I'm Working 10 Hours a Week While I Travel Through Greece for 3 Months. Here's How I Prepared to Take This Break From My Business
I'll be working about 40 hours per month, which is how much time most people spending working per week.
By now you’ve probably heard of the digital nomad trend, as the pandemic really lit a fire under people to try it out. For me, the bug hit me and my family in 2018, well before the pandemic had even started. After the death of a few close loved ones, my husband and I realized we needed to shake things up in our lives. We invested in a 36-foot-long RV, packed up our then 3-year-old son and hit the road.
Although we eventually ditched the RV, once we got a glimpse of what a nomadic lifestyle could gift us in life, we never let it go. We still plan various lengthy trips throughout the year, and even though the pandemic threw a wrench in that for a few months, we've reignited our passion for travel with a recent trip to Hawaii in June and a three-month trip to Greece planned for August to October.
Planning for a three-month trip away from my business took a lot of careful planning and consideration. Needless to say, the month of July was a bit hectic. But if you want to do this lifestyle the right way, careful planning and preparation is the name of the game.
During my three months away, I will aim to work only 10 hours maximum per week. That’s right, that averages to about 40 hours per month, the amount of time most professionals will work in a week. To give you an idea of how I’m actually able to do this, let me share the four steps I took to prepare.
Step 1: Planning ahead
In order to make this impending three-month trip a possibility, I had to first map out my month of July, weaving together all the different projects and tasks that had to be completed for that three-month period that I plan to be focused on traveling. Because I own an online business, that meant planning out all the different pieces of content I had to create before my trip.
I started by writing down everything, and I mean everything, that had to be created in the four weeks I allotted to prepare. I love to batch content, and I use batch work as a valuable productivity technique in my business, but this is the very first time I’ve ever had to batch 90 days’ worth of content.
I ended up having to record 15 YouTube videos and 15 podcast episodes in just 30 days. Although it sounds like an insurmountable number, once I calculated how many hours of work it would take and mapped out the time accordingly, it ended up looking like this:
I spent one week recording 10 full podcast episodes and five introductions to previously recorded content (I recorded about three episodes per day, which took me about three hours).
I spent one-and-a-half weeks recording nine YouTube videos (I repurposed about six previously recorded videos). I recorded anywhere from two to three videos per day, each chunk taking two hours.
Lastly, I aimed to repurpose all of this audio/video content into written content for my blog, which is a task I delegated to one of my team members.
I should add that even though I am a solopreneur, I didn’t do this alone. I love the saying “it takes a village,” because I believe that to be true in both child raising and business growth. In addition to being a loving husband and father, my husband serves as the multimedia manager for my company and handles all the editing of videos. In addition, my son Cal spent much of the month of July having weekly sleepovers at my parents’ house.
If you are serious about committing to this lifestyle, you need to be willing to receive the help that is offered to you. Seriously, find your people and take their help! Your future travels will thank you for it.
Step 2: Alerting clients and colleagues
Although digital nomadism and taking extended time off has become more of a norm, I definitely felt like I was paving the way for others when I embarked on this lifestyle in 2019. Telling clients how I choose to live and work was quite the anomaly for a lot of them.
The way I personally choose to go about this with clients and colleagues is 100% transparency. This includes a detailed “out of office” automatic message that gets delivered to people whenever they try to email me. The automated reply will include my travel dates, the times I plan on checking my inbox and any necessary information regarding who/where to contact with questions.
About three weeks before your trip, start thinking about when you want those 10 hours of work per week to take place. You need to know this before your trip so that you can plan for internet access and be sure you are not traveling on the work hours/days you select. This is why I love to plan out our travels and accommodations in advance, rather than flying by the seat of our pants.
Once you’ve carefully selected when you will be working, update your calendar accordingly. I like to update my calendar using Acuity so that my clients and colleagues can check that calendar and schedule a call with me if needed.
Bonus tip for scheduling: Don’t forget what time zone you’re in! No matter where I travel, I never change the time on my computer. The time zone on my computer is always the time zone I live in when I’m not traveling. That way there's no confusion when clients are trying to connect with me and I’m eight hours ahead of them while in Greece.
Step 3: Determining how you will handle email and social media
Okay, we have to talk about it. Considering the exorbitant amount of time the average person spends on email or social media, I thought it important to address these two together.
Email is a black hole, particularly when you're traveling. If you don't set and define clear boundaries for yourself, it will inevitably suck you in and away from the fun you’re supposed to be having.
What I do is set aside two hours every weekday morning to check my email and reply to urgent messages. If needed, I’ll also take 30 minutes to an hour at night to check in again. Two important things to remember here: First, define what “urgent” means to you before leaving for your trip. There is no way you are going to give every email your concerted attention in such a small window of time, so do yourself a favor and decide what is most important ahead of time.
Second, I have found that email correspondence while I'm away has never been an issue with my clients, and that’s because I set the tone for them beforehand. Before I have even taken off, my clients will know how long I will be gone for, when I will be available to connect with them, and most importantly, why I am doing it. That is, my clients know my “why.” They know that one of the primary reasons I created my business was so that I could live a life full of adventure and travel. Let's not forget we are all human beings at the end of the day. If you want your clients to be on board with this decision, then share your why with them.
The same goes for social media. When I'm traveling, my network of people know that they're not going to see me on social media as much as they usually do. In fact, my passion for travel is one of the reasons I no longer rely on Instagram or Facebook to get clients. In general though, I strive to spend no more than 20 minutes on social media per day, usually in the morning and then right before bed. I also don’t share my travels in real time, as I feel this takes away from the experience. I will document moments throughout the day and upload them all at once to Instagram Stories.
I'm guessing your interest in traveling or digital nomadism does not involve staring at your phone screen 80% of the time, so let me share a few apps and tools I personally love. Quality Time is a great app you can use that actually allows you to lock your phone after a certain amount of time spent on social media. Usually I set my reminder to read something like “family time.” That way when I set my timer to avoid social media, if I feel a pull to check it I'll be reminded that it’s family time and avoid turning off my timer. There’s also an app called HabitLab by Stanford that I recommend for figuring out which platforms you are spending too much time on.
Step 4: Letting go of what you know
Just because you’re interested in taking an extended leave from your business or from work, and likely experiencing all the exciting feelings that come with it, that doesn’t mean there won’t be feelings of confusion and overwhelm at times. Our society has conditioned us to believe that work means Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or much later in many cases). We’re taught that a capitalist culture has never and will never lend itself to 10 hours of work per week.
It will take some adjustment time to let go of what you knew. To let go of what work looks like in your mind. Here’s my advice: Number one, think about what you want. When you’re considering creating a new way of life, it’s never easy, and many feelings of doubt will come up. Get clear on what you really desire, and allow this to drive you. Number two, stop feeling guilty. Although society has thrust the unwritten rule of a 40-hour work week upon many of us, that doesn’t mean we have to abide by it. We can go our own way. Isn’t that the reason you decided to start your own businesses in the first place?
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer