it to the next day or, at the very least, know I need to get it done that day at some point because it’s scheduled in the calendar. Asana has been a sanity saver while building my business and traveling.

Tip: Keep in mind things are bound to change. Being flexible is key.

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2. Set the alarm (even on vacation).

I can’t decide if I’m a morning person or not. Ha!

I want to be, so that should count for something, right?

Truth be told, I know that when I set my alarm and get up early, I absolutely get more accomplished, and feel more accomplished. And there’s something to be said for this. Top business men and women who do the same say it’s part of the reason why they’re so successful.

It’s essential when traveling to stick to a morning routine, even if it’s just getting up and going to the gym. This gets my day going and initiates the snowball effect, where I’m motivated to get more done.

The morning is also the quietest time to bust out some copy, content writing or update my social media. Am I perfect at it? Heck no.

But the key is to strive for that balance again.

Tip: For years, I have practiced what I learned after reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. In a nutshell it means using the first hour of your morning for yourself, setting you on a more fulfilled path for the day.

3. Take advantage of travel time.

My previous boss and I used to joke all the time that we got more accomplished on flights than we did in the office. And there’s a shred of truth to that! There’s nothing like being locked inside a metal tube, barreling hundreds of miles per hour to your destination, to get some work done!

Especially with the availability of wifi on planes and trains, it’s easier than ever to catch up on emails and get some writing done. On weeks I’m traveling, I’ll “save” some of my blog posts for the flight, knowing full-well I’ll get more done, distraction-free.

Now if I could keep myself dedicated enough to stay away from the temptation of Biscoff cookies and the newest movies available to watch on my flight, that would be a win!

Tip: If you’re traveling on a long-haul flight of 10+ hours, take into account any timezone differences and be kind to yourself. I’ve found traveling to Asia, where I essentially skip ahead one day, is a heck of a lot easier than taking a red eye from the west coast back home to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

4. Opt for a change of scenery.

I know other use this trick to stay productive; there’s something to be said for getting out and into a new environment, even if it’s a local coffee shop. I’ve been known to take my laptop to the park, a restaurant by the beach, outside on the deck and even in my car when I just needed silence. Whatever works!

On the same note as getting out, sometimes you just need to get out to take a break. What’s crazy (or crazy making) about working in a creative business is that sometimes your best ideas come when you aren’t even working; they come when you’re finally relaxed and the creative juices scream, “Hey! I’ve got this million dollar idea now, buddy.”

So go take a walk, sip a beer by the beach with your spouse or enjoy a sunrise with your journal. I bet some of your best work happens in the hours afterwards.

Tip: Scope out the nearest coffee shop at your destination. Does anyone else do this? On my most recent trip to visit family in Vegas, I knew that a coffee shop was about a $5 Uber ride away in case I wanted to get out.

5. Do what you can, when you can.

I used to mutter this mantra to myself while training for my third half-marathon. Because as we know, life is a marathon. (Grooooan.) It wasn’t about how many miles of pavement I pounded that particular day, it was that I got out and did it. The same can be said for traveling and working remotely.

Sometimes the conditions aren’t ideal. Sometimes you environment is filled with endless distractions. Sometimes you’re so jet lagged, you fall asleep at a restaurant. (Guilty!) Cut yourself some slack, take a break, a nap, a deep breath or whatever your body needs in that moment, and then hop back into it when you can.

So often we have this all-or-nothing mentality. If I don’t get this whole post written in two hours, I’ll never get it finished. If I don’t schedule my entire month of social media this evening, I’ll never do it. (Guilty, again!) We set ourselves up for failure.

If you find yourself anxiety-ridden over your adorable four-year-old niece tugging at you to play or wanting to join in on those unexpected dinner plans, take a break! Look at your schedule and if you can, know you’ll get back to it. Again, that’s the beauty of working remotely. The key is actually going back to do it. That’s the tough part!

Tip: Use the batching technique, so it’s easier to hop back into a task if you’re pulled away from it. I schedule out when I answer emails, write blogs, schedule social media, edit photos, etc.

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Each trip I always find new ways to improve the delicate dance of traveling and working remotely. What has worked for you? Are there any other tips to consider?

Caroline Peterson is the woman behind Not Your Average Gal, a lifestyle brand immersed in the world of travel and living an unconventional life. She recently left her ad agency job as Senior Copywriter to jump–feet first–into pushing through self-doubt by starting her own copywriting business. If you’d like to take her up on any of her word wizardry, c’mon down and get in touch!

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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