Although I’m still in my first full year as a digital nomad, I’ve been working the side hustle for quite some time. I’d spend each day working 9 to 5, shoving in dinner, then switching gears to my digital endeavors from 6 - ?. It wasn’t always pretty - or necessarily healthy - but I loved the variety of experiences and the chances to get creative in different ways. Now as I’m on the go more than I’m in one place at a time, I’m still facing challenges of knowing when to work and when to, well, just relax. The nomad lifestyle often means a fluid stream of work and play, but I’ve begun to practice these strategies for a healthy work-life balance, digital nomad style.
WORK DURING NORMAL BUSINESS HOURS
I know, I know. I am without a doubt a night owl too, but I’ve found that working late means waking up late, which means feeling like the day is already gone before I’ve even had the chance to get started. It ensues a weird level of anxiety about being able to get enough work done during the day to leave time for myself. So, I’ve tried - really hard - to wake up at a decent morning hour and begin work as if I was in an office again. If you’re like me, my best advice on how to become a morning person is to take it slow. Gradually train your body to adapt to an earlier schedule, and force yourself to stop working at a certain time at night in order to get to sleep on time. Tricks to help you fall asleep could include meditation, no screen time at least an hour before you want to fall asleep, or listening to light music to help you relax. My mind is constantly racing through ideas and to-do’s when I lay down to go to sleep, so these tactics help me dive into a peacefully sleepy state.
Keep in mind that working this way doesn’t mean 9-5, Monday to Friday. You can work a few week days (which could make you more accessible to your clients, depending on the type of work you do), work weekend days here and there, and switch it up all the time. You can work certain days while reserving others for your personal time. And there’s almost nothing quite as satisfying as grocery shopping on a Tuesday afternoon, am I right? Give yourself more daylight for productive action, and you can apply your own personal healthy balance to any schedule, any week.
TAKE YOUR WORK WITH YOU WHEN YOU TRAVEL
A normal person would probably think that headline sounds crazy. But you’re a digital nomad, remember!? You have the unique flexibility to take your work with you wherever you go. Don’t get so wrapped up in work that you forget about the rest of the world out there just ready to be explored. Find that healthy balance - decide to book a trip somewhere new and plan your work schedule around it, or plan out the time that you’ll set aside for work during your trip. Because you’ll want to see and do as much as you can, you’ll stick to your schedule. And don’t feel like you need to be confined to your hotel room or Airbnb either - seek out cool and interesting places to work, like cheerful cafes or sweet spots where you can stay connected while doing how the locals do. Combining work and travel and new environments can help you have a fresh perspective of your work and heighten your energy and creativity.
On my most recent trip, I was traveling for a conference that happened to be in my hometown of Pittsburgh where I’d get to see friends and family, too. I packed my work gear in the Carson Flat Backpack and loved how I was able to travel in style while taking my work with me. Who said business has to mean a briefcase, anyway?
SET PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL GOALS
With your eyes on the prize, you may find your lifestyle as a digital nomad centered around your work and what you want to accomplish professionally. But it’s so important to set personal goals too, and intentionally make time for them. Maybe it’s practicing a new skill, learning a new language, or building or creating something - develop personal goals for yourself and take small steps toward them alongside your professional goals. You are more than your fingers on a keyboard. Explore all of the things that interest you. Intentionally unplug from work in order to keep up with your personal development to-do list, whether this means blocking off time in your schedule, setting reminders, tackling your goals with others who will hold you accountable, or another strategy that suits you.
One of the most important things for a digital nomad to remember is to place as much priority on your self care as you do on your work. My favorite mantra, courtesy of fellow Pittsburgher Wiz Khalifa:
Work hard, play hard. It’s the digital nomad way, and it’s so, so rewarding.
WRITTEN BY GIGI AROUND THE GLOBE
Gigi is a traveler and storyteller. She is passionate about international education and encouraging her readers to pursue travel experiences and live their most happy and authentic lives. On her blog, www.gigiaroundtheglobe.com she shares personal travel stories and tips, as well as her favorite gear and accessories while on-the-go. You can follow her travels and inspiring photos @gigiaroundtheglobe.