Many people believe that the digital nomad lifestyle is the way to go. It seems to be a bit of a buzzword and everyone wants a go. To be able to work as you travel is the dream, right?
Unfortunately what many people fail to understand is just how difficult this lifestyle can be. It’s not all sightseeing and trying new experiences. You actually do have to work as a digital nomad. It can be hard to manage your time to ensure you get all your work done and still see the place you have travelled to. There’s a work/life/travel balance to be found. This balance can often change too, depending on how much work you have on and how much you want to see and do.
‘Unfortunately what many people fail to understand is just how difficult this lifestyle can be. It’s not all sightseeing and trying new experiences’
I took the plunge into a location independent lifestyle in October 2017. I went to Mexico, where I travelled for about six months. During this time I had a lot that I wanted to see, but I also had to balance my sightseeing with work. I was working on my own blog as well as doing some freelance for Three Little Birds PR. It was challenging, but enjoyable, and it certainly took a bit of getting used to. Here are a few tips for managing your workload on the road:
Prioritise Your Work
This may seem like an obvious one, but it is literally the best advice on managing your work that I can give you.
You need to figure out what is a priority for you. For me, paid work and anything with a deadline (which tended to go hand in hand) took priority, anything extra for my own blog was just that, extra.
I found spreadsheets to be my best friend here, especially for deadlines. With a spreadsheet of my deadlines I was able to plan ahead. I could see the weeks that I had much more to get on with and the weeks that I had less work. This meant I could plan my travels around my work.
Knowing what you need to prioritise also helps with getting ahead. I liked to be a week or two ahead of deadlines. Being ahead meant that if something extra came up I had the ability to take the extra work without affecting my other work. It also meant if there was somewhere that I really wanted to explore I could time off without worrying about my work.
Manage Your Time
Managing your time correctly is so important for a happy digital nomad. This also links with prioritising your deadlines.
Make sure you put some time aside to work. Whether this be everyday, every week or every month. Figure it out based on your workload. When you have lots of work, understand that you may have to stop for longer than planned and take advantage of the times you have less work to explore and get ahead on the rest of your workload.
You also need to figure out when you are at your most productive. Then use that time efficiently.
‘Balance your time between work and exploration’
Balance your time between work and exploration. This could be one day of work, one day of exploring, or doing half days. I personally found it best to work in the morning, explore from late morning/early afternoon and then work at night (if my schedule required a lot of work). When I start some work I follow the one hour rule – I promise myself that I will work for one hour and then I can do something else. By the time an hour has passed I’m either on a roll and so carry on, or really not feeling it so I get out and explore for a bit.
If I had a lot of work to get done I would do a full day of work. And if I was well ahead of my work I would take days completely off. It’s all about compromise.
Take Advantage Of Your Travel Time
Bus rides, train journeys and flights are all perfect times to get some work done. You’re stuck sat in one place, you can’t go and explore, so you might as well get to work. However, Wifi is not always available, so make sure you plan ahead and get done what you can offline. For me this was writing posts that I’d already researched and planned or catching up on my journal.
‘Bus rides, train journeys and flights are all perfect times to get some work done. You’re stuck sat in one place’
Also make sure everything you need is fully charged if you plan to work on a journey. This was a stumbling block for me once or twice…
For digital nomads, travelling slowly is the best option. More days in a destination gives you more time to explore. It’s that simple.
You have more time to work and explore, so you can do plenty of both. The more time you have the easier you will find it to prioritise your time.
Do One Thing Every Day
This can be anything, as long as it is work related. For me it was posting on social media. This was a big priority for my travel blog, as it kept my followers engaged (and let my family know I was alive). I tended to do this at the end of the day and it would easily take an hour.
However, sometimes I was able to take advantage of Wifi at a bus station or cafe and I would post then. This meant that I had done my hour and didn’t have to post that night, although I generally would.
Sometimes I would not have Wifi. This really threw me off. If I went without Wifi for just a day I would have double the amount to post the next day, so it was really important that I tried to do it every day.
Pick anything you want. This could be posting on social media, responding to emails, planning your work. Just make sure you do it every day so that you keep on top of everything.
Plan Your Travels Well
You can often plan when you will have a heavy workload and times that the load will be lighter, so plan your travels around that. Some professions are busier at certain times of year, you will know when this is for you.
However, still stay flexible. You may turn up at a destination and discover that there’s loads more to see and do than you realised, don’t miss out or you’ll come to resent your work. You also need to check the internet at your accommodation. If the internet is terrible, you probably won’t get much done.
I would generally book a couple of nights in each destination. Once I was there I could check out the Wifi and work space. If it suited me, I would stay for a few extra days to ensure I took advantage of being able to work.
I think this is the most important tip, be patient. It takes time to adjust to the lifestyle of a digital nomad. You need to give yourself time to learn what needs prioritising and when you work best. Don’t take on too much to begin with or you’ll be overloaded.
‘You need to give yourself time to learn what needs prioritising and when you work best’
If you miss a deadline or forget to check your emails, don’t beat yourself up over it. You will need time to make the digital nomad lifestyle work.
Being a digital nomad is not as easy as most people think. It is a lifestyle that you have to adapt to. You need plenty of discipline to make sure you work wherever you are and don’t just explore instead. Lots of planning ahead is needed and you have to understand yourself. But once you’ve managed it, you know you can do it forever.