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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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    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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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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