Stealing Away For Product Development on Vacay

This week I am on vacation at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. With me is my family: mother, step-father, wife, and sister. I look forward to rest and relaxation in the sun.

Photo by Gerriet

The Big Idea

Here’s the weird thing, being away from a computer for a week is not relaxing given my current perspective of the world. The best vacation I can have right now obviously includes spending quality time with loved ones. However, I spend so much of my life trying to carve out time to work on side projects that a part of me feels like this week should be no different. Given that the resort has free Wi-Fi and my wife is taking her laptop, I have several types of tasks in mind that should make it easier to be as productive as possible without neglecting the opportunity to experience Mexico.

  • Work on the soft tasks
    • I am writing this blog post on a piece of paper on the plane
    • Think about/write down marketing message
    • Think about what kind of influencers I need to contact about my product
    • Refine my elevator pitch
  • Brainstorm
    • Interact with and observe people
    • Print out blogs that I have been meaning to read (often times, reading something short provokes creative ideas)
  • Get Feedback
    • I’m spending a week with my family, so guess what, they’re going to have to hear about my ideas at least once
    • Listen to their feedback
  • Work on the product (if possible)

Many of these tasks do not require anything more than conversation and time for reflection. Others only require a pen and paper. But when can I work on product development and/or communication with the outside world via email and the Internet? How can I make sure that I appropriately limit when and how I perform this work?

General Strategy 1: Limit Alcohol Intake

Maybe I sound like a party pooper but I plan to heavily restrict my alcohol intake this week. It is time to make the decision that I would rather feel all the time than to feel great while enjoying a buzz but tired/worthless the next day. The ultimate goal of this decision will be to harness as much energy as possible and to be awake when other family members are taking naps, etc.

General Strategy 2: Take Advantage of the Inequity of Preparation Times

Let’s face it. In most circumstances, men are able to spend less time getting ready for a night out than women. It is certainly true in this group’s case. My plan will be to get ready quickly and then get some work done while I wait.

General Strategy 3: Leverage the Cell Phone

Our resort ostensibly has Wi-Fi throughout its campus. I will therefore use my cell phone to access my e-mail and perform simple Internet queries through Wi-Fi access. This will limit any exorbitant roaming charges and will allow me to look less like a Dufus while surfing the Net by the pool-side.

Results (1 Week Later)

I must be honest. After a week of trying the above strategies, the report is that I did not have much success. I was hoping to be able to use my wife’s computer for some development work but technical difficulties quickly thwarted that goal. This left the soft tasks to be accomplished, which did not occur either. Believe it or not1, when I was lounging around the pool-side in the sun, with extremely easy access to fun, alcohol, and jovial conversation, I was not exactly writing down any golden blog posts nor stellar website copy. In summary, peer pressure worked this week.

There were some accomplishments. I focused my plans going forward and broadened my perspective. I also was able to read The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Somehow, reading a book by the pool was much more acceptable than sitting in the room on the computer. It gave me some great ideas on how to push forward as well as the confidence to do it.

Surprisingly, my cell phone received a good 3G signal, allowing me to send multiple productive emails and to stay up-to-date on twitter. This was nice given that the Wi-Fi was choppy anywhere that was not my hotel room and that I was then able to perform these tasks in taxi cabs, etc. [Update March 17: I should not have been tempted to use my data plan Internationally even though my phone gave me no indication that I was roaming. It cost a considerable amount of money which is what I was trying to avoid. Lesson learned.]

Looking back, I tried to attack the week with an intense level of energy that would allow me to enjoy vacation but to also be productive with “spare time.” The other vacationers in my family had no intention of exhibiting such energy level and were somewhat hurt by my attempts to get away. I have not learned much about how to be self-motivated and productive while also being engaged in the vacation with my family. Do you have any ideas about how I could have done this better?


1 Note the sarcastic tone beginning now.