Lifestyle design, as it was frequently referred to back in the day (this was popularized by Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek, but pre-dated him to my knowledge) before internet anywhere in the world was just a matter of switching your cellphone plan, focuses on your lifestyle.

In theory, at least.

You know, that whole be-in-control-of-your-schedule-and-live-wherever-you-want-doing-tons-of-travel-to-interesting-places-while-earning-a-full-time-living-and-only-working-part-time dream.

I’ve noticed, however, that when embarking down that very idyllic-sounding path, people are often stuck choosing between the lifestyle part and the work/supporting themselves part.

(Want to jump to this week’s survey? Head here.)

To Work or To Live?

Let’s look at the two sides. On the work-focused side, I think of someone I have worked with on her business for a couple years. She’s finally achieved her dream of quitting her job and writing full-time (one she almost gave up on, because it never seemed like the stability to honor her family commitments would work out).

She told me a few months back, though, that feels like she’s a travel writer who doesn’t travel.

Now that it’s school vacation for her kids, and she is traveling (quite a lot, I have to say!), she gets up before dawn to get her six to eight hours of writing work she’s booked herself with done so she can spend the rest of the day doing interesting things with the kids.

She’s got her dream job. But the lifestyle is not what she would love it to be. (Update: since I started writing this post, we’ve talked and she’s now focusing on lower-maintainence, higher-paying work to help bridge this gap, in case that was the advice you thought to give someone in this situation 🙂)

On the flip side, a few years ago someone came to me for coaching to help make the most of a year-long trip she had been meticulously planning. She’d already given notice to her well-paid job, taken a number of classes to skill up, and had a plan for exactly what kind of gigs she wanted to land along the road.

But she had big travel plans, so, as we were talking about how she was going to land clients, and her goals, she told me that that’s really her focus.

If she didn’t line up enough work, she would just go back to her old job at the end of the year.

The lifestyle was her full priority for that time period–not building a work life for herself that would allow her to hold onto the travel lifestyle she dreamed of forever.

I’ve also caught people in similar situations after that big round-the-world trip. They’ve quit their job to travel, had amazing adventures they planed to write about when they got home (or from the road). Upon returning, though, they’ve gone back to their jobs…only to quit again, because they can’t get the location independent, self-employed lifestyle out of their system now.

The question then becomes how to make the self-employed and location independent parts co-exist!

Do You Find You’ve Become Too Lifestyle-Focused or Too Work-Focused?

We’ve been noticing a trend lately, from conference talks to our coaching calls, that freelance travel writers are being pulled in too many directions.

You can call it the by-product of not having a clear separation between work and life or the decision-making drain and subsequent overload from the sheer number of possible things to do anytime you open your computer. Either way, we’re seeing a serious problem.

How do you prioritize? Or, do everything? Or, decide what you should do in any one moment?

Adventurous Kate spoke at the Traverse conference in Italy this year about the main lessons from her long blogging career, and I, personally, was rather shocked how many of the things she listed as the most important takeaways she wanted to pass on to newer bloggers fell into this area.

Depending on how you look at it, nearly everything she spoke about, from “run your own race; if you don’t don’t this shit will eat you alive,” to “everyone is on his or her own timeline,” to “boundaries are essential,” focused on how she felt these issues were the key to longevity in running an online, location-independent, creative, content-focused business in the long haul.

We have been working one-on-one with writers on these questions for years, and often get folks coming to us specifically to work on focus and productivity, so we’re looking into creating a new event specific designed around these topics–with an ample dose of detoxing from the constant deluge, reconnecting with the reasons you do this work and what you really need to get out of it, and patterning how to keep those that calm and focus part of your life when you get home.

It may truly feel like you must pick one of the other, but I personally make a deep study of this issue, and have many examples, frameworks, and tactics to help reframe the issue and move you to a different place on this from wherever you currently are, whether you’re running into work-overload burnout, health issues, work stress affecting your relationships, or some other by-product of this balancing act.

This Week’s Survey: What Would Move the Needle for Your Productivity?

As we look to create a new retreat event 100% focused on addressing this very real and pressing issue for people who are navigating the triangle demands of “real life,” building their business, and much travel, we want to know what you think.

Even if you aren’t quite ready to join us in the Catskill Mountains of New York at our retreat house for this event or another one, we still value your input in helping us create a snapshot both of what are the most pressing concerns for freelance travel writers today are this issue, and what relief valve sounds the most “ahhhhhhh”-inspiring.

Read to jump to this week’s survey? Head here.

As with all of our surveys, we have put together a very cool “thank you” for helping us out and letting us know what you and other travel writers like you would like to see: a Full Focus planner and notebook set.

I have literally seen people in coffee shops that have one that they bought through a Facebook ad that they now tell everyone they know about, because it has completely changed their life.

Many planners today include much more than blank pages for your to-dos and calendar items. Planner-as-productivity-guide has become the norm in the trade, with addition sections on each daily page to keep you on track and intro pages to help you plan your big goals and year at large.

The Full Focus Planner is basically this on steroids.

At its heart is an entire productivity system that has been lauded by the likes of Tony Robbins, Don Miller, and Cal Newport (author of Deep Work).

One of my favorite parts is that each day’s page is actually two pages, so you can really think and work out plans on the page:

We look forward to sending the full set on Monday, August 5, to one lucky individual who has contributed their input for the new event in our survey!

Submit your thoughts here to win.


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