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.

17 thoughts on “Being Productive and Working While Traveling”

  1. Was very curious as to how you scheduled your work/travel time. Thanks for this!

    I try to spend 2 days a week editing photos, videos, and writing new stuff. Which reminds me, time to fire-up FCP again…

  2. I completely and thoroughly relate to your story… !!! Add to that, and my Macbook was in repairs in Austria for 8 weeks!! When I got it back a couple weeks ago, I had over 5000 photos to upload… and edit… and now blogging again… relief! Keep up the good work.. ;-)

  3. Gary, you inspired me — I’ve been editing photos for the past seven hours, including my whole Angkor collection, and I just achieved Lightroom Zero myself. It feels GREAT.

    (Now, on to the blogging. I just wrote about Christmas in Sihanoukville the other day…need to get caught up.) Great tips, though — I haven’t yet found a steady work routine that works, so one day of work for two days of travel sounds like a smart way of doing it. Will try it out!

  4. I’m glad to see that I’m not alone with this problem… Interesting with your 1/2 rule, but I don’t think I would make it. It’s so d*mn interesting to go photo exploring! Sometimes I wish the writing could be done in some magical way… ha ha…

    some say I say that you need to slow down your pace a bit, but for me that isn’t always possible. Sometimes there is no choice, because other things rules.

  5. Balancing work and travel is definitely a challenge. Your strategy of one work day for every two out exploring sounds like a good one, as does cutting back on the Twitter time. I’ll be interested to hear how it all works out for you. Enjoy your visit to Acapulco!

  6. Agree with you about your reader – I have so many blogs in my feed it’s difficult to keep up and I find myself wasting a lot of time going through stuff.

    Great tips!

  7. We’re really struggling at the moment with balance as well. We put together posts and edit photos as soon as the day is done and get things up in a timely fashion, but it leaves little time for reading everyone else’s posts and interacting on Twitter. It is especially difficult in New Zealand right now because internet is expensive.

  8. It sounds rather as though you need to slow down your pace a bit. Allow more downtime, ease off on the schedule, allow for days of doing very little (rather than just days of working). I’m guessing you were a workaholic in your previous life and I wonder whether taking more time to enjoy the fantastic life you have now might be a good thing?

    I’ve got nowhere near your competence as a photographer, but I think one thing that’s useful is to shoot less: try and treat digital as if it’s close to film. Another thing is to rigorously delete from the camera before it hits the system.

    Cutting back on Twitter and Reader is a great tip, I think.

  9. Fantastic content & suggestions!!! I am starting to use this knowledge as I type this. I’m tired of hearing great productivity advice & not using it to advance my lifestyle.

    This topic is very imperative to post for others, since working and traveling is probably a big concern for many of your readers.

    Keep up the idea generation. It’s working already.

  10. Nice plan, Gary. The photo backlog is the biggest problem for me as well. I try to delete more in camera when i have a down moment on a bus or waiting for something. It helps to be more ruthless as well because all that cruft takes up space and time (to download and review enough to hit the X in Lightroom). Good luck with the plan!

  11. I put all of my must read Twitterers on my RSS feedreader. It’s not possible to do this on the new Twitter, so I had to revert back to the old version, which won’t be available much longer. That means I won’t be able to do this with new people I start following in the future.

    The advantage to doing this is: 1) All the tweets are grouped by Twitterer instead of in chronological order, which I prefer. 2) you can look at the Tweets in list view and choose, by what you see there, whether to expand the Tweet to read the whole thing. It’s much more compact than looking at the Twitter screen, and you can fly through prolific Twitterers like Lonely Planet, checking out only that which interests you.

    Maybe some of the Twitter clients allow you to do this, as well, but then that’s one more program to load up. I like being able to quickly check out lists of Tweets, then move on to check out blogs. Also, particularly with prolific accounts like Lonely Planet that have a lot of links, I will often just Star a tweet to go back and look at later instead of opening the tweet then clicking on the link. Then, when I have time to sit and read a bunch of articles, I just go to my Starred tweets and explore the ones that are unread.

    I’m really mad at Twitter for not making RSS an option in the profiles on the new version, because I find this incredibly more efficient than scrolling down the Twitter website screen.

  12. I like the 1 day of work for every 2 days of travel. I got really behind posting the last 2 months of my trip. And photo editing is so hard to keep up with! Nice tips.

  13. im just a newblie travel blogger and im in the proces sof improving the way i schedule my tasks as well.. thanks for sharing these tips…

  14. Hey, thanks for writing the part about writing EVERY day even if it doesn’t result in a blog post. It’s true that it needs to be a habit, and I am also one who needs to develop it. Thanks for saying what I needed to hear, just when I need to hear it :)


  15. Hey, thanks for writing the part about writing EVERY day even if it doesn’t result in a blog post. It’s true that it needs to be a habit, and I am also one who needs to develop it. Thanks for saying what I needed to hear, just when I need to hear it :)


  16. I run into all of the same issues when I’m traveling – and even when I’m at home. Unfortunately writing and photo editing seem to be the two things that get sacrificed first…

  17. I run into all of the same issues when I’m traveling – and even when I’m at home. Unfortunately writing and photo editing seem to be the two things that get sacrificed first…

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