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Time Management for Travel Bloggers … and Others

This guest post is written by Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site.

While I hate the name, I am, to some degree, a digital nomad. I spend my time traveling the world and working as I go. By that very definition, I’m a digital nomad. But unlike most other digital nomads, I don’t move to a city for a few months, live and work there. I run a travel blog so I’m constantly on the move. In fact, my life would be a lot easier if I stayed in one place. That’s why the issue of time management is so important to me.

Balancing life and travel is a hard task when you’re constantly being pulled outside for activities, while the demands of running your own business keep you inside.

As a traveler who makes a living by building and publishing travel websites, I’ve found that the web can be all-consuming: it’s easy to spend hours or even days online. There’s always work to be done. The Internet will take as much as you give it. Conversely, it’s easy to get off track and “play” too much. Meeting new people and traveling to new destinations often becomes more important than work. It was hard for me to strike a good balance between the two for some time. I worked too much and I traveled too much, so something always suffered.

Meshing travel and work into a manageable and fulfilling lifestyle is an art. If you are going to have a travel blog, you are going to eventually need to travel and blog at the same time. A some point you’re going to need to find a way to balance work and travel if you want to be a successful travel blogger.

Time management involves a lot of trial and error, and I have had to learn how to balance conflicting demands. I’ve been pulled in many different directions, and it has taken a lot of discipline to balance my work and life. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over my years of travel is that it’s important to set specific times for work. You have to force yourself away from the computer, otherwise “a few more minutes” can easily turn into a few more hours. Over the years, though, I’ve developed a few strategies that help others manage their time more efficiently on the road.

Check email once a day

It’s easy to get distracted by incoming email. I increase my productivity by scheduling specific times to check my email. Nothing is ever so urgent that it can’t wait a few hours. If you’re always checking email, you are going to be constantly distracted and not as productive as you could be.

Know when you are productive

My most productive hours are in the mornings and late afternoons before I go out. That’s when I do my best work. By scheduling work when I’m most productive, I get the most done and then I don’t have to worry about anything else.

Avoid tourist times

This point continues the one above. As a traveler, you want to be out, traveling and doing stuff. You don’t want to be working all day. Avoiding work during the day is important. Museums, tours, activities—they all occur when the sun is up, and that’s when you should be out too. Working the late afternoon or early morning will still give you time to see the sights.

Set a time limit

I set a time limit for work and tasks. If I force myself into a time constraint then I have to work during that time. It’s a mental trick, but it works. This works even better when you’re traveling with other people. You don’t want to make them wait!

Create a task list

It can be easy to get into work or forget about important tasks. I find that creating a list of tasks helps me to focus my efforts and increase my productivity. I like to break the list up into daily tasks. Once I finish a day’s work, I go out and play, and I don’t feel like there is still more to do.

Compartmentalize

Another trick I find helpful in balancing the workflow is to create day tasks. For example, Monday is my writing day, Tuesday is photo day, Wednesday is a random task day. By further breaking up the work into more manageable pieces, I spend less time getting stressed out and going, “Oh! I have so much to do!”

Shut off social media

Twitter and Facebook are the most distracting tools ever invented. I love them both and constantly use them, but when I am working I shut them off. If I don’t, I spend too much time chatting with friends on Facebook or reading tweets, and my productivity suffers for it.

Learning to balance work and travel—or blogging and the rest of your life—is a hard task that everyone has to work on. You can better balance work and play, however, by training yourself to lead a disciplined life and by having good time management skills. I didn’t learn these lessons right away, and I’m still not all the way there yet, but I’m getting there. What are your time management secrets? I’d love to hear them!

Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world for the past four years. He runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site and has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian UK, AOL’s Wallet Pop, and Yahoo! Finance. He currently writes for AOL Travel and The Huffington Post For more information, you can visit his Facebook page or sign up for his RSS feed.

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Comments

  1. I really liked all of the tips but Email / Social Stuff. Some of us run business related blogs, and those that don’t I’m sure like to stay in touch with their audience. Without being available and responsive I’d think that would be a bad thing.

    Now I get what you are saying. Moderation of time. But I wouldn’t take those to an extreme.

    • dotCOMreport says:

      Basically it is about what works for you. For Matthew, checking once a day is what he needs. For you it might be twice a day…it’s all about moderation like you rightly said.

  2. Miss Britt says:

    I already do some, but not all of this. I really like the idea of having specific task type days.

  3. Thewebtricks says:

    Another new story to read about Gr8 Matthew……
    Travel blogs are vey few.but are very interesting.
    Blogging must be n accordance with your daily work.Making schedules,time tables helps a lot………
    Nice post!!!!!!!

  4. This is great and I too need to NOT get distracted, but Social Media makes it so hard not to be. Creating a routine of some sort is essential and as you quite rightly say, lists are very useful. I love to get up early, even in the dark, cold winter in the UK, because I tell myself I can get so much done before my toast and coffee. I do feel though it’s good to be able to react to stuff and fast. Example: over recent weeks I wrote a series of Blog posts about Miller Homes, as they’ve really adapted well to Social Media marketing, unlike many of their UK Home Building competitors. They did tell me that they were going to do a lot more this year and naturally, I was eager to see the results. Yesterday a post arrived on my Facebook page, Miller Homes announces the Miller Homes TV channel! Brilliant!! What other UK Home Builders have taken to Social Media Marketing/Networking this well?? No one! BIG NEWS! In less than an hour I’d produced a Press Release and posted it everywhere and Tweeted it and Facebooked it! If I hadn’t been naughty and open to distraction, maybe I’d have lost some of the spontaneity & excitement?? Thanks for your post Nomadic Matthew, discipline is important, as is focus, I’ll put this on Facebook, Tweet it and hope others can also benefit from your ideas!

  5. Bash Bosh says:

    A very good tips for all travel bloggers.
    All you need to do is to stay focused and strictly follow the rules.

  6. Great post! I do most of the tips, but my weak part is Facebook! I can spend hours there talking to friends and family, have to quit that :D

  7. Donna Hull says:

    Great efficiency tips, Matt. I especially like the idea of compartmentalizing blogging work and setting a time limit for tasks. A blog will definitely take all of your time if you let it. When I start finding myself flipping from site to site, I know it’s time to get up and take a break. I tend to do that when I’m tired. That’s when it’s best to get up from the laptop and go outside for a walk.

  8. Dominique says:

    I do like the idea of assigning certain tasks to certain days on a regular basis. Right now, I find myself falling behind on one or the other thing like photos or writing when I spend days and days concentrating on only one thing. It’s always worked pretty well to keep to a schedule of posting articles, so why wouldn’t it work well to actually -do- the work on a schedule :)
    So far this year, I’ve concentrated on keeping up with my Google reader feeds on a more regular basis so I keep up with reading in my field as I go along, instead of trying to catch up with feeds just once a month. I’ve also gotten better with keeping to an editorial calendar of sorts…usually scheduling what I’ll post for at least the next couple of weeks at any given time.

  9. corey says:

    The tip for setting up different tasks on different days, is a great way to stay organized by having a “schedule”, for what needs to be done. Great advice.

  10. Toby says:

    Spot on advice – the addictive bit about always working & online, I get. And your points about a structure for working etc is great, certainly some areas that I’ll try & emulate – thanks

  11. These words even ring true for other forms of blogging not just for travel blogging. A lot of points in here are excellent for just making sure that you don’t spend to much or to little time online. Excellent post

  12. Mike Lopez says:

    Re: Check email once a day – OK, I’ll kill that GMail Notifier. :) Seriously, email kills a lot of my time and that notifier just distracts a lot. It’s time to get rid of it.

    And tasks list – I have a list but I never thought of setting a time limit for each task.

    Lastly, Social Media – do I really need to shut it off???

  13. Bob says:

    LOL Twitter and Facebook could I think help a little in blogs. The tips here are really helpful and I hope to use them when go travel. As of now, I don’t travel. It is true that being organized is really important in blogging to set things well.

    Thank you Matt for sharing this tip in this site.

  14. Sonja says:

    I’m a newbie travel blogger so I’m still pulling my hair out with all there is to know and do every day. Will take your advice as best I can.

  15. John Sherry says:

    Top notch Matthew as I’ve been looking for a checklist for mobile living and blogging and, hey presto, here you are with one. Very wise and sensible advice all the more credible as you’ve proved it in the field. See you at some airport or back street bistro somewhere!

  16. Tim Woodbury says:

    I find that, to be truly effective, I have to go beyond a simple task list. I generally have to break the tasks on my list down into sub-tasks to make sure everything gets done. A lot of times, having a huge backlog of work just seems too daunting, and individual tasks can seem too big. Having “Make toast,” on your list makes it much harder to motivate than “Find/plug in toaster,” “place bread in toaster,” “butter bread”… substituting a more substantial task, of course. ;)

  17. Britnee says:

    Great tips, I especially like your thoughts on setting times for checking e-mail, Twitter and Facebook. They definitely can eat up time!

  18. These are some great tips. I am not a travel blogger…. but I am a blogger who occasionally travels. I’ve followed these rules in the past, but it took several trips to refine the processes. I think this post will end up saving a lot of people the trouble I went through learning these ideas myself! Very nice.

  19. Great tips Matt thanks so much for your advice.

  20. Wallpapers says:

    Essentially, it is all about managing time. These can be applied to anyone and simply points out suggestions for efficiency. Nice, post.

  21. Vivek Parmar says:

    its hard to manage a time when you are traveling because you don’t know which time you will write up a post and promoting a post is that too important.
    Hope these tips help me out

  22. I definitely agree with the overall theme of breaking up tasks. Trying to do too many things at once impairs the quality of your work and productivity. Ultimately, you feel overwhelmed—or as Matthew put it, “Oh! I have so much to do!” :-)

    Great time management tips for the stationary bunch, as well!

  23. Fayltrik says:

    Interesting read. I agree that time management is very important. I spent ages on facebook as well. I will need to control that if I want to get work done.

  24. Andrea says:

    Definitely agree with these tips, Matt. I’ve found the adjustment to full time travel pretty difficult as I don’t have the time or net access (cheap, anyway) to do as much as I used to, especially with promotion. I really have to choose what I spend time on. Posts are the priority, though it can be more difficult to meet and chat with new readers that way. I guess there is always time to promote the blog later on when we slow down again.

  25. Fred Tracy says:

    Absolutely agree. Twitter and Facebook take years away from our lives! I think the bit about checking email only once per day.. maybe I’ll try that.

  26. luke says:

    This is very good advice. Discipline is a must when I travel. Thanks

  27. Phill Turner says:

    Sometimes when your travelling (UK Spelling!) you just want to go into an internet cafe and lose yourself in the internet and when your finished after an hour or so you click back to the amazing place your in….so cool.

    So yes I do understand the limit but good to free the mind too.

    Phill

  28. Andrea says:

    I’m definitely struggling with this at the moment. I’d like to update my blog every day or at least every weekday but there are just so many things going on it’s tough. Social media is a killer, that’s for sure. One thing I’ve found that works for me is to disconnect my wifi for a while and then I’m forced to write a new post or edit photos etc and then I reconnect to publish the post.

  29. angelee says:

    This is my first time to read a blog about time management from a traveler. Aside from being a mom, I also help manage our dress shop while doing a bit of online freelancing stuff, so I find the ‘Compartmentalize’ approach really helpful. Photography is one good hobby that I really long to regularly have time with and such approach gives me a good idea how to slowly re-arrange the things that I need to do and the things that I want to do.

    Despite all other obstacles, traveling around the world is surely a great adventure.

  30. Pete Carr says:

    Hi Matthew,
    Great advice. I think the best advice I have ever had is “Get Off Your Blog”. If you spend all day testing and tweaking your theme, posts and widgets, you will have no traffic.
    Getting off your blog, getting out there, is very important.
    I work to a strict schedule, it’s the only way to stay productive.
    I am the same as you, early mornings and early evenings work best for me.
    Great advice,
    Thanks
    Pete

  31. Fabulous tips and since my work can be easily mobile as well, they’re very applicable and instantly implementable for me … thanks!

    Best,
    Christine Hueber

  32. seenu says:

    Great tips. Many people know these points which distracts their productivity. But people don’t follow them

  33. adam lim says:

    i like the last strategy. It is important to shut down all the social media, especially facebook and twitter, because, if opened, it will disturb our focus. That is what happened to me. I cannot focus my facebook is opened while i,m working. Thus, give a bad effect to my productivity.
    So, one of my time management strategy is, do not open social media while working.

  34. Cassi says:

    Helpful tips. I really need to start following more of this advice, even while I’m not traveling! I like the idea of having certain times for certain tasks.

  35. David Nikel says:

    Great post, but this applies equally well to people travelling with work and any business bloggers out there. I personally make notes on my iPhone of any ideas I have during the working day and process those during the evenings.

  36. Vagobond says:

    Great tips Matt,

    I would suggest one (okay two) more. Schedule a number of posts in advance and always have a few drafts being held on standby, preferably of the ‘evergreen’ variety for those times when you can’t get the time to write a new post. We all find bits of downtime as we travel and I’ve found that by using that time to fill in the times in the future when I have zero time, it allows me to breathe easier and keep my readers entertained without making them wonder if I got knocked off by a runaway donkey in the Fez medina or a pissed off Turkish schoolmaster.

    ~vago

  37. I’d have to say I agree on these points. Many of them were things Darren pointed out at the ProBlogger conference in Melbourne last year. I’m still pretty bad at shutting off the social media, but I have gotten quite good at telling myself which articles I have to write for who and when. Makes my life easier than floating around and feeling completely overwhelmed!

  38. Great great essay. It’s really interesting. I’m learning about “blogerism” and I’m afraid I spend too much time writing and thinking about my blog. I think I will follow your advices. Thanks a lot!

  39. Wasim Ismail says:

    I’ve just come back from a quick break, and yes it can be a challenge staying on top of your work, especially when your business is all online. But yes making a habit quickly checking emails when your back at the hotel is good, and social media, this can always be done when your back at base.

  40. Michael says:

    Good tips. Blogging while traveling can be hard. There are a bunch of blogs that I follow that the bloggers will always just go on breaks when they’re traveling. But it seems like such a waste because traveling can always make for good blogging.