One of my favorite things to do – something that makes the top of my to-do list each year – is to travel to new locations.
This past year, our lives have changed in many ways as our daughter moved from high school senior to college freshman. While we normally calendar our trips for the year for planning purposes, this year our calendar remained wide open. The first decision was to choose a college. And since that decision wasn’t finalized until April, the first quarter of our year was dedicated to traveling simply to find a school. With that mission completed, it turned to helping her move 1200 miles from home.
Before 2013, I had never been to Oregon. It was my one holdout state west of the Mississippi. The only state I’d never explored. Until my daughter announced she wanted to go to school there. Now I’ve been to Oregon four times in the past 10 months, and have stayed a total of 21 days.
This year, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving by doing something new. We’ve never been big celebrators around this holiday – can you blame us if we don’t like the concept of turkey since we’re vegetarians?
So when our daughter announced she had classes through the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we decided this would be the year we go to her instead of flying her home to us. Oregon in November; who knew what we would find. Eight days of sunshine, beach, and yes, a little rain too, we discovered the magic of the Oregon coast.
Instead of staying in a hotel, we chose a house with beach access. Every morning I woke up before the sun rose, wrote for a few hours, then as a family we walked the beach taking in the sun, the warm air, and the occasional sand dollar we found on the beach. We watched movies, we read, we feasted, we played games, and we did a whole lot of nothing. The perfect thing to do on a long weekend, right?
When we travel, we don’t have people that can pick up the slack back at the office, or simply turn our work over to other employees. We are the employees, managers, and everything in between. It’s just the two of us, with help from a series of contracted help.
In other words, the show stops unless we keep it moving.
That’s the reality of an online business. I can pick it up and move it anywhere. But without me at the wheel, it ceases to exist.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to work 24/7/365 days of the year though. Over the years I’ve found a system that works well and keeps everything running whether I choose to work 10 hours a day or 2. And frankly, I can’t think of a better way to earn a living than being able to go anywhere I choose, with no time constraints or need to put in a slip of paper requesting leave. My only requirements are to find a location with free Wi-Fi. Simple enough and completely doable almost anywhere in the world.
So you’re thinking of turning your big idea into an online business. But it’s completely foreign to you. You’ve always held a job before, and that meant two weeks of vacation where the job stayed back at the office. What does it mean to run a business from a laptop? What does it mean to be in charge of something in the online world?
Let me share a few tips with you that I use all the time to keep my business running.
1. Work from a monthly system
What do you have to accomplish this month? What client work do you have? What projects do you have to get out the door? Some things are mandatory in your business while others simply fill in the cracks.
At the beginning of each month, create a timetable for things that truly have to get done. I physically write in the details on specific days, so I know exactly what I have to accomplish. If I’m planning a trip, I work a little harder to get more accomplished before I leave. And when something is done, I simply cross it off the calendar.
Nothing feels quite as good than looking at my calendar, knowing my mandatory items are finished. If I have extra days with nothing planned, I can choose to create a new product or service, attend online education, or simply take the time off and do things I want to do.
It keeps me on track. And it’s the only way to make sure you have everything completed in a timely manner. Start a system that works for you and make sure you use it all the time. Laying it out in front of you gives you the motivation you need to complete things, especially when you want to walk away and go on vacation, or add new and different things to your lifestyle.
2. Hire out what you can
I have an online business so I can pack up and walk away whenever I choose. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get more done by relying on others. I have contracted help all over the United States. (Yes, I’ve hired people outside of the US too, but at the moment everyone lives here. Not really planned, just the way it is at the moment.)
What can you hire out that will make your life easier? Virtual assistants are the best people to hire. You can find assistants with all kinds of skill sets to help you with whatever you need completed. Research, writing, customer service, development – think of the things most time consuming to you and find a way to outsource it.
Then when you pick up the computer, it’s more about checking in and seeing what needs your attention rather than actually sitting down to do something. It saves you amazing amounts of time. And puts other people to work too.
3. Set up specific times to work each day
I’m the type of person that loves to get up before 6 in the morning to write and have time to myself. What are you going to do that early in the morning anyway, right? And usually I have the whole house to myself for several hours before anyone else rises.
So if I’m in a new location, especially with a view, I make myself some tea, set up my computer by a window, and watch the sunrise in a new part of the world. And by the time everyone else is ready for breakfast, I have several hours all ready in for the day.
It works for me. And it’ll work for you too. Choose your own time and make sure you accomplish the things you set out to do. Don’t get side tracked with the un-necessaries – checking in on Facebook or surfing the net – create a list and get it done. Then enjoy the rest of your time any way you choose.
4. Don’t be afraid to pick the computer up or put it down
You know those cold, rainy, dreary days when you can’t be outside and you choose to stay in and do nothing? Everyone else is watching a movie or reading a book? Snuggle up in a comfy chair next to them and pull out your computer for an hour or two of work.
You’re still in the room. You’re still a part of the conversation. Just don’t allow it to consume you. When everyone moves to the table for a card game, put the computer away and join in. Working online is all about balance. A little bit here and a little bit there. And soon you have all you need to succeed.
5. Don’t worry if it doesn’t get done
When you’re online, you create content. You add new blog posts, share messages on Facebook. You add a video to YouTube, post a few comments on other blogs. You’re active. You’re networking.
Yet sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you’re out on the beach walking and talking with your family. Sometimes you’re sick in bed. Sometimes you’re skiing down the most perfect mountain on the face of the planet.
That’s all okay. Eventually you won’t be doing any of those things, and you’ll have access to the online world once more. You don’t have to apologize for being gone. You simply pick up where you left off and start in all over again.
Now I’m not saying to let two months go by. But if you have five days, even a week or more with no contact, don’t worry about it. Networking anywhere is always about connections and building a relationship. And what I’ve found is sometimes taking a few days off to recharge completely refocuses you and makes you more active when you return.
People forgive and forget. And it can also make you more human in the long run. People are always curious when you return and suddenly start talking about your adventures or your new a-ha moments.
Just never forget your audience is there, waiting for you. As long as you dedicate time to them, you’ll be fine overall.