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As I write this article, I’m sitting at a simple fold-up table outside of my home, staring out at the Hoh river outside of Olympic National Park. My husband and 4-year-old boy are out laying in the hammock and running around playing make-believe, giving mom some space to write.
I should mention, “home” for us is an RV, and we’re currently residing in the Hoh Rainforest in Washington. By the time you read this article, there’s no telling where we will be. This nomadic “off the grid” lifestyle was not thrust upon us; it was proactively pursued. You see, growing up I was a harrowing perfectionist. Nothing was ever, or could ever be, good enough. I spent years chasing a way of life that wasn’t even possible — and turns out it, wasn’t what I wanted.
It was a year-and-a-half ago that my husband and I decided to sell our house and cars, buy our RV and hit the road. Being a mom to a toddler and running a successful business on the road isn’t easy, but the things that are worth it in life are hardly ever easy. Like anything, it takes some trial and error.
But allow me to fill you in: you can live a life of location freedom and still be successful as an entrepreneur. If you’re a solopreneur, business owner, or just someone interested in the RV lifestyle, here are a few productivity tips I swear by that have allowed me to live this beautiful, wanderlust lifestyle.
Reframe how you look at time with a time audit
Here’s the thing. Any productivity strategy I give you is not going to be successful unless you change your relationship with time. I remember when I believed that a new planner or the latest software would solve all my productivity problems. What I found was the new, shiny tool or strategy worked for about 30 days, then I would inevitably drop it or forget it entirely.
If this happens to you, try shifting your internal mindset. I firmly believe that time is our greatest value. Having lost a few loved ones to cancer, including my younger brother, I believe the greatest thing we should value as humans is the time we have on this earth. How you spend your time should be a conscious decision. It should rarely, if ever, feel like a sacrifice.
For those of you unsure of where to begin, start by conducting your own time audit. First, write down five to six things you love spending your time doing. If it helps, you can make one list for your professional life and one list for your personal life. What activities light you up as a person? What are the things that actively push your business forward?
Conduct an audit of your time. I usually suggest a 72-hour window to the women I coach. I just track my time in an Excel sheet, but there are various time tracker software programs out there, like Clockify and the time tracking tool on Trello. Once you’re finished, compare the audit with the list you created. Did you work on your priorities? What tasks got in the way of your priorities? What took up more time than it should have? I promise you this exercise will unearth quite a few guiding lessons and you’ll start to shift the way you’re viewing your time. After all, how can we use our time better if we don’t know how our time is being spent in the first place?
Productivity rules to live by
Once you’ve reassessed your relationship with time, you’re going to be more effective when utilizing productivity techniques. Now it’s time to share the cardinal productivity rules I live by:
1. If it isn’t in the schedule, then it’s not happening
When you are mapping out your week, the very first things you should block out time for in your calendar are your priorities. This should not just be your business priorities, but your life priorities too. Your priorities should be a holistic representation of your life. For example, the other day I slotted in two hours of hiking into my schedule. By doing this, no one was able to book a call with me during that time window.
I found this scheduling technique to be especially important during my first year of business. If I did not schedule my time I would have booked calls during nap time or missed date night with my husband. The priorities that better my life would have inevitably fallen off my radar without me realizing it.
This rule works in reverse as well. When my husband and I first hit the road in our RV, it was easy to fall into the trap of seeing every day as a vacation. When the novelty wore off, I had to start saying “no” to some of the spur of the moment daily adventures he proposed. If I had prioritized work in my schedule, then work is what had to be done.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be rigid with your schedule 100 percent of the time. I don’t think a woman who is traveling around the country in an RV would dole out that advice! What I am saying is you need to protect your priorities and proactively scheduling time for them in your calendar is the best way to do that.
2. Prep your week and bulk your tasks
I like to do my scheduling and prep out my week on Sundays. I’ll take 20 minutes on Sunday to list out my priorities for the week and log them into my calendar.
I like to bulk related tasks together, rather than trying to multitask or bounce back and forth from project to project. For instance, on Mondays, I like to write a lot of content. Sometimes I’ll even be able to create weeks’ worth of content in one day. The same goes for podcast recordings. Recently, I finished up an entire month’s worth of podcast episodes in just five hours.
This should not be a tip you only utilize for work. Similar to scheduling, you should use batching for every aspect of your life. I bulk my meetings, errands, doctor’s appointments and meal prep. With the holidays coming up. I know for a fact I’ll bulk my holiday shopping and probably knock it out in one sweep. This has helped save me so much time and energy over the years.
3. Always be proactively looking for areas of support
We often think of areas of support and assume that means hiring more employees to help take things off of our plate at work. And while sometimes that is the answer, what I actually mean by this is looking for areas of support in your life as a whole, so you can uncover those pockets of productive time.
Chores and childcare are two areas that I try to systemize so that I do get those valuable hours of deep work for my business. Do you hate grocery shopping or perhaps laundry? Spoiler alert: we now live in a world where you can order your groceries online and send your laundry out for cleaning. If doing so helps you create time for your priorities then there is no shame in doing so. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply wrong. Period.
I also did this with childcare for my son. One of the best arrangements I ever made was picking child swap days with my cousin. One day of the week she’d look after my son with her own child, and another day of the week I would do the same for her daughter. By doing this, I had one entirely uninterrupted day of the week where I would hone my focus and complete a big chunk of my work for the week. This concept has translated to homeschooling pods during the pandemic — a concept I support fully for the working mothers reading this.
The main idea here is this: Do not feel any sort of shame in asking for help or finding helpful shortcuts where you can. Remember, it’s not you being “lazy.” It’s you making sure the important things in your life are granted the time they deserve. If that’s not the crux of true productivity, then I don’t know what is.