Having to work while on vacation

One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn since starting to blog full-time is that vacation doesn’t really mean time off, when you’re self-employed. There is no such thing as truly unplugging, especially if most of your work is online. Unless you have a team of people or an intern working for you back at home (which I don’t), going away doesn’t mean you get a break from your business. You still have to be able to pay the bills when you get back, so you can’t just abandon ship!

Out of office message? Guess what – IT DOESN’T MATTER! The emails still keep pouring in and you either have to deal with them while you’re gone, or have an even bigger pile to dig yourself out from under when you’re back.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Believe it or not, even when I was working as a lawyer, I never had to face this reality, like I do now. I either worked on partners’ files or was able to manage my own clients’ expectations. Now, Dine & Fash is my baby – it’s my brand, my livelihood. I have to remain fully accountable for managing it, even while away, because it is my business. Which is why, I had to learn very quickly how to balance work with vacation.

Not gonna lie, it was a MAJOR adjustment. It took a combination of using the necessary mental tools and acquiring the right physical tools to juggle work while on vacation. Here’s what I learned.

Mental Tools

When I say “mental tools”, I mean going into your trip with the right mindset, to begin with. I had to force myself to be organized in advance and responsible while I was gone (which can be really difficult after a couple of cocktails!). Managing deadlines and having self-discipline are key. I try to do as much as possible before I leave, even if that means working overtime during the weeks leading up to my trip. While I was away, I tried to regularly set time aside to respond to emails and complete my work, even if that required waking up at the crack of dawn or bringing my laptop with me to the pool.

Bringing Microsoft Surface Laptop with me on vacation Doing work while on vacation at the pool

November and December were two of the busiest months for me in 2017. They also happened to be the months when I had two press trips planned to Mexico City and the Mayan Riviera a week apart. Press trips are especially challenging. Imagine being constantly engaged in activities, while trying to document your experience, create content, and then at some point edit and post that content, engage with your audience, engage with other accounts that you follow, all while having to deal with work and emails. Before both trips, I tried to crank out as much work as possible, and I left anything that could wait until I returned. When I was in Mexico City, I was waking up at 4 and 5 a.m. to keep on top of things, since we had early mornings and a packed itinerary every day, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to answer emails while on the go. The situation wasn’t much different when I went to the Mayan Riviera, even though it was a resort vacation.

Physical Tools

Apart from employing the right mental tools, it’s critical to have the right physical tools too. You need to invest in good equipment to be able to do your work effectively and remotely. I recently upgraded two of the most important tools in my tool kit as a content creator: my camera and my laptop. My camera warrants a post of its own, since there is so much to say about the evolution of my photography equipment!

Doing work while at Grand Velas Riviera Maya in December of 2017

With my laptop, believe me when I tell you it was loooooonggg overdue! After I got the blue screen of death on my last laptop about 8 months ago, Alex and I were actually sharing. This was fine for the most part (since he goes to his office during the day). But, if we both needed to work on a weekend or evening, it was a huge problem. His laptop also weighs a tonne, and I found it too heavy (and embarrassing) to carry around.

I upgraded to the Microsoft Surface Laptop and life has since changed for the better! Before upgrading, I did a lot of research to find the option that worked best for me. I even considered switching from PC to a Mac at first, because I was convinced (due to Apple’s clever marketing) that all creatives NEEDED a Mac (it’s not really true.). In comparing the specs on the MacBook Pro and the Surface Laptop, I realized I’d get more bang for my buck with the Surface Laptop. I was getting the same dual-core Intel i5 processor with roughly the same resolution, 256 GB of storage, 8 GB of RAM, and 720p video. But with the Surface Laptop, I could get up to 14.5 hours of video, a slightly bigger touch screen, a lighter machine, and more importantly, I could save about $300! I also wouldn’t have to invest time practically learning another language in making the switch. The ONLY downside that I could see with the Surface Laptop was that it only came with 1 USB port (compared to 2 USB on the MacBook Pro). But since the MacBook uses USB-C ports, I’d have to get an adaptor to use my existing USBs with it anyway.

I love the size, speed and portability of the Microsoft Surface Laptop. It’s so easy to tote around and I can open it with one hand! It also has a keyboard covered with Microsoft’s new Alcantara material for a super comfortable typing experience. It was a total breeze to fit in my carry-on bag and beach bag.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Okay, turns out my new laptop probably warranted a post on its own too! Sorry for gushing over it, but it honestly makes such a world of difference now. If you’re considering buying a new laptop, I highly recommend it!

Me working while on vacation

All of this is to say that if I didn’t use the proper tools with me on my trips—both mental and physical—there would have been absolutely no way for me to keep up with managing my business. It can be a bit of an investment, but you can’t put a price on having peace of mind when you’re away and when you come back from a trip.

Are you self-employed? If so, what are some tips you’ve used to manage work with vacation? Let me know in the comments!