Self-discipline can seriously surprise you when you put it to the test. You may believe you have a really good grasp on it because, well, you stick to your routine and schedule and produce remarkable results on a day-to-day basis, but how robust a discipline is it if that only happens in the controlled environment that you have created?
You may have the utmost self-discipline and devotion to your projects and pursuits at home and within a comfort zone but will you maintain it if you leave that space and travel for a while? Will you stay as focused and disciplined if you have to do your work from a different place, in a different timezone, with different accommodations and facilities around you?
True self-discipline should and must thrive regardless of location, comfort, and mood. It should adapt to your lifestyle as well as to your new longitude and latitude without much fuss. It should be a part of who you are and how you operate from within and not a function of the outside factors. Only then can self-discipline truly afford you freedom, and help you become that location-independent, free-spirited-yet-ridiculously-productive entrepreneur that you long to become.
In the last month, I put my own self-discipline to the test, and the test continues still as I write this today from Christchurch, New Zealand. I have to admit, rather sheepishly, that I used to be rather proud of my own self-discipline, but right now, no such pride remains. In its place, new life experiences helped me grow into a better entrepreneur.
I was able to work harder than I ever imagined on airplanes, on airport lounges and en route all the way to the South Pacific. I was surprised that I started and finished a digital information product according to my own standards of quality in three weeks, conducted coaching sessions, worked with business partners, and arranged blogger meet-ups, all with limited access to the Internet or phone and with heaps of distractions around.
And then, almost instantly, all that initial high productivity took a sudden leave during the rest of my time at Lake Wakatipu, and no, I do not count reading hundreds of pages into Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as productivity ;)!
Now, it is after Xmas and the earthquakes and all the aftershocks here at Christchurch have settled down, and I am finally ramping back up with the same drive and discipline that is most familiar to me. But where on earth did my self-discipline go during that time?
Why do we lose the desire to be productive for work that we love and do completely at our own will? How do we harness that energy so that we make the calls on precisely when to work and when to play? And how do we cultivate a smart habit that supports our online and remote business while living this lifestyle for the long-term?
Well, we live and learn! I learned a few things from the highs and the lows of my own self-discipline during the past month and share with you my top 19 disciplines on what it means to get real work done to keep your business going while on the road and how to strike the perfect balance between work and play in any circumstance.
1. Remind yourself that flexibility and freedom come with responsibility. If you do not treat the responsibility seriously, you lose the freedom and flexibility. This simple formula does wonders to engage your brain and reset your mindset on what really matters to you, especially if this is for your own business.
2. Prepare your laptop and your workspace before you leave. This is one of the most practical advice I will give you and one that you may forget in the rush of getting ready to leave. Do all that you can to make your laptop robust and ready for remote operation. Update all of your programs because slow Internet won’t be kind to you. Install any applications you need, such as GoToWebinar (affiliate). Organize your data as much as possible to find what you need quickly.
3. Leave lots of space and memory on your laptop to account for your usage, especially if you are away from your backup hard-drives. For instance, will you have enough room to add all your pictures and videos and other data while on the road? Dealing with little space will be a huge waste of your time and a downer to productivity.
4. Be flexible with your routine and workspace. You may need to work on the floor to be close to the only power supply in the room. You may need to work in the balcony to have privacy. You may need to write in a crowded cafe. You may need to launch a product on very slow Internet access. Be flexible and patient and develop the skills to adapt to the circumstances.
5. Get clear on the work you want to get done, before leaving if possible. Saying that you want to get “a lot” done is vague. Saying that you want to write everyday is also rather vague. Have specific tasks such as launching a specific product on a certain date or writing X number of blog posts by such date and on this topic or creating your marketing plan for your services for the first quarter of the new year. Be specific with yourself.
6. Plan your activities around your work as much as the work around activities. If you have the flexibility to mix work and vacation, then put equal priorities on both. Plan your theatre and your tours around your work schedule and do schedule time to work as you would if you are home. Do this as much as possible. Some days you’ll be busier or going from place to place but grab those pockets of time when you can.
7. Take advantage of the Internet as well as of its absence. I can admit that I am quite shocked at how attached I am to my online access. And I am equally shocked as to how productive I can be without any Internet access. Identify the tasks that can be done without any access to the Internet and work on those when your WiFi goes down, as it most certainly will!
8. Know that inflexible deadlines are your best friends. And the deadlines that you meet for yourself are of the highest value because they assert that you respect your own word and that your own promise is a big one. So when you make that deadline, do not be flexible about changing it, because it will likely reduce your productivity.
9. Reward yourself when you meet those deadlines. It can be with shopping. It can be with eating a gelato or going on a cruise tour. Use the reward system because, trust me, it is delicious when you do it after you meet your deadlines.
10. Stop yourself when you respond to distractions during your work. I found that I have awful habits of checking email and social media constantly and when the Internet is slow, it is an extreme interruption to work flow. Notice what distractions take you away and stop them as they are happening. Use this time to create new habits for focusing better.
11. Understand that procrastination comes with its cost. The more you procrastinate, the more the work that awaits weighs on your mind and that is the last thing you need when you are away from home. Kill procrastination at its roots and don’t let the consequences eat into your time on vacation.
12. Limit the lapse in productivity with renewed promise and revisit to your goals. Several times, I had this lapse in productivity and I engaged my partner, my husband in my case, in conversation to talk about work and about my goals and about ways that I can re-engage. It’s fine if you have the lapses, but don’t let them last. Break it as soon as you can and find your productivity mojo again. Conversation and renewed promises and re-visitation of your goals always helps.
13. Decide what is worth doing on the road and what can wait til you get to your home office. Understanding the difference between important and urgent, and between what is sensible to do and what can really wait is a huge boost to your productivity. With slow Internet or with small stretches of time to work, you can make these calls and have even more clarity on the important tasks at hand.
14. Use every challenge, every disruption to routine, and every opportunity as a lesson. The more you understand yourself, the more you can grow your business to be aligned to your values. If you learn that you do not want to run your business remotely, then that’s a great information to have. If you learn that you do not wish to work in a certain mode, or from a specific time-zone because it makes it difficult to be in touch with some people, this is all information that can go into building the exact business that suits your lifestyle and your values.
15. Actively revisit the challenges in your business. The time away from home heightens our senses and helps our creativity. It is a great time for reflection on the business year behind. It is a greater time still for looking at the big picture of your business. I recommend that instead of completely turning off, think about your business in a new way. And just think about it. Just drop all things and sit somewhere and think about it. Commit to creating at least a dozen new business ideas. Commit to changing one thing, improving two things and solving an old problem with a new solution.
16. Experiment with different modes of working. You may find that you work really well in the sunlight or you write really well in the park or you really engage well in a meeting from a crowded seaside cafe. Travel affords you many opportunities to learn about your best mode of operation and no two people like the same working style. You are unique and your productivity comes to light in a unique way. Define it.
17. Meet people in your line of work. When you meet people from your industry or from your social media or networking circle, and talk about work and exchange ideas, it keeps you motivated on the road. It helps keep the energy of productivity going strong and it exposes you to a new social circle.
18. Examine the reasons behind your loss of interest in work. It is perfectly ok if suddenly, you do not want to work but find out why. Ask yourself questions: Do you really need a break? Is it a boring project you are tackling right now? Are you not interested in one or several aspects of what you do and why? Could you be doing something else? Use the time to understand why the productivity is gone!
19. Document your lessons on what worked well and what did not on running your business from the road. It can prove invaluable for you in the future, and who knows, maybe you will be running the business from the road many more times in the future. I know that I will.
Your turn: What 20th tip on running your business from the road can you add and what other thoughts would you care to share in the comments below?