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The Number One Problem Facing a Digital Nomad (No Pun Intended)

The Number One Problem Facing a Digital Nomad (No Pun Intended)

    I don’t have an office anymore. You know, like a place in a building, with its own door and chair and internet connection and phone lines and locker and Rolodexes. I worked in one for ten years, while I had one of the biggest online publishing companies in Romania. I guess ten years is the maximum lifespan for an office in my system.

    Now, I work anywhere. I named this lifestyle “digital nomading”. I don’t really know if “nomading” is a word, because my spellchecker is complaining big time, with a red and kinda flashy line underneath it. But I’m gonna use it anyway.

    Being a digital nomad means I’m working pretty much in coffee shops. Or at home. Or in the park. Or in airports. But, most of the time, it’s coffee shops. I usually get there when they just opened the place. I take a cup of tea and a bottle of water, plug my laptop in, wire my iPhone and iPad to it, and start doing stuff. Checking email, writing blog posts, coding iPhone apps or sketching and rehearsing my next workshop.

    Every once in a while I stop and start to look around. People are coming in and going out, sit at their tables sipping their coffees or eating their sandwiches. Sometimes I spot some business meetings, with two very tense parties trying to get the best deal out of each other. Sometimes I gaze at teenagers making out, because, you know, they can’t get a room yet. Sometimes there is this classy lady reading a magazine or just staring at the pages blindly while letting the music fill her up. Nice images.

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    The Problem

    But, as much as I would like to stick to the images only, sooner or later I have to accept the fact that I’m more than just images. Namely, a flesh and blood human being, with very basic needs. After a few hours, my digestive system is done with the tea and water, and there is this overflow inside me, if you know what I mean. In much simpler words, I have to take a leak.

    But that creates a problem. A real problem. You know, I usually get the best place in the coffee shop, the one near the handiest power outlet, and with the best view. That’s why I’m getting there just after they opened the place. If I just take my stuff and put it in the backpack, go to the toilet, do what a man’s gotta do and come back, I may find my best seat taken. Actually, it happened a few times, in the beginning. And that’s frustrating. And unproductive.

    The Solution

    So, I decided it’s time to solve this problem once and forever. You know, a repeatable, effective and productive solution. We’re productive guys, so let’s solve this productivity issue.

    And the moment I took this decision I realized I can’t do it only by myself. The real solution was bringing somebody else into the picture. Like, to ask somebody else to look after my belongings while I was out. It was by far the only manageable solution in that specific context.

    But believe me, this was a very, very difficult thing to do. At least for me. I was never too good with relationships. Especially with casual, coffee shop, emergency relationships. But I also knew I have to do this.

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    Once I decided what I’m going to do, I begun to work on the “how am I going to do it”.

    For starters, I started to look at the people in the coffee shop with a different eye. It wasn’t just the “how nice these people are” kind of look, but also “would they agree to look after my belongings for 5 minutes?” kinda of look. The pretty lady with a kid may not be a good solution. Too busy. Oh, maybe the two blondes with half a kilo of jewelry on each arm? Neah, two busy searching for available males. Maybe this businessman on the next table? Yeah, perhaps.

    And what exactly should I say to the other person? “I’m going to take a leak, can you watch my computer for a while?”. Nah, too straightforward. “I’m gonna be out for five minutes, can you be so kind to look after my belongings? I’m extremely grateful, thank you”. Neah, too precious. I even started to type out a script for myself in a text editor. From long experience, I knew that you have to be prepared when the emergency strikes. And a pressured bladder is quite an emergency.

    After a few trials and errors with the opening text and some observation exercises, one sunny Wednesday, I took the risk. No more packing my stuff, rushing to the toilet, doing my thing and then rushing back to the coffee shop, only to see my seat taken. No, sir. Let’s get out into the wild and ask for some help.

    I stood up, went straight to the table I’ve been observing for some time, and started to talk. I must have babbled big time because I clearly remember the eye of the lady (yes, first time was a lady) staring at me with surprise and a little bit of fear, while I was repeating for the fifth time “I have to go out for a few minutes, can you look after these for me?”. Eventually, she understood and accepted gladly: “But of course, no problem”.

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    I ran to the toilet, washed my hands and then rushed back in. Everything was in its place. I thanked to the lady and she smiled at me. I made my first connection.

    From that point on, I practiced this approach each and every time my biological mechanism was asking for his rights. I gradually became better at this. I needed only a few seconds to know which one of the people in the coffee shop will be willing to help. I also started to diversify my conversational opening lines.

    And one day something amazing happened. I started a conversation with the other person. She seemed to be English, so I asked her if she was waiting for her plane. “Actually, yes”, she said with a touch of surprise. “How did you guess?”. And then we started to really talk. At the end, we exchanged Facebook and Twitter ids. Another time there was a man who was working just like me and we shared my power outlet. And another time it was a guy I knew from the industry who happened to be in the same coffee shop for some time.

    A small, but very consistent bond was created each time I stood up, approached the table, smiled and asked if they could watch my stuff. Deep down, people love to be helpful. They smiled at me politely at first, and then, when they realized I needed them, they were actually caring and observing. When I got back and thanked them, they were somehow relieved but happy.

    It’s What Makes Us Vulnerable

    The biggest lesson I learned by being a digital nomad was not about productivity. I got that covered anyway. It was about relationships. Simple, unexpected and honest relationships.

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    Because, you know, most of the time, when I read about relationships, I have to face those big words like “commitment”, “empowering”, “gratitude” and so on. Big words are nice. Impressive. But they are not very helpful. Not when you’re in a simple, biological situation. When all you want is to take a leak and still be sure that your stuff is taken care of. In that case, you have to open up, be honest and give the other person some control over your belongings. And hope they’ll agree. And deliver. That’s all. That’s where real connections are created.

    It’s not our strengths that are creating valuable relationships. At most, our strengths can make a relationship survive when bad times are coming. But our true, meaningful and useful relationships are created by our vulnerabilities. And by the genuine need to accept and expose them. I can hardly imagine a bigger vulnerability than the one created by an almost exploding bladder, in the middle of a crowded mall. You’re so powerless and cornered and desperate. You gotta solve this fast. You gotta take some risks and put out some trust, otherwise things may literally explode.

    This small exercise of opening up and practicing a little bit of trust each and every time I have to take a leak at “work” became, as strange as it may seem, one of the biggest highlights of my days as a digital nomad. Because I know now that not only I will solve this in an effective and productive way, but, what’s even more important, I may end up with some new friends too. :)

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    Last Updated on July 27, 2020

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a Daily Plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    Here’s How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity.

    2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a Calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

    Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an Organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

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    These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

    5. Know Your Deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to Say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to Be Early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time Box Your Activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

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    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

    9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out Distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

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    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track Your Time Spent

    When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

    You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

    14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

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    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

    17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off When You Need To

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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