Before going into what may be useful to some people, I need to make a little detour and give some background. I’m new here, hi! Though not new to Drupal (hi folks). I’ve been at Gizra for 6-ish months. Before that I travelled for 6 months, moved to another country and all I wanted to do was stay put and not see the insides of a plane, train, bus or rickshaw.

Eventually, the travel bug caught me again, and I thought, with all of this “freedom” of working remotely, surely, I can do this from anywhere (in Europe). Maps got taken out, places put on to our wishlist and plans started to form. We (partner and I) thought why not travel through Spain and work half days over the new year period. I thought I could have the best of both worlds, explore places and work enough to keep the ship sailing. This road trip was to be our trial, to see if we can make it work for similar work-holidays.

And a learning-intensive trial it was!

Working remotely gives you a lot of flexibility (if done right). It also gives you a lot of responsibility. People rely on you to be reliable and available. You need to set your own goals, self-motivate and commit.

How did we fare in this experiment, you wonder? Well, not as good as we envisioned it. I had a bit of a romantic idea when first proclaiming that we shall do this. Envisioning is not all you need to do when you want to do both, freedom to explore and work at the same time. I guess there are also 2 sides to the story. No one grumbled albeit I felt my quality of work was compromised. And all it comes down to is planning. That’s the secret really, blended with a couple of other things.

Alhambra, Granada

Plan, Plan Plan!!!

Get Your Route Down

Know when you plan to be where. When will you be on the road driving from A to B? What times of the day are you going to explore? Where is your next stop/accommodation? If you plan for a longer period of time but also want to work a half day, make sure you know where to stop in between and how to distribute your working time. During our road trip we got really good at finding good rest stops. If you have a data plan and need to have a last minute meeting, you can have your meeting from the car. Just make sure that (if you’re two) you don’t end up both having a meeting at the same time.

Although we had a plan of when we’ll explore, drive and work. It still needed more detailed planning and aligning with actual work meetings.

That Thing About Internet Connection

Oh how they all promise to have it yet it rarely really works. In Europe, I can use my data plan I’ve got at home, but imagine you’re in the mountains, no signal and a hotel that claims to have wifi only to be brought back to 1999. If you’re already splitting your days, you’ll want to up your productivity to the max, not deal with fine-tuning your connectivity for an hour. There were assumptions that if we don’t have wifi, we could at least use our data plan for tethering. If you don’t have a good Wifi or a good phone connection, life gets a little tricky trying to work.

One thing we learned quickly, ask the accommodation beforehand and search for places that are made for “digital nomads.” You may have to spend a little something on some coffee, tea or cake, but at least you have decent access and a brilliant place for people watching.

Stagger the Work Time

I think this entirely depends on how you work, when you’re the most productive, when your colleagues work and when you usually have meetings with clients. I have the majority of my meetings in the afternoons, so does my partner. Therefore, we simply said that we’d split the days as such that the mornings were for exploring/driving and the afternoons for working. Nuh uh! That didn’t work. Exploring gets more fun in the afternoon, especially in Spain where everything comes to life after 2pm.

I’m not my most focused/productive in the afternoon. I prefer the mornings when I am fresh and ready for the day.

Having had fun and then having to work… Not a great motivator. I’d have rather had the “exploring part” of the day as a treat for finishing work, not the other way around. At Gizra, we have people working from Sunday-Thursday and others working Monday-Friday. This means that when I get to start on a Monday, half the people have already worked and I play a little catch-up. To align with how we work at Gizra, the following would have made more sense for me:

Work full time on a Monday, Tuesday is a half day and Wednesday is off. Thursday would be again a full day of work to prepare for the following week and wrap anything up with those that have their weekends on Friday/Saturday. Friday could be a half day.

Alternatively, simply split the week in half.

Another “barrier” I had put up myself, is not taking more advantage of really working more flexibly, that is, also on Sundays if that would fare better with travelling.

Meetings

I prioritised regular meetings with my clients. Those were all in the afternoon and those would almost fill up all of my half work days. Of course, those calls are important, but better planning and preparation could have meant to distribute them differently over my available work time, reschedule some and stick with the really important ones.

Set Realistic Goals

At the risk of sounding like a noob, I really thought I could do everything in half the amount of time (insert facepalm emoji). I told everyone that nothing will really change, I’ll still be here and working. To keep it short, set yourself some realistic goals. Have a list of things that need to get done, chuck out everything that can wait or be handed over to someone else. Focus on the items you can get done and tell your clients/co-workers/bosses what’ll be realistic considering you have a reduced time window.

One way of being more realistic is to estimate each item on your to do list (ideally in a prioritised order). How long will this take? How much time do I have available? It’s a simple numbers game but make sure to add a buffer in your planning cause we all know not everything will go smoothly. This way, you can move everything that didn’t fit in the time window to the week after.

With all of this said, it did work somehow but could have used a lot more planning beforehand. I’m now writing this from another European location that is not my home office and I’ve already implemented most of the above. It definitely feels less stressful and it’s also good to know that my team is amazing and amazingly supportive.