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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Time Management for Travel Bloggers … and Others

This guest post is written by Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site.

While I hate the name, I am, to some degree, a digital nomad. I spend my time traveling the world and working as I go. By that very definition, I’m a digital nomad. But unlike most other digital nomads, I don’t move to a city for a few months, live and work there. I run a travel blog so I’m constantly on the move. In fact, my life would be a lot easier if I stayed in one place. That’s why the issue of time management is so important to me.

Balancing life and travel is a hard task when you’re constantly being pulled outside for activities, while the demands of running your own business keep you inside.

As a traveler who makes a living by building and publishing travel websites, I’ve found that the web can be all-consuming: it’s easy to spend hours or even days online. There’s always work to be done. The Internet will take as much as you give it. Conversely, it’s easy to get off track and “play” too much. Meeting new people and traveling to new destinations often becomes more important than work. It was hard for me to strike a good balance between the two for some time. I worked too much and I traveled too much, so something always suffered.

Meshing travel and work into a manageable and fulfilling lifestyle is an art. If you are going to have a travel blog, you are going to eventually need to travel and blog at the same time. A some point you’re going to need to find a way to balance work and travel if you want to be a successful travel blogger.

Time management involves a lot of trial and error, and I have had to learn how to balance conflicting demands. I’ve been pulled in many different directions, and it has taken a lot of discipline to balance my work and life. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over my years of travel is that it’s important to set specific times for work. You have to force yourself away from the computer, otherwise “a few more minutes” can easily turn into a few more hours. Over the years, though, I’ve developed a few strategies that help others manage their time more efficiently on the road.

It’s easy to get distracted by incoming email. I increase my productivity by scheduling specific times to check my email. Nothing is ever so urgent that it can’t wait a few hours. If you’re always checking email, you are going to be constantly distracted and not as productive as you could be.

My most productive hours are in the mornings and late afternoons before I go out. That’s when I do my best work. By scheduling work when I’m most productive, I get the most done and then I don’t have to worry about anything else.

This point continues the one above. As a traveler, you want to be out, traveling and doing stuff. You don’t want to be working all day. Avoiding work during the day is important. Museums, tours, activities—they all occur when the sun is up, and that’s when you should be out too. Working the late afternoon or early morning will still give you time to see the sights.

I set a time limit for work and tasks. If I force myself into a time constraint then I have to work during that time. It’s a mental trick, but it works. This works even better when you’re traveling with other people. You don’t want to make them wait!

It can be easy to get into work or forget about important tasks. I find that creating a list of tasks helps me to focus my efforts and increase my productivity. I like to break the list up into daily tasks. Once I finish a day’s work, I go out and play, and I don’t feel like there is still more to do.

Another trick I find helpful in balancing the workflow is to create day tasks. For example, Monday is my writing day, Tuesday is photo day, Wednesday is a random task day. By further breaking up the work into more manageable pieces, I spend less time getting stressed out and going, “Oh! I have so much to do!”

Twitter and Facebook are the most distracting tools ever invented. I love them both and constantly use them, but when I am working I shut them off. If I don’t, I spend too much time chatting with friends on Facebook or reading tweets, and my productivity suffers for it.

Learning to balance work and travel—or blogging and the rest of your life—is a hard task that everyone has to work on. You can better balance work and play, however, by training yourself to lead a disciplined life and by having good time management skills. I didn’t learn these lessons right away, and I’m still not all the way there yet, but I’m getting there. What are your time management secrets? I’d love to hear them!

Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world for the past four years. He runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site and has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian UK, AOL’s Wallet Pop, and Yahoo! Finance. He currently writes for AOL Travel and The Huffington Post For more information, you can visit his Facebook page or sign up for his RSS feed.


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