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Freelancing – what does it mean to you?
Is it doing the job from the comfort of your home, morning coziness, and saving time on commuting?
Or rather – freedom, adventure, and a chance to combine work and travel?
For increasing numbers of people, freelancing means the chance to combine work and travel as a digital nomad, also known as a traveling freelancer.
While it may sound fun to be a traveling freelancer – and it is – traveling freelancers still have to work. How exactly do they manage to balance their work with their travel? Here you’ll discover four productivity tips which give digital nomads the ability to do all their work while exploring the world.
The rising trend of digital nomads
Being a digital nomad is a rising trend among remote employees. Recent findings prove it – just take a look!
- The number of digital nomads with regular jobs grew from 6.3M in 2020 to 10.2M in 2021.
- Generally, half of Americans (54%) plan to continue the nomadic lifestyle for at least the next two years. For independent contractors, that number jumps to 69%.
- 24M Americans who aren’t digital nomads intend to lead the nomadic lifestyle in the next 2–3 years. It’s a 20% increase compared to 2020.
So, digital nomads are growing stronger.
Why should we learn from digital nomads?
Adventure calls, you must respond!
However, despite the expectations, being a digital nomad is not a piece of cake. Sitting under a palm tree with your laptop and enjoying breathtaking views every morning is just part of the picture. The most common struggles of digital nomads include:
- Long-term culture shock.
- Taxation and healthcare issues are different in every country they visit.
- The absence of familiar (and often favorite) goods and services.
Moreover, being a digital nomad means juggling living places and adapting to new environments while working.
At the same time, those itchy-feet employees must stay productive in their jobs, under all conditions!
It made me think – they must be productivity masters! Since digital nomads can work in such quick-changing and stressful conditions, despite so many distractions, they could have developed excellent habits. So, there must be much to learn from them! Well, I’ve explored the topic, talked with my digital nomad friends, and I’m coming up with the results today.
This article will tell about four habits of successful digital nomads everyone can benefit from!
Are you curious?
#1 Determine your ideal working environment
Office employees have no choice when it comes to their working environment. They have to work in a space designed and furnished by someone else. Do you hate wall color in a strange green shade? You’ll just have to bear it. But honestly, wall color is the least of the possible problems. Think about the lack of natural light, uncomfortable chairs, street noise, or a desk in the middle of the office, where everyone may stare at you.
While office employees have no choice, freelancers do. Unfortunately, they often underestimate the importance of ideal working conditions. Many employees treat their apartments like on-site offices – they don’t think about other options and just work in what they have.
Here the first lesson comes up.
Digital nomads work in many places – from airports to forest cabins to hotel rooms. Yes, it’s challenging, but working in so many places helps them understand their needs better and, as a result, determine their ideal working environments. Getting this insight, digital nomads can look for places that make them most productive or set up specific conditions that help them to focus.
For example, you might find that you can rest your eyes by looking at greenery. So – what about renting a room with a park view? Or just hanging the picture of a forest, or place a plant next to your computer?
Some people focus better on hustle; others need perfect silence. Only by identifying your favoring working conditions can you make them a reality.
#2 Benefit from understanding other cultures
Nod if you agree. Firsthand cultural experience is an undeniable benefit of being a digital nomad. Discovering cultural diversity broadens our horizons and gives us a deeper understanding of the world. Also, when living in another country, we naturally immerse in it, so we take over the customs of the natives.
The same happens with work habits! For example, working in Japan, you can participate in collective fitness called radio taiso. Swedish people practice fika – a coffee break to chat with colleagues and enjoy sweet snacks – as they believe breaks enhance productivity. Both habits make sense – exercising, breaks, and socializing allow to rest, rejuvenate, clear your head and return to work more productively. But would you have come up with this by yourself?
My digital nomad friend, Michał from Travel Stories, claims that meeting people from other cultures also helps to grow professionally. As he said, “such interactions enrich man with new dimensions if you keep your eyes and mind open. For example, when I went to Istanbul, I learned from Turks that relations are the most crucial element of coworking.”
Digital nomads taught me that we could all benefit from understanding other cultures. Wherever you live, you can read and watch about different cultures’ working habits, identify what works well, and implement it into your routine.
#3 Create a daily routine
Bangkok or Paris – where are you going tomorrow?
As mentioned before, juggling places of living is one of the main challenges of digital nomad lifestyles that makes them constantly adapt to new working conditions. But changing environments is not the only issue. Indeed, travel plans affect the work schedule, too. Different time zones, middle-of-the-day flights, or sleeping off the trip disrupt the working method and make it challenging to focus on working time. Not to mention off-hours trips and parties!
The digital nomads’ solutions are daily routines – some activities they do every day similarly or in the same order.
- Once Ashley gets out of bed, she follows the same order: yoga, gratitude journal, and breakfast. Only after these steps does she start working.
- Mason loves good music. When starting work, he plays the playlist with energetic sunny beats. He says it puts him in a good mood for the rest of the working day.
- Before sleeping, John jots down what he will do the next day. He believes it makes him sleep better and wake up with a calm mindset.
- Jen tends to say that life makes no sense without coffee. So before she gets down to the essentials at work, she does the coffee ritual – grinds the beans, brews the coffee, and enjoys drinking it in the kitchen. Only then does she gets back to work and focus on the Most Important Things.
- Tucker goes out for a short walk after every working day to refresh his mind outside.
OK, I know it sounds nice – but does it really work?
Yes, because, like with music, you follow the beat.
Setting some daily rituals helps to make things done in a peaceful way. Making multiple decisions, our minds fall into decision fatigue! When following a routine, you don’t need to use any decision-making processes; you just follow the same steps. So, you don’t burden your mind, and it can focus on work tasks instead of small daily choices.
Also, a routine helps you to get back on track. We all get distracted, and sometimes a scattered brain makes it difficult to focus on work again. But – if you follow your regular routine, you’ll return to work automatically.
#4 Learn to recharge your mind
A peaceful mind would work steadily.
A while back, I thought that working while traveling was just fun. Come on, it allows you to visit stunning destinations without using days off; what could be wrong with it?
Well, I discovered it when talking with digital nomads. The long-term culture shock, dealing with complex logistics, and constantly switching between exciting adventures and gray everyday life is mentally draining.
To be productive with work despite this challenging lifestyle, digital nomads look for ways to recharge the mind. Below are some of my favorite hacks:
- Limit your decision making – As mentioned before, making multiple decisions exhausts our brains. Therefore, try to automate daily choices (like what you would eat for breakfast) and leave this energy on more important things (maybe your next trip?)
- Avoid multitasking – Multitasking is another mechanism that exhausts our brains because we lose some energy on every switch. So, the more tasks you are juggling, the more you are fatigued at the end. Focusing on one assignment at a time allows you to accomplish more in the same amount of time.
- Create a distraction list – It’s the trick that helps to focus on work without feeling guilty. When working, your mind may wander to non-work-related things. When something like that appears in your mind, you have two choices – act on it, or ignore it, with a chance of forgetting it. A distraction list solves this problem because whenever something important pops into your mind, you jot it down and do it later.
- Breathe – In other words – find the strategy that connects your mind and body and makes you feel peaceful. It may be meditation or yoga, but simple conscious breathing is enough to find the balance. Just remember to breathe at a slower pace since it makes your body feel safe and relaxed.
Final thoughts on digital nomads
In the words of Brendon Burchard, the world’s #1 high-performance coach, “just as athletes never quit training, high performers never stop consciously conditioning and strengthening their habits.”
So, I have a bittersweet message for you – there is still a long way to go and, most probably, it won’t ever end. But the good side of this news is that it works. Developing good habits as a digital nomad makes you work more productively, resulting in higher job satisfaction and a better work-life balance.
I hope the productivity tips I’ve learned from digital nomads will help you bring your career to the next level!
Want to learn more about how to freelance so you can be a digital nomad? Check out my free mini-course here.