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The Freedom to Travel Anywhere, Anytime Without Getting Fired

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The Freedom to Travel Anywhere, Anytime Without Getting Fired

travel

    It was the 28th of January this year, early in the morning. My wife had just pushed me out of bed so I’d get ready in time for our flight. It wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, but I was nervous: this was the first time I was going to be working full-time hours without access to my office or my main working computer. Despite all the time I’d spent either freelancing or working from home, the only times I’d ever traveled, I’d left the work at home.

    It’s pretty nerve-wracking at first: what if I leave important project files at home and forget to copy them to the laptop or the server? What if the wireless broadband plan I signed up for doesn’t have any coverage in the areas where I’ll be staying? Years of working from my office, my fixed base, had instilled a whole lot of fears in my mind about the idea of not being able to access it.

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    The truth is, such fears are unfounded. It’s a fear of freedom, especially when you’re not used to it. Don’t get me wrong, I had the option all along — but I’d never exercised it. In this case, I was travelling to Melbourne, which isn’t even leaving the country, and I was only going for two weeks. When I consider that two of the directors at Envato where I work have been successfully remote working around the world for longer than I’ve been working for them, my trip was barely a drop of water in the ocean and there was no legitimacy to my fears.

    So I was going to ask the question: have you created the freedom to travel anywhere, anytime without getting fired? But perhaps a better question to start with is: do you have the guts to accept freedom and do something with it?

    Cut a Deal with the Boss

    Unless you work for yourself, or you’re employed but working from home, the toughest part about obtaining the freedom to work from wherever you want can be the company you work for. Generally it’s a good idea to work up to remote working — don’t start there. Start with telecommuting. Ask your boss for permission to work from home just a day or two per week and once you’re boss is more comfortable with what you’re doing and has seen that you’re doing well — preferably even better — when you work from home, it shouldn’t be hard to convince him or her that you don’t need to come in at all. If it does prove difficult, Tim Ferriss makes some recommendations for convincing managers that telecommuting is a good idea in his book “The 4-Hour Workweek”.

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    It’s probably best that you work from home successfully for a decent amount of time — minimally a month — before approaching your boss again and letting them know you’d like to travel while working. This could be a harder pill for them to swallow, but if you’ve been doing well from home for a sustained period of time you’ve got some credibility behind your request. You could perhaps offer to start with a two day or five day trip to somewhere relatively close — within half a day’s driving distance to the office — before embarking on any real trips.

    Better yet, get out of the rat race! Start a business (whether it’s freelance or otherwise) and make yourself the boss. Sure, it’s still a race, but you’ll no longer be the rat — you can make decisions for yourself, something surprisingly few adults are able to do and many children are disappointed to discover as they grow up.

    Synchronize Your Life

    Once you’re able to get up and go whenever you want without a horde of managers on your tail, you should take steps to make sure your information resources are truly mobile. That means you need to start focusing on centralizing your files. For many of us who are used to residing in one location, keeping some files on the desktop computer and some on the laptop is not a problem. It’s a bit disorganized, but it’s easy to grab any file you need especially with a decent wi-fi network.

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    If you want to have the freedom to stay at home one week and run off to New Zealand next week, you’ll need a better plan and system than that. The most important principle of your system shouldn’t actually be labelling and easy rediscovery — though they are still important and deserve attention — but in fact, centralization. You should be able to access your project files for work from anywhere.

    There are a variety of solutions out there. You could use Dropbox, which aside from just being a cloud storage and backup service also has cool features like revision tracking. If you use Macs, MobileMe comes with both iDisk (online backup and storage space) and Back to My Mac capabilities. For Back to My Mac to be useful it requires you to keep the home computer on while you’re travelling, which could pose a fire risk and a needlessly high electricy bill.

    As for what I did during my travels: I am an anal retentive file-filer, so I just dragged my “Work” folder onto an external hard drive I was bringing along. That Work folder had every single file pertinent to any work I was doing whether as an employee or for my freelance holdouts. At least 75% of my work stuff is in Gmail anyway, so I was pretty safe if I lost the hard drive.

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    Get Wireless

    I bought a 3 Mobile Broadband USB stick with 12GB of data on it. This proved useful in Melbourne and will prove useful again in June when I move interstate and will be without true broadband for a few weeks. My point is that getting wireless broadband is a smart and convenient move whether or not you plan to travel — I did not expect to be moving interstate when I bought mine but it’ll save my life (and my job) when I do get off that plane.

    I can’t comment on the offerings in the US or anywhere else in the world other than to say: I hope your coverage is better than Australia’s. If you’re going to metropolitan areas you’ll be right. Remote working as a whole can be iffy in rural areas, because some of them are struggling to get even dial-up connectivity.

    Ideally, mobile broadband should be a backup plan. On my trip I was lucky to have wi-fi networks within range most of the time. Try to stay in a hotel, house or tent with its own connection. I should warn that at this time tents don’t usually come with broadband!

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    Get on a Plane

    … or a bike, surfboard, car, bus or pink rollerblades. If you’ve dealt with the human implications, got your files together, got Internet access sorted, then all you need to do is go! Enjoy some freedom. Don’t allow yourself to be imprisoned by geography.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

    Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

    When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

    Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

    What Makes People Poor Listeners?

    Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

    1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

    Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

    Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

    It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

    2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

    This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

    Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

    3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

    It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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    I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

    If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

    4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

    While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

    To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

    My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

    Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

    Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

    How To Be a Better Listener

    For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

    1. Pay Attention

    A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

    According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

    As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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    I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

    2. Use Positive Body Language

    You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

    A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

    People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

    But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

    According to Alan Gurney,[2]

    “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

    Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

    3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

    I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

    Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

    Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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    Be polite and wait your turn!

    4. Ask Questions

    Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

    5. Just Listen

    This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

    I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

    I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

    6. Remember and Follow Up

    Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

    For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

    According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

    It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

    7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

    If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

    Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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    Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

    Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

    NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

    1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
    2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

    8. Maintain Eye Contact

    When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

    Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

    By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

    Final Thoughts

    Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

    You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

    And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

    More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
    [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
    [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
    [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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