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The Freedom to Travel Anywhere, Anytime Without Getting Fired

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!

    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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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