Being a digital nomad has become a lifestyle that many aspire to, and I won’t lie, it’s great. It allows you to free your creativity and innovation by drawing in inspiration from a changing and optimal environment. Like lean principles, a digital nomad working style allows you to cut a lot of the waste inherent in typical office working, lets you cut down to the core work that creates value.
Saying that, it isn’t always as simple as walking out the door. There are ideas and practices that make the digital nomad style work, and some pitfalls that need to be prepared for.
Not everyone gets it
Being a digital nomad might make perfect sense to you. You can embrace a challenging and fulfilling job while ensuring your independence and exploring the other things in life that interest you—but not everyone gets it, and you have to be prepared for the inevitable questions from friends and family, wondering when you’re going to get a real job. To a lot of people, unless you are sitting in rush hour traffic, serving a boss who monitors your coming and going, and dress the part, you’re not conducting meaningful work what will lead to anything substantial, like a career. That you are, in fact, reverting to an adult version of a summer job.
You time isn’t free
Because you’re not working in a designated place—on other people’s time—many people assume your time is free and fully flexible. There is no reason you can’t help with this or that. Not true! As a digital nomad, you must guard your time. You can’t fritter it away, because people will take it if they can. Work time comes first, before friends, before family. No one is watching you so why can’t you pick up/help/meet or otherwise volunteer the time that people with bosses can’t spare. Well, technically you can, but you shouldn’t. Your working time must be guarded, and it means saying so.
Know what works for you
If you can’t work without a boss watching, digital nomadism plain isn’t for you, but most people are disciplined enough to perform the work they need to. For me, it helps to have quite structured days. This is when I work, and what type of work. This time is for admin, for writing, for reading, for spread-sheeting, etc. For other people, tight and hard deadlines work to motivate. What works to motivate you is up to you to know, and to engage whatever strategies to makes them work. That is your responsibility as a digital nomad, so learn what works for you.
Know your own processes
This goes for your working process, as well. If your process requires mulling time, like mine does, then accept and even plan for it. It also helps to understand what stops you from moving ahead with your tasks/projects/work schedule. Your processes grinding to a halt can be very informative if you learn what your instincts are telling you.
I also know that for myself, physical travel is not great for my performance; it is too distracting for me to do the kind of thinking I need to do for my work. Why wouldn’t I be cognizant of this when I accept and plan the work I’ll perform. I am not the person who can be on the move all the time. Plain fact. That doesn’t work well for me.
The most important job of a digital nomad is to know themselves—what they can do, what they can learn, what they can deliver. The digital nomad take on the responsibility of their own performance, and like with anything, efficiency and effectiveness is paramount. Who’s got time to waste?
Camilla Urdahl will speak to strangers at events about communications strategies, new business models, and how best to accelerate innovation. Follow Camilla and her adventures on Twitter @CamillaUrdahl