I recently gave a talk at DNX Global on running a profitable business from anywhere in the world. I didn’t pick the title, but it gave rise to an interesting question. Running a profitable business after all has nothing to do with being a digital nomad and vice versa. However, being on the move poses challenges to running a business (regardless if profitable or not).
At the core of this issue is continually enabling a state of flow. This is the single most important component of an individual that not only produces, but also grows from within. As you’re alone and on the road, you have no other choice than to grow and move upwards, stagnating isn’t an option.
We always associate digital workers with the need to continually be online, which I disagree with. This argument only sets you up for failure as the assumption is made that being offline is equated with being unproductive.
When you think of your creative exertions, few require you to be online. Be it writing, designing or staring out the window when everyone else on the plane is asleep. Your body is motionless, but your mind is racing. If anything, being online has worn us out.
You obviously have no choice when you’re completely offline, but having just that little bit of internet is even worse. It teases you by downloading half the page, by allowing you to receive an e-mail but not the attached PDF. It’s frustrating, but only if you let it. When your internet is that shaky, it’s better to just pull the plug so you can completely switch to your offline work.
I use iA Writer/Day One to write and Sketch to design/visualise ideas. This has nothing to do with being a writer or designer, but rather empowering you to communicate with yourself (introspection) as well as being able to express yourself outwards (communication in remote teams). Regardless of what title or job role we’ve given ourselves, we still need to know the basics. It just so happens that the basics aren’t just e-mail anymore.
Being disconnected is a gift, not a curse. If anything you should seek out offline time, the world can wait for you to be available again.
There was a time when I worked in private banking. Working there was easy because the security policies kept everything out. No messaging, no social platforms, no distractions or notifications to constantly tempt you with busy work (the irony being the majority of the work there was mindless busy work).
Being a nomad is the polar opposite, you sought out freedom and accept everything that comes with it. You’re bombarded with anything from e-mails, notifications to all the experiences of visiting a new land. Whereas an established work office has clear boundaries, our new lifestyle overstimulates our senses. Even if we “clock-in” for work, there’s no guarantee our tools promote only professional work. Platforms such as Twitter or Slack quickly blur those lines between personal and professional.
For myself, I’ve turned off all notifications. If I really want to dig into an idea, I also quit any communication tools (E-mail + Slack). Above all though, I recreate my environment which for me has a lot to do with blocking out any outside sounds and listening to the same playlists over and over again.
Depending on distance, I have both Sony over-ear and in-ear headphones. As comfortable as the Apple earbuds are, you need something to really block out everything external. In that same vein, co-working space doesn’t mean you’ll actually get any work done, I tend to isolate myself. Find what helps you recreate a consistent work environment, even if that means playing a song on repeat-1 all day.
With all the travel, new worlds, different work environments, the most important thing you can do is keep your eye on the prize. Working towards the you of tomorrow as opposed to the busy work of yesterday.
Flow is being able to take on challenges that slightly exceed your current skill level. In other words, it’s not the type of work you’ll passively do such as replying to e-mail or updating plugins on your WordPress site. This is why it’s so important to plan it in.
I use Trello wherever I can. It’s a great way to keep a birds eye view on both what is important today as well as what you should be working on to develop yourself. It’s tempting to have multiple tools and todo lists, but for the sake of clarity, it’s best to stick with one. I talk more about my Trello process here. I use it on a personal level and then for every product we manage.
When it comes down to it, traveling and working is about embracing the challenges and learning to work with them as opposed to always fighting it and becoming frustrated.
Continually enabling flow empowers us nomads to safeguard our future in an environment where we’ve made work harder for ourselves.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be in Bulgaria, Japan and Australia. Connect with me on Nomadbase.
All images from my time in a remote part of Phuket, Thailand. If you want to keep up with my travels, find me on Instagram.