Being Productive and Working While Traveling

Me on the computer at a desk which is not my ownLast night at about 3:30am I achieved Lightroom Zero, or in other words, I finally finished all my photo editing.

If you’ve noticed, I haven’t written much in the last month. This is because I don’t like writing unless I have corresponding images to go with a story. That means my article writing is on hold until I can get my photos edited. The problem with editing photos is that when I go out to shoot, by the time I come back it is usually late, I’m tired, hungry and I put off editing the photos for later. By the time ‘later’ comes around, I’ve taken more photos and am probably in a new city. Fast forward through enough travel and I have thousands of images I have to plod through, which is exactly where I found myself. Once the pile gets big enough, it is so daunting that you come up with reason to put off doing it and that just makes matters worse.

I’ve come to realize the hard way that I need to change how I’m doing things. Traveling is one thing. Constantly moving and trying to run small business is quite another. Most of the productivity tips I read really don’t apply to my special set of circumstances. I don’t have a regular daily routine, I’m seldom in the same place for more than a week, and I’m often changing time zones.

I’ve begun to change some of my habits to make sure I don’t get into a similar bind in the future.

  • I eliminated many of the websites I read. My morning routine is reading email and checking my RSS reader. I follow about 150 different websites via Google Reader. I axed a bunch of those, especially technology sites because their information was redundant and it had no impact on me. Honestly, whatever Google or Apple does doesn’t really doesn’t effect me. If they announce something, I can make my decision at that time. Until then, there is no reason to waste my time reading people guessing and reporting leaks. I’ve also cut back on the number of podcasts I listen to, especially technology ones for the same reason.
  • I cut back on Twitter. I don’t know how permanent or temporary this is, but you can waste an entire day on Twitter and not get any work done. Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is important and I’m not going to abandon it, but you can’t spend time on it to the exclusion of other things. I view Twitter as the mortar and my blog as the bricks.
  • I’m reserving one work day for each two days of exploring. When I was in Spain earlier this year, I was going non stop every day. Meetings, tours, meals, and the Spanish eating schedule had me exhausted after two weeks. Not only was I tired, but I had no time to work on the website. From now on I’m going to use a 1 for 2 policy. It doesn’t have to be every third day, but in between trips I have to take time to just sit and process everything I just did.
  • Never get more than 2 weeks behind. The simplest solution to getting too far behind is to just draw a line in the sand and say “I’m not doing anything new until the old stuff gets done”. I think two weeks worth of photos is a reasonable amount. I could probably do that in a day if I work at it solid. Maybe two days.
  • Be upfront with the people I work with. The way I go about traveling and working is very different from most travel writers. I was invited to go on a 10 day cruise and the invitation said there was an option to leave after 6 days if you needed to go file your story. I wanted just the opposite. I’ll stay a week on either end of the cruise to go exploring on my own and take some time to work on location. My circumstances are very different from the vast majority of travel writers and photographers. So far, most destinations I’ve spoken with have had no problems accommodating me.
  • Write more. Writing is something that you have to do on a regular basis. I do a lot of photography and that is probably what I’m best known for, but it isn’t an excuse for not writing. I need to develop the habit of writing every day, even if it doesn’t result in a published blog post on that day. While I’m a big believer in integrating photography with every article, I also can’t use photos as a crutch and an excuse to not write.

I’ll be putting this to the test in the next two months. Next week I leave for Acapulco, then I’m off to Puerto Rico and Valencia after that.

If anyone else has tip on how to stay productive while traveling, I’ll be glad to hear them. This is a work in progress and I’m sure I’ll be making changes as time goes on.