I have a little problem. You see, it’s still second quarter and I’ve already been on the road 32 days this year. I spend a lot of my time on the road with patchy or nonexistent internet access. How do I keep this blog running five days a week, plus a weekly newsletter, other writing, and of course coaching?
I like to write every day, although it’s not always possible. Sometimes I have good days when I’m able to write two or three articles. I always make the most of those days. If I write seven days and post five, it doesn’t take long to start building up a little savings account. Within a year, I had six weeks’ worth of backup material. I generally post a week at a time, formatting and auto-scheduling. Before our trip to Spain, I had the bulk of three weeks posted; I had to format a couple of days from cafes or hotel rooms. If I’m working from the road, I really prefer that I’m writing for the future, rather than scrambling to catch up with something I had planned to do before we left.
Trying to meet deadlines from the road is completely unreliable. There are issues with wi-fi access, with bandwidth, with battery life, with access to electricity, with website maintenance. The last time I wanted to post from a hotel room, the hotel was fine, but my laptop wasn’t. It chose that precise moment to force a software upgrade. It took ten minutes, and we were frantic to get checked out and meet a tour bus downstairs. We made it with three minutes to spare, but it was really annoying and frustrating. When I work from the road, I prefer it to be strategic planning or content creation – Quadrant II activities, not QI or QIII.
Most of the time when we’re traveling, my husband is still on duty with his office. This works well for me. Any moment that he’s on the phone, calling in for a meeting, doing timecards, or working on email, I’m at my keyboard. Sometimes I almost wish he had some reason to spend an hour on his laptop so I’d have an excuse to work on mine! We’re both on the same wavelength when it comes to packing chargers and connector cables and backup batteries. We don’t have to explain or apologize or negotiate – we just sit down and commence working.
When we travel with my stepdaughter, it’s the same, because she’s in college. We just pull up a third chair.
There’s work and then there’s homework. We still have to maintain our basic infrastructure no matter where we are. Bills have to be paid, accounts have to be balanced, contracts have to be renewed, appointments have to be booked. Our dog gets a shot every five weeks, an odd timespan for planning purposes. Most of these things can be handled from the road. Some, like receiving updated debit cards, still involve physical mail. That can be frustrating if, as we just experienced in April, something shows up in the mailbox and you don’t find out for three weeks. Hopefully future innovations will eliminate this type of situation. Being a real nomad with no strings might not be possible anymore, not if you rely on a phone and its attendant phone bill.
We do still have a house. We even live in it most of the time! There’s work, there’s homework, and then there’s housework. Stuff still gets dusty even when nobody is there. The physical structure still needs care and maintenance. We set up a drip system for the plants, and the garden mostly cares for itself. It’s funny to come home to full-grown plants that were tiny sprouts when you left. Boom, kale! We tend to come home with two loads of laundry. I like to set up the house so that there are clean sheets on the bed, clean towels on the rack, and clean dishes in the cabinets. Empty wastebaskets and an empty fridge are the bare minimum. Then there’s the problem of coming home to that empty fridge and going grocery shopping, even when that’s the last thing you want to do. Garden plus freezer can be a reasonable option.
A systematic approach really helps. See that my husband and I both have certain structures for our work. We know and expect that we will have to deal with certain issues before, during, and after a trip. Travel can mean a lot of extra work. The only way it can be done in a minimalist manner is to cut away anything unnecessary, unimportant, or less interesting. I run around like a crazy person in the three days before a long trip, because I know that anything I leave for when we get home is setting me up for frustration and exhaustion. Opening the door and dragging in a suitcase full of dirty laundry is not a moment when you want to see an overflowing sink, scary laundry hamper, and biohazardous refrigerator. Spend enough time in squeaky clean, streamlined hotel rooms, and it’s hard to open the door to homegrown clutter and excess. I really like that hotel feeling of always having a clear desktop, shelf space in the closet, and some empty drawers. There’s no reason I can’t have that at home, and I do.
What I’ve learned from systematizing my life is that there’s no end to it. It frees up mental bandwidth, and that creates opportunities for more interesting ideas to materialize. The better we get at creating routines, the higher the level at which we function. We have almost no discussions about housework or “honey-do” tasks, because we both just get that stuff done. Since we have a weekly status meeting for strategic planning, logistics, and finances, we don’t usually talk about those things the rest of the week. Rather than distract him when something crosses my mind, I add it to our agenda where he can read it. We respect each other’s right to High Quality Leisure Time as well as unbroken blocks of time for System II thinking.
We’ve reached a place where work and vacation intersect. It has its upsides and its downsides. Preferring work to most other activities is an enviable position. It tends to lead to advancement in life. Complaining and “not feeling like it” expands to fill the space available. Making the decision to simply do what has to be done and get it over with is a really fast way to cut a lot of grievance and hassle out of life. Just do it and don’t let it annoy you! Working in this way also means the backlog of necessary yet dreaded tasks is shorter, or nonexistent.
If we were billionaires, we’d probably still live in much the same way. We’d probably stay in nicer hotels and have better laptops. Otherwise, we’d be spending time managing our philanthropic activities and investments. We’d still have to spend a certain amount of time directing our staff to make our travel arrangements and schedule our appointments. There isn’t really a version of complete idleness and indolence that sounds like it would work for more than a few days. What we’re searching for is a fantasy lifestyle that really functions. Our current balance of work and leisure is getting pretty close.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.