My job is not your typical 9-5. I don’t go into an office, I don’t have a boss handing me a stack of papers in the morning, I don’t have lunch with coworkers, I work remotely from the comfort of my living room (sometimes kitchen table) or I’m traveling to a client site (somewhere in the United States and typically by myself or with only a few other individuals). My work consist of roughly 80-90% travel and I usually don’t even know where I’m going until the week prior to a project starting. If you’re in a position like me, you might already understand this lifestyle and have found comfort or you might be familiar with this lifestyle but struggle with it. If your new to working remotely or have been in the same office for the last 5 years, this lifestyle might seem crazy or unheard of. Well yes, it’s crazy, but no, not unheard of.
Managing a remote work lifestyle is NOT easy. It takes a lot of time, disciple and understanding to be able to have a successful career in such an environment. You have to be an avid communicator, a self learner, disciplined (AND YES, I used the word disciplined twice in the same paragraph because this is CRITICAL) and you have to be somewhat okay with being alone.
My first three years of working remotely have had there ups and downs. There’s times where I’m on the road for 15 weeks straight (with the option to come home on weekends) and there’s times where I’m working from home for 2 months. By home I mean at home, in my house, no co workers around me, no boss looking over my shoulder, just me and an open space and well…my parents who live next door.
There’s times where I’m happy and like anything in life there’s times where I’ve had the final straw. So what do I do to stay grounded? How do a manage a life without structure? Well, that’s what I do. I find structure in what I can. & if you’re currently working remotely or are considering a career path in this direction, my number one suggestion would be find structure in the aspects of your life that you can control and despite the contrary, you will realize you control a lot.
Tips for managing a remote and travel heavy job:
1. Plan your days
If you know you have calls, web conferences etc. Plan your days around those activities. Create a daily to do list. Set goals for your day and cross them off your list as you go. My first job out of college (not my current job) was extremely strict. I had an hourly to do list and at that time, I thought this practice was extreme however, I completed what I had to because I had each hour of my day set up. Maybe you don’t want to be this diligent but at least write down the key things you need to complete before leaving your work space.
2. Create a work space
Working from home is not simple. There’s the T.V, the refrigerator, the laundry, the pets, the bed, the floors not clean, an endless amount of distractions around you. Put the chores aside. You are at work. Find a place in your home that defines you are at work. For me, it’s the far end table at the kitchen table or the left hand corner of my couch. This is my work space and that’s where I get my work done. If you live with others, let them know, when you are in your work space, YOU ARE WORKING. Not only will this help you stay focused it will help others around you realize, you my dear… have gone to the office.
3. Continue to do the activities you do at home when you are on the road
Let’s state the obvious, maybe not all your activities can stay the same when traveling but don’t let traveling consume your life. If you love to workout, go to the hotel gym. If you are on a diet, stick to your diet. Just because you hopped on a plane and flew 900 miles, this doesn’t mean your whole routine should suffer or is it a good excuse to gain 50 pounds. Be creative. If you want to continue living a balanced life, no one is stopping you.
4. Stay balanced
This is key when working from home or being on the road. Don’t let too much work or too much laziness consume your life. Being happy in the work place is a balance of being able to work hard while still managing a personal life.
5. Don’t let being alone, stop you from exploring.
Yes. That is a photo of me. In Oregon. ALONE. At the top of Mary’s Peak near Corvallis. How did I get the picture? I propped up my phone on my rental car (Jeep Wrangler 4 door, my favorite) and put the self timer on. I was proud that I did something alone. There has been many places I failed to explore because I didn’t want to go alone. Don’t let being alone discourage you. This is your time to do something with you. Reflect on your thoughts and get out there. You might not always get the opportunity to go back.
6. Stay Connected
When I’m gone for 15 weeks at a time, sometimes I feel off the beaten path. I’m not with friends, I don’t see my family but that doesn’t mean I can’t be present in spirit. Call your relatives, call your friends, use FaceTime, communicate on social media. I’m a talker so for me, I use my travel time in the car to talk to my friends and family. On the way to work, during lunch and on my way home, I am taking to someone. Not promoting talking on the phone while driving but for me the car is where I communicate. Throw on the headset.
7. Stay busy when working from home
It is so easy to get yourself into a slump when working remotely. Do not and I repeat, DO NOT, let working from home get you in a slump. Do your work and stay driven. If there’s something your want to do or you have extra time during your at home work life, use that time to do something positive. Don’t just sit there. Ask for more work, find something you’re interested in whether it’s educational or a hobby. For example, over this last year I decided I wanted to pursue higher education (Masters in Organizational Development and Change Management). Despite traveling and working remotely, I still continued with my efforts. I didn’t let traveling or working remotely effect the goals I wanted to accomplish. I stayed grounded, I made time, I made it work and I’m happy to say, I’m almost finished.
My list of tips on this subject could quite possibly be endless however, I think this sums it up in a short snippet. For my “remoteys” and “travel workers” plain and simple, find structure. If you can do this you will not only find more stability in the workplace but more stability in your personal life!
Thanks for reading!