Working remotely is a beautiful concept. The idea of making your own schedule, working on your own terms, and having the freedom to make room for other exciting things in your life is alluring. However, the lifestyle adds some additional pressures on digital nomads. It is not always easy to balance your work and personal life while working remotely, and it’s necessary to have a lot of moving parts lined up well to enjoy success.
Knowing these challenges ahead of time will give you enough time to prepare for potential issues properly and equip you with the tools to overcome them. This article will go into some ways in which you can prepare yourself for natural problems that might arise with your new remote digital nomad lifestyle.
Problems Can Be Overcome with Preparation
Before you buy your one- way ticket, make sure your decision to work remotely is not too impulsive. Although it can be exciting, it is still important to have all your ducks in a row before you insert yourself in a new environment. It is especially important when you are living in an entirely different country with different subcultures and access to resources.
Working remotely requires dedication, planning, self-awareness, and flexibility. Additionally, this lifestyle might be accompanied by a fair share of loneliness. The loneliness has a way of seeping into your work life as you might not be as emotionally stable at the start of this transition to get a lot of quality work done. I wrote an article about this topic here on this website which gives some perspectives about this – Are Digital Nomads Always Alone?
As you start your journey and prepare to get on that flight, it is helpful to make a checklist with all the necessary items and goods or services. Staying organized will provide you with a sort of safety net to fall back on and is a good reminder to try to stay on top of your work/life balance. It can happen, especially as you settle into the first few weeks of your new lifestyle. Transitions can be the toughest part, so if you have an arsenal of tips and tools to fall back on, it will be more seamless.
If you are planning this new chapter in your life with advanced time, plan six months to a year ahead. If you decide to make a more impulsive decision, follow these same suggestions. Keep in mind it might be a bit more difficult for you than someone who has had plenty of time to think about the transition. When you arrive, one of the most important things to take care of first is to get your work life on track. In this article The Effective Worker Side of the Digital Nomad Entrepreneur, I cover some basic things that every digital nomad needs to do in their work life as well as create a framework which you can follow. Check it out for some great ideas.
#1 – Challenges with Workspace
When you are jumping from location to location, make sure you have at least one day to get settled in your new environment before you are required to start your work. This brief grace period will allow you to get accustomed and connected to Wi-Fi and hotspots, or find your nearest coffee shop or co-working space to set up camp.
You might find that wherever you are staying has good areas to set up an office space, but later find out that there is not a reliable enough Wi-Fi connection. Perhaps there is a better Internet café down the road. If you want to find that perfect cafe, I wrote an article on this topic that will give you some great tips for finding it. Digital Nomad Lifestyle Tips for Finding the Perfect Cafe to Work From.
If you find that you are working away from your living space, you will also need to factor in public transportation and commute times. Additionally, if you are working in a team that is half remote and half in-office, you will want to build those connections with your new co-workers and decide upon the scheduling and meeting space arrangements.
Like anything else, have a plan ahead of time. Do plenty of research on the house or apartment you are planning to live in and what the connectivity in that part of the country is. Make sure you know what supplies you’ll need to buy to create an office space that cultivates productivity for you. Sometimes, creating a professional space for yourself helps to take the challenge out of working from home. You can trick yourself into thinking you are going to the office. In my article The Best Workspaces (Office, Co-Working, Café) for the Digital Nomad Entrepreneur, I outline multiple ideas about workspaces that help you with this topic.
#2 – Challenges with Time Zone
Time zones always present a difficulty as it requires a brief adjustment period to jet lag upon arrival. It also requires some extra give and takes between remote teams to decide upon virtual meeting times. It’s essential when working remotely, especially working for overseas clients or in teams of people who are scattered around the world, to find a good time that is reasonable for everyone.
If you are a people-pleaser and your first instinct is to tell your co-workers or client that having a meeting at 2 am your time is perfectly fine. Don’t fool yourself. Meeting at those times will not be a feasible long-term solution, and mess with your work/life or in this case, work/sleep balance.
It is okay to be picky in a situation like this because it will ultimately be better for everyone in the long run as your work output and overall productivity will be at higher levels consistently. It can be tricky to align everything, but all it requires is some more diligent communication among all parties involved.
Weekly team or client meetings/check-ins are essential to make sure everything is running smoothly. They might feel a bit disruptive when you are trying to focus on getting tasks completed, but they will help you take a break from work and gain some perspective on whatever your long-term goals are. Making sure that time zones line up is essential to ensure all your team members or clients are present for meetings.
There are various tools to use to make sure you don’t get your time zones mixed up. The Time and Date Meeting Planner, Doodle, Every Time Zone, and Zone Converter are great options.
#3 – Problems with Team Tools
It is best to make sure that whatever tools you are using as a team is helpful to every member or client. Some people might prefer a specific communication platform to another one, but you want to make sure that it is consistent across the board and that everyone is comfortable using the platform. There are plenty of virtual meeting platforms that are easy to learn and easy to navigate, such as Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime, and Slack. If you are leading a team, it would be helpful to give a tutorial to your remote team members at the beginning of your time working together to make sure everyone is on the same page. It is tedious and a little bit annoying, but will save you extra time re-teaching or refreshing team members later on.
Having these tools allows for ease with time management, especially during transition times, when you are learning a new schedule or lifestyle. Certain tools can take care of daily, sometimes mindless (but necessary) tasks for your company or client, which can relieve some stress during those times of insecurity or unknown.
However, when the team tools go awry, it is vital to have a communication back-up plan to deal with these issues head-on. Make a plan with your client or your team when the platforms you all are using stops working, or you are in an area where you cannot get connected. Plan ahead for potentially tricky times by letting your co-workers or clients know when you might be out of service.
When you are planning to begin work in a new place, and anticipate problems with your tools, give yourself a grace period for adjustment and make sure you have the following supplies to troubleshoot tough situations.
- Special software, plug-ins or browsers for your computer
- Installation of VPN in case of firewall
- Knowledge of the nearest computer or cell phone service store in case of emergencies
- Correct adapters for country’s outlets
- Extra portable batteries for when you don’t have access to an outlet
- Portable Wi-Fi hotspot for bad service areas
- Mobile phone as a personal hotspot
#4 – Problems with Time Management
It’s vital to set a work routine, especially when traveling. This routine will help you hold yourself accountable and bolster your productivity levels. When you are in a beautiful country, you want to allow yourself time to explore where you are and truly enjoy your time off. You don’t want to have feelings of guilt looming over your head because you didn’t get the work done you need to for the day.
There are many unknown factors to traveling, so organizing yourself ahead of time will help you remain as productive as possible, even during tricky transitions or minor setbacks. Your routines will also help preserve your mental energy. It can also help you to be very selective about where you choose to devote your energy levels too. If you are often traveling, you may have to devote some of your downtimes on a train or plane working. My article on this website What Time Management Skills Are Needed Are Most Needed for Digital Nomad Living covers some of the basics and may give you some good ideas on how to approach this.
Additionally, it’s crucial to know yourself well in this situation. What time of the day are you most productive? What workspaces allow you to focus and remain on task? Try to figure out what times and places work the best for you and then build the rest of your schedule around these constants.
Schedule other activities such as group hangouts, hiking, going to the beach, exercise classes, etc. which you can look forward to in your day. Knowing you get to enjoy those fun activities after you finish your work will make your free time that much more enjoyable. It also gives you the motivation to work towards something. Again, this all requires some honest self-discipline.
#5 – Challenges with Energy Level
Our work output is dependent on many other factors lining up, including our energy levels. If you are feeling melancholy or constantly lethargic, you might want to look at your remote lifestyle and see if there are any changes you could be making. If your sleep schedule is all out-of-whack, chances are you are going to get tired at random and inconvenient times of the day.
Try aligning your sleep schedule and getting yourself on a regular cycle by going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time. That way, you won’t get a mid-day slump and feel the urge to drink more caffeine or take a nap that cuts into your day. Keeping your energy level managed so that you can be your best during the day doesn’t come automatically. In my article Digital Nomad Lifestyle – A Guide to Managing Your Energy, I outline some of the ways you can manage it. Check it out for some ideas.
Additionally, exercise can help you feel great by getting your endorphins flowing. Find your favorite exercise, whether that be yoga, running, lifting, cycling, etc. and try to incorporate it in your day. It’s good for your body but also a great brain-boost and will keep you from feeling sluggish.
Finally, make sure you are fueling your body with nutritious foods that keep your energy levels up instead of foods or drinks that cause highs and crashes in the day. Try to eat meals and snacks at the same time as well. If you would like some ideas on how to stick to your exercise routines, I cover this in my article 9 Ways To Stick to Your Exercise Routine When You’re A Digital Nomad which can give you some excellent ideas on how to do it.
#6 – Challenges with Balancing Your Day
A difficult part of living the remote lifestyle feels like you can’t compartmentalize your day the way you might have been able to with a normal corporate job. You have to make your own schedule and hold yourself accountable to stick to it, which can be hard when it feels like you have a lot of free time. Sometimes this free time can encourage procrastination.
Using a scheduling app or planner and writing down what time you need to do certain things will help you stick to your schedule. Having a consistent schedule each day will also help you get used to a rhythm that works for you.
If you are working from home, it might be helpful to change out of your pajamas and into clothes that encourage work rather than lounging around. As previously mentioned, this helps you to trick your brain into thinking you are in a more professional setting which might help you focus better than if you are in a super relaxed state of being. BALANCE ARTICLE LINK
#7 – Problems with Stress & Concentration
When you are working remotely and feel like you can’t get anything done, try monitoring your environment and your mental stability a bit more. If you are feeling off-balance emotionally, you will not be able to concentrate on getting work done. Try to get to the root of your problem. Journaling to track your thoughts helps to keep you aware of where you are and provides a way to have constant check-points with yourself.
If you feel like you are distracted and can’t concentrate, get rid of obvious sources of distraction. Turn off your phone unless you absolutely need it to communicate with a work contact, turn off the television and put notifications on “do not disturb” so they don’t pop up and disrupt your workflow.
If music helps you concentrate, turn on a light focus playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, or other music apps. If you find yourself anxious with a lot of tasks you feel you can’t focus, try making small lists that are realistically achievable for each day. Finally, if you are feeling lost and need to take a step back from your work situation or environment, try using an app like Calm or Headspace to practice meditation and calming thoughts.
#8 – Problems with Travel
Navigating a country’s travel policies for ex-pats and long-term foreigners can be overwhelming at times. Research is key here to make sure you are not stuck in a situation where you are without a passport, VISA, or some certification for you to be living and working in a country. Make sure you know the periods in which VISA’s are valid for a non-citizen to vacation, live, or work. In many countries, a short-term situation allows travelers to stay from 3 to 6 months. I have written an article focused on this topic What Kind of Visa Does a Digital Nomad Need? Check it out for some guidelines that may relate to your situation and countries you wish to live.
If you are confused about how to qualify for certain documents or living/working situations, check the embassy or consulate website of the nation you are planning to travel to. It will help you find out whether you need to apply for a visa and what type.
If you are planning to stay for an extended amount of time, a tourist VISA will not cut it, and you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your VISA expires, and you have no way of leaving or entering the country, and no way to access help from a home base.
Consulates and embassies can be tricky, and some countries are very selective about who they will and won’t let in. That is why it is so important to apply for any VISA early because the process can take several months.
Make sure you also have the right vaccinations as well as health insurance for your stay. The country you are traveling to might expose you to certain illnesses you hadn’t experienced before. Making sure you are covered by vaccinations as well as health insurance coverage abroad will give you some peace of mind in case a health crisis takes place. Make sure you keep your emergency contacts back home updated as well on some identification card that you keep on you.
#9 – Problems with Project Targets and Deadlines
Sometimes with the frustrations of balancing your work life and your personal life remotely, it becomes difficult to hit targets and deadlines. A great way to stay on top of this is to set up a calendar with important project dates and deadlines for yourself or your team members.
If you have a team of workers from different areas in the world and hopefully different backgrounds and cultures, you might have to take into account international holidays and religious holidays you need to be mindful of. The more you can frontload a set deadline schedule that works for yourself and your co-workers, the less adjusting you’ll have to do down the road or during deadline crunch time.
If you are dedicated enough to the idea of working remotely, do not let the fear of a bad scenario stop you! You can ease that anxiety and avoid common mistakes through plenty of research and preparation. After all, if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail!
Having a realistic viewpoint on what the lifestyle includes will help you manage your expectations so that if something does go wrong, it will not be a total setback, just a minor obstacle. The digital nomad lifestyle enables you to work remotely even while traveling frequently. It doesn’t always have to be in one place. That’s the beauty of this lifestyle. If you really want to maximize the potential of working remotely and traveling with adventure, check out my article The Cool Side of Adventure and the Digital Nomad Lifestyle which brings out some of these points and even has a framework for planning work and travel adventures.
Tapping into the resources of other digital nomads is also helpful because they can provide you with tips and tricks that they have learned in their processes. It’s always nice to take advantage of the wisdom and experience other nomads have, which can impact our remote work and travel. Be prepared and make it happen.
I’m the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I’m location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.