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Digital Nomad: Your Seven Essential Lifehacks

Digital Nomad: Your Seven Essential Lifehacks

Whether you’re a digital nomad already, or somebody who is just toying with the idea of taking the plunge, these essential lifehacks will help as you carry on down your path.

I myself lived on the edges of the digital nomad world for years before finally going all in just under one year ago. In fact, I’d not even heard of the term digital nomad until some guys I work with suggested that I write a book for them based on my experiences. A savvy English girl repeated the term to me very shortly after during our first conversation together next to the Indian Ocean. I liked the sound of it, it felt right, and I was happy that I was on my way to becoming one.

Below is a concise and in no way exhaustive list of some of the things that I’ve learnt in my first year as a fully signed-up digital nomad. Alongside some of the other complimentary knowledge I already had after living the best parts of my adult life on the road.

A Good Freelance Platform

Unless you’ve got a trust fund, you’re going to need to make money. If you’ve got a trust fund, you have no need to be a digital nomad in the first place. A digital nomad is defined by their necessity to work. The big difference between a digital nomad and a traditional worker being that the former does not need to carry out their role in any one fixed place.

In most instances, digital nomads are freelancers working remotely. There are many roles that could be covered under this umbrella, but the common denominator is that you’re going to need a reliable freelance platform to source work.

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I personally use Upwork, which has provided me a really solid stream of work since they took over Elance last year. This is probably the biggest platform out there, and their customer service is excellent, but the recent hike in commission to 20% on the first $500 earned is a little hard to swallow.

Freelancer.com is also a decent platform but the quality of work available doesn’t seem to match up to Upwork’s all that well. People per Hour also has its charms, but not in the way they seem to constantly go out of their way to get you to pay to have your proposals featured.

A Simple But High Quality Wardrobe

The digital nomad life is a lot more than just about the work. It’s a lifestyle choice and the nomadic part demands that you’l often be on the road. When you decide to go all in on this, you must realise that your wardrobe needs to be reduced accordingly. There’s nothing worse than arriving in a new place and having to lug an overly heavy case around with you.

Before you get to the wardrobe, you need to purchase a high quality backpack. And this needn’t be one that would get you to the top of Everest. A 60+20 liter capacity will be more than sufficient. This will give you plenty of space to carry your clothes and essentials, while the detachable rucksack will be ideal for carrying your laptop or Macbook as hand luggage, or when you’re buzzing around your current city of choice.

Clothes, shoes, and all the other basics need to be kept as exactly that, but you should think about quality over cost in some instances. I used to get through three or four pairs of “cheap” jeans every year until I realised that it might make more sense paying a little bit more for something that would last longer. This has worked out for me so far and i’m sure that it could apply to other often-worn essential clothing items too.

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Decent Sunglasses That Actually Protect Your Eyes

The freedom to work where you want is often the main motivation for the digital nomad. In most cases this will mean that you also want to work somewhere where the sun shines a bit more often than it does in your home town.

I spent years buying cheap sunglasses that on many occasions lasted me a long time, but i’m pretty sure the protection they offered my eyes wasn’t all that great. As with the above advice on backpacks and certain clothing items, there is a lot to be said for spending a little bit more than you normally would to ensure that you are getting superior quality. Just make sure you get a hard case for them too as they will getting knocked about quite a bit every time you set off for somewhere new.

The Best Currency Card Available

It is absolutely essential that you do your upmost to make sure that you lose as little as possible on currency conversions. Clearly this doesn’t apply if you are travelling around your own country as a digital nomad but it is a big deal if, like me, you’re often making money in dollars, converting them into pounds, and then spending in euros.

Luckily there are a number of excellent options out there at the moment. The best for my mind is Revolut in the UK but this is an ever increasingly competitive market with more and more options appearing on the market all the time.

An extra smart little hack is to also download the XE Currency Convertor app to your phone. This way you can always double check that your card is giving you the rate that it should be.

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An Awesome Co-Working Space

Cafes are a great place for free wi-fi and to do some local people watching, but they are hardly conducive to a full day’s concentrated work session. Your home might seem like the ideal location to work, until you realise just how easy it is to get distracted there. These places can be a great resource from time to time, but you need to find a good co-working space if you’re settling in a place for a while and need to get some serious work done.

Luckily for the digital nomad are more and more amazing co-working spaces opening all over the world every day. With business going increasingly on-line and companies realising that there is no need to invest in a office all of your own when you’re finding your feet, co-working spaces are the perfect solution for young professionals and the digital nomad everywhere.

The great advantage for a digital nomad here is that most co-working spaces offer flexi-desks that can be taken on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis with no long-term commitment. A good co-working space will provide for all of your working needs with high-speed internet, printing access, comfortable common areas, kitchens, free coffee, and 24/7 access all being pretty standard in the better places.

Not only does a co-working space provide you with the tools and impetus you need to push on with your work, but you will find yourself surrounded by other like-minded individuals. Not only will these people often prove to be an inspiration, but it is also quite common for you to be able to pool your resources and generate work from each other.

Good Friends

Once you become a digital nomad, you will essentially live your life on the road. What this often means is that you will give up any house or apartment that you had when you were living more traditionally. For this reason it is essential for you to maintain good relationships with all of your old friends as they will prove invaluable when you are looking for a place to stay when you head back to your old haunts.

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Unfortunately it may also be true that you find yourself coming up against a little bit of resentment from your old friends once you go down the digital nomad path. This is only natural as some people can’t help but feel a bit jealous when they see you living it up on the beach in the winter while they are stuck in the cold commute to the office.

A Digital Nomad Support Network

There is no point in sugar coating it, the life of a digital nomad is not always a bed of roses. Freelancing can be irregular to say the least, and no matter how much you love life on the road, there will still be many times when you miss your old friends and family members.

For this reason you must take advantage of the contacts that you will undoubtedly make with any other digital nomad that crosses your path. These interactions will remind you that you are not alone and give you that little push to keep at it. We may still be in the minority but the digital nomad life is one that more and more people are taking up everyday. The digital nomad community is growing and it will always be there to offer you support when you need it.

Self-belief, determination, motivation, and discipline are going to be just some of the key traits that you need to have in bucket loads if you are going to make it as a digital nomad, but you will get there. You are special, my digital nomad friend, and as long as you don’t lose faith, you will soon be making a success of things and living the kind of life that you had only ever dreamed about having before.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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