My husband and business partner, Buddy, and I have owned and operated businesses together for over 16 years. We have established and sold two companies and are now working on our third venture. Over the years, we have spent a lot of time traveling, both for business and pleasure. When on vacation or business travel, the work back at the office doesn’t pause or slow; it continues to build. Having a structured remote work routine can be the key to your success, allowing you to stay on top of business even when you are out of the office.
Growing, and scaling, our businesses over the years has required a great deal of commitment and time and often required us to travel, sometimes at length. We embraced the philosophy, “the family that travels together, stays together,” and took our children with us whenever possible. We also turned many business trips into a vacation to make the most of our time somewhere. One summer, we drove cross-country on two different highways, taking crew members to dinner and conducting job interviews, while stopping to tour national parks and visiting family members along the way.
When your spouse is your partner, and you’re traveling together, (meaning you are both out of the office), you need even more self-discipline. Striking a balance can be challenging when working remotely. For us, it’s been a learning process, and sometimes I feel like I have to learn the same lessons over again. Here, I’ll cover some tactics we’ve learned over the years that might help you manage your existing workload, gain traction on new initiatives, spend quality time with your family and explore new places and adventures on your journeys.
A theme in our family and my life is: Work Hard, Play Hard. You’ll find this underlying message in all my writing, speeches and videos. I believe in embracing life to the full and living purposefully every day with that objective in mind. Yes, at times, this intense lifestyle can be exhausting. I have to live very intentionally to keep pace with our self-imposed chaos. This starts with a relentless morning routine. I also work to incorporate meditation, a healthy(ish) diet, adequate sleep and other beneficial daily habits. Let me disclose; I’m never 100 percent. I never fully crush it in every area, but I am always trying and that helps keep me centered amidst the mayhem.
Travel is part of that mayhem, but it’s worth the effort. Travel will enrich your life and create impactful experiences and memories to share with your family. It can also expand your business, and I’m not just referring to the big meetings and conferences you attend while on your trips. Exposure to new cultures, excellent customer service and interactions with new people can serve as an opportunity to broaden your experience and foster an environment for creative innovation within your own business.
Here are some Work & Travel Life Hacks to help you prepare for your next business trip, family vacation or hybrid of the two. You’ll be excited and organized with a smart plan that will allow you to stay on top of your work life as you embrace the next adventure with your littles!
1) Prep hard before leaving: Plan ahead to take as little work with you as possible. I work like crazy when preparing to be out of the office. I make a list of all of the tasks that I can complete before leaving, so I go into my trip feeling really good about all the momentum I’ve made.
2) Put everything in a planner: I know it’s 2020, but I still use a planner. I also use my Outlook/iCal, and my husband and I share calendars, so we don’t double book each other. When I’m preparing to be out of the office for a while, I find it a helpful exercise to write everything down and to see it all laid out in one place. I can review it daily to see what the week and specific days look like at a glance.
3) Set up autoreply for voicemail and email: I used to be wildly insecure about using autoreply, I thought my clients would lose respect for me if they knew I didn’t chain myself to my work desk. Now, I use my autoreply as a chance to gain respect and build trust with my clients and team members by keeping them informed.
Here’s an example of how I structure an autoreply:
I’m working remotely from Monday, Feb. 17 through Friday, Feb. 21. I’ll be responding to emails and messages twice daily, so there may be a slight delay in my response time. If you need immediate assistance, please reach out to XXX at (XXX)XXX-XXXX. Otherwise, I’ll be in touch shortly. As always, thank you for your trust and confidence in our team.
Long Live the Adventure, Nikki
4) Streamline your meeting schedule: Once you’ve organized your schedule, identify what you can delegate to minimize the number of conference calls you need to attend. Delegation is essential to scaling a business. You must have a capable team that you trust. That's why you hired them, right? If you aren’t a natural delegator, start working on this skill now. It will empower your team and elevate your capacity to focus on areas of your highest and best use. (Now that I’m thinking about it, I think I’ll write a blog about this soon.) Also, assign someone to take notes in meetings and to email you a recap for your review during your scheduled work period (see below).
6) Tag-team: Cover for each other: You both don’t have to be everywhere at once. Decide who needs to attend what meetings, and let that person recap the other when possible.
7) Schedule working periods: Schedule working periods twice a day to check and respond to emails, review recaps and take action on any outstanding projects. Ensure that these time slots are short and as efficient as possible. Mitigate distractions so you can dive in, be productive and then get back out to your family, who will be anxiously awaiting your return. Note: Don’t take calls on the botanical garden hike to the waterfall with your kids. Be present. They deserve it.
8) Wake up early: We are relentless about our morning routines, even when on vacation. We still wake up early and tackle our individual routines, first thing. Early morning is a great time to knock out your first working period of the day. The kiddos are still sleeping, and you both can be extremely productive without distractions. You can get through all of your morning emails before the team is in the office, and can still hit the slopes for some morning turns.
9) Maximize flight/naptime: I try to maximize flight time, to get the extra edge before starting a vacation or returning to the office. I use this time to work on big initiatives that I might have put off. Our kids don’t have access to tablets, unless we’re traveling a long distance, so during this time, they’re pretty captivated. I’m working on writing, preparing a presentation for an upcoming speaking opportunity, building a budget, or reviewing contracts, while they’re watching the newest movie we downloaded before the flight. It’s amazing how productive you’ll find yourself on a plane! If your kiddos are still young enough to nap, this is another perfect time for scheduling your working periods. They won’t even notice that you’re growing your empire while they’re sleeping peacefully.
10) Play hard: Lastly, remember what’s important. Work hard during your scheduled work periods. Stay on top of your emails, so you don’t fall behind and bottleneck your team. Empower and build trust in your leaders — your company will be better for it. Be in the moment with your partner and children. Focus on each other and cherish the time together. Abstain from checking your phone while you’re with your family, and don’t feel guilty. Life is short and they’ll be out pursuing their own adventures before we know it. Prioritize your family; don’t fit them in around your business. When you schedule your priorities — instead of prioritizing your schedule — you are in control of what you deem is most important. What’s most important to you — the journey or pursuit of what’s at the end of it?
We're a family who loves living life to the full. We try to live each day with intention in an effort to find gratitude, seek wonder, show love and a experience a ton of laughter.