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I’m fortunate enough to work and travel at the same time rather than reserving my travel for vacations. But it isn’t always easy. Like a lot of people I would rather do just about anything than do my “9-5” job. This is especially true when I know there is a beautiful world out there for me to explore: sunlight, fresh air, amazing views, places I’ve never been before…
But my job requires strict concentration and discipline. Making mistakes could potentially cost the patients we serve, or my employer, a lot of money (possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars or more). I take doing my job thoroughly and correctly very, very seriously, because the last thing I want to do is make that kind of mistake.
So how do I work, despite all the possible distractions?
These tips don’t only apply to traveling; they are useful in any working environment.
- I make sure my family (a.k.a. Ryan) knows that I need to concentrate. If the pets are harassing me, he gets them away from me too. If I have a conference call or something else where I need even more quiet, I close windows and doors and Ryan and the pets hang out in a different room.
- I use a set routine that I developed before we started traveling. I get up at the same time every day and start working at the same time.
- Set goals for things to accomplish by the end of the workday. My boss is great about communicating current projects and their priorities. I focus on a single item at a time, and try not to look at emails while I’m concentrating. My colleagues know that if I don’t answer right away but they need me urgently, they can call me.
- Take frequent breaks to stretch, rest your mind and brain. I set a timer on my computer to let me know when it’s time to stop.
- Eat when you need to. Have things prepared in advance so you can just heat them up quickly. I can work while eating, or take 5 minutes to eat. I don’t try to work through on an empty stomach because I know I don’t work efficiently.
- Try to keep your job to 8 hours per day. I’m salaried, so it would be easy to just keep working for longer to get more things done. But there’s always more work to do. So at about 8 hours, I start wrapping things up for the day.
- Try to leave my work out of my mind when I’m not working. I put as much focus as I can when I’m on “office hours,” but after that I focus on the rest of my life.
- Use ear plugs or head phones when there’s too much ambient noise.
- I stop and take a 15-minute nap if I’m tired or not feeling well.
- I communicate with my boss about any obstacles I encounter, so she can facilitate a solution. That way my time is spent more productively, rather than running in circles trying to fix something and then realizing I need guidance.
- Sometimes I need a day off. I take it, typically by scheduling in advance unless I’m sick. I recently took more than a week off, and even though it was a “staycation” at our RV it was exactly what I needed.
- Try to ignore your cell phone except for on breaks. I do have to leave the ringer on because my colleagues use it to call me, but I have different ring tones for email and text messages and if I hear those, they can wait.
- Make my lunch be about eating and relaxing, away from my job.
- I don’t surf through social media sites or text people when I’m trying to focus on something. I try to save that for breaks.
If you are thinking of working and traveling, I recommend developing a routine and habits before you get on the road. If you wait until after you start traveling, it will likely be more difficult because you will have many other things that are also changing.
This method works for me. I am more productive at home than I was in the office, because at the office there were many people around me who were not trying very hard to concentrate. I had a cubicle, not an office, so I was often assaulted by loud personal phone conversations, smells and sounds from the break room down the hall, and people having chats in the aisle as they moved around the office. People would also stop by sometimes to chat with me, which was not so bad, but that obviously doesn’t happen anymore.
My work is not micro-managed. My boss trusts me to get my job done proficiently. At the same time, she has performance metrics she has to report to her boss and other higher-ups. We also developed goals that I need to meet in order to get a good performance review (and possibly a raise). I strive to meet and exceed any expectations set forth to keep my department running smoothly and my reviews positive. The more I put into doing a job well, the likelier the chances are I will have less stress from it (hopefully).
My advice to anyone who feels trapped in a job
- Take pride in doing your job well to increase your job satisfaction and self-regard. Don’t worry about whether anyone else notices how well you are doing; do it for yourself.
- At the same time, don’t give 1000% of yourself to the job. I know when you’re a conscientious person, it’s hard not to give your all to something. And even harder when you’re the only one who does it. It can make you angry and resentful. I used to do that, and I can guarantee that for a job where you work for someone else, you will not see a return on that investment. Giving 80-90% of my best effort (as far as efficiency) makes me less tired and still gets the job done. And I still surpass others as far as speed with accuracy. I know people who are at the office for 10-12 hours each day and don’t accomplish half of what I do.
- Work on your way out. There are many ways to make money that don’t require working at your particular job that you hate so much. Be open-minded and you will likely find at least one that suits you. Then, start making a plan to transition to that new form of income.