Working On Vacation: Progress Report

My office

My office

Let's start by stating the obvious: working on the road is challenging, frustrating, and distracting.

But it's also rewarding if done correctly.

For the last 7 days, I've been participating in the Gumroad Small Product Lab, an utterly insane and inspiring project where the participants create and launch a product in just 10 days. But one teeny tiny thing: on days 3 through 7 I was going to be out of town on two separate trips.  Oh, and one of those days was a wine tasting event. Fun, but an impossible work day.

Complete a project while on the road? Doable. Challenging, but doable.

I'm all set to launch my book, Framework, as scheduled (more on that later)'s how I managed to stay on track.

1. Call yourself. The first trip was from Georgia to Myrtle Beach, a 7 hour car ride. When it was my turn to drive, I used my car's handsfree phone system to call myself and leave a voicemail. With two presses of my left thumb, I was dialing my home number and leaving a voicemail reminder for edits,  photo selection, even a few poems. When I arrived at the hotel, I accessed my voicemail, and turned the voicemails into written notes. I don't recommend using your hands to fish for a cell phone and dial, but if your car has bluetooth, take advantage of your drive time to get in a few brainstorming sessions. 

2. Work within your constraints. I knew I couldn't edit my book on my cell phone. Or write the forward. But what I could do was edit photos. After we switched drivers, I put my feet up and began to edit the photos for the book. All of them. Every. Single. One. Before I left, I transferred all of my photos to a folder in Dropbox, a cloud-based storage system. I have Dropbox installed everywhere: my iPad, my phone and my laptop. Every file I add is instantly synched across all my devices, no matter where I am. While my husband drove, I used my phone to access the photos stored in Dropbox and moved them to VSCOcam, a photo editing app. I edited the photos to my liking, then re-loaded the edited photos to a different Dropbox folder. Easy peasey. I now have two folders of photos. One folder of the unedited photos and one folder of edited pictures. At the hotel, I used my laptop to access the stored photos and place them into my book.

3. Work fast and work smart. Speaking of the hotel...the hotel was perfect: two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room and balcony. For just the two of us. Which meant I could spread out and work a little bit at a time, away from "the vacation". After a walk on the beach, but before breakfast? Pop into the other bedroom to write a short poem for A Poem Before Breakfast and design a few pages of Framework. Waiting for the front desk to send someone to fix the ice maker? Stand in the room's kitchen and format a few pages of the book. Waiting for my husband to come back from a Starbucks run? Tinker with the wording of the website while sitting on the balcony. A few minutes here and there brought me closer and closer to my goal. My book was meticulously composed in 15-minute hyper-focused increments.

4. Bow down before greatness. And get inspired. Even though I was often on an entirely different page from the rest of the Lab participants, I still checked in to admire everyone else's handiwork. My schedule meant I couldn't participate in the Facebook group as much as I liked, but I read as much as I could to gather inspiration. And my fellow participants were killing it. See what they created: 30 Days of Iltopia, Sketching Backyard Birds For Beginners, the Small Product Lab Experience: Your Illustrated Guide are just a few of my fellow Labbers.

5. Bow out when necessary. The last day of vacation was a wine tasting event in Chattanooga. There was no way I was working that evening. Or, ahem, the next morning. So I didn't. I took 24 hours off, and didn't (and still don't) feel guilty about it. 

6. Jump right back. I'm back home and I'm ready to go. On this Sunday night, Monday morning feels like it's too far away, so I'm back right now. After a day of traveling, it's too late in the day to start a big project, so I'm making a list for the next few days. I'm working, even when it feels like I'm not working. When I wake up tomorrow morning, I'm going to have a plan, and what's more, I'm going to execute that plan. 

Even after four days of vacation, I feel like I've hit the lottery: I've been relaxed and off-duty while working my ass off. How do you work while you're on the road?