Five Challenges of Being a Digital Nomad
Being a Digital Nomad has Hidden Pitfalls
I know that look of pure envy when I tell people that, in my line of work, I can literally work from any place and at any time! Whilst it’s true that us Digital Nomads have a lot of flexibility in our working environment we still have to work and that fact means that we have to be disciplined enough to do just that – otherwise our income dries up & we’re in all sorts of trouble!
After having spoken with a lot of people like myself, I have identified some common denominators between us all – that is, we all tend to face the same challenges that must be overcome.
I’ve identified five that are absolutely critical to deal with effectively, if you want to be a successful Digital Nomad. In no particular order, here are the five:
The bottom line is, if you’re not self-disciplined, you are not suited to being a Digital Nomad. Most of us adopt this lifestyle so that we can get that work/life “mash-up” everybody craves. However, it’s important that you manage that integration properly. Working remotely & across time zones adds a number of potential distractions, whether that’s kids, pets, sunshine, laundry, or the fact that there isn’t someone looking over your shoulder.
Whilst a traditional workplace is often equally, if not more, distracting – with endless meetings to constant minor interruptions and everything in between – you generally have a supervisor who’s there to make sure you can keep focused on what matters (& if they don’t your colleagues will!)
As a Digital Nomad you need to manage your time well. You need to be honest with yourself and understand that there is no ‘One size fits all’ solution but that getting the perfect ‘Fit’ for your work-style is completely your choice and responsibility.
- Have a defined workspace. It doesn’t need to be the same each day, but make sure that it ticks the boxes of reliable Wi-Fi (with a back-up), power and not too loud (or too quiet for some). Co-working spaces can be a great option, libraries if you don’t need to take calls, or the right type of cafe.
- Establish a routine. One of the excellent up-sides to Nomad work is that you can often adapt to your personal needs, whether that’s a morning jog, making a nice lunch, or doing the school run at 3pm. You might not be able to to do the same things at the same time each day but you can allocate the same amount of time each day to those things that must be done.
2. Switching off
Yes, us Digital nomads can work in our pyjamas! Draped in cats! However, not having that clear separation between work and home means you may be tempted to work a little when you shouldn’t, and vice versa. You have to be able to draw lines between what is work & what isn’t – when you should be working & when you shouldn’t.
- Schedule work – set deadlines for yourself (& stick to them!).
- Develop a routine. This might be as simple as getting into work clothes, creating a separate office space, allocating the same amount of time to frequent tasks.
- Organisation. Find apps, lists, ways to get to-dos out of your head and into clear action lists that you can prioritise and use to create tomorrow’s workflow.
- Again, be honest with yourself about what you can achieve given the amount of time. Time management is as much about the space around a task as filling up the diary.
3. Social interaction
Now that you don’t have to commute or work in the same physical space as others, you have all of this extra free time that you can spend with your family, your friends, and working on those side projects you never got around to working on. When you work as a Nomad, however, it can be socially isolating.
- Get involved on social networks. Make time to comment on colleagues’ & client’s posts on Facebook/Linkedin, etc.
- Use time you’ve saved to join the local orchestra, poker club, 80s improv dance group-thang and pursue them with abandon.
- Co-working spaces – another good reason to join one, even if only once or twice a week, is to make friends who understand the peaks and troughs of Nomad workflows and can support you when you’re stressed or join you on your coffee breaks.
With no walk to the bus-stop, it can be easy to neglect your physical (and mental) health! So this means exercise and downtime – you have to take care of yourself!
- Know yourself and your limits, what motivates you. Ensure you stop when you need to and give yourself a pat on the back, chocolate biscuit or wrestle the kids outside (as long as they’re your own!) to break up your workday. You wouldn’t work non-stop in the office so use the distractions of the Nomad work environment for good.
- Be aware of your environment. Take phone calls walking outside, stretch, stand and type. Just listen to your body.
- Work breaks into your routine and be as strict taking them as you are with your working hours.
- Exercise! Find a buddy or group to train with, it will increase your chances of keeping up the fitness routine and add to your social life too!
5. Communication and connectivity
Digital Nomads don’t get to chat around the water cooler or coffee machine. Being part of some social or business networks is one thing but you also need to proactively maintain dialogue with your clients (the ones that are paying you) that is more than just the “Next project please!” or “Your invoice (for the work I’ve done for you) is attached”
- Look for opportunities to make meaningful contact with online colleagues & clients.
- Make checking in on your clients (to see how things are going overall) a part of your daily routine.
When it comes to connectivity, reliable internet is obviously a must. But occasionally trouble strikes whether it’s a blackout or general connectivity issues.
Make sure that you have some back up communication plans in place – have a dongle or three at your disposal, charged and at the ready. Know where you can go to access reliable internet.
So, there you have it – five of the most common challenges outlined for you. When considering the Digital Nomad lifestyle, ask yourself how you would deal with these, and also ask yourself what additional challenges you might face?
After all, everyone’s situation is going to be different and, as individuals we also do not deal with situations in the same way – so you will need to develop your own plans & action steps to manage both your transition to & living with this Digital Nomad life.