Hello! Bonjour! Salut! Al-salāmu ʿalaykum! In this digital world, we really find out how small our world is when our voice is heard across time zones and across oceans. Within social networks, we now can reach out to other like-minded individuals and share our stories that all have common threads.
This is how Maia and Amie met – through a simple post about the struggles of maintaining balance living a nomadic lifestyle. Both women have unique stories about where they come from but, the lives of these two digital nomads are both reliant on maintaining a steady work schedule and maintaining their digital network. Digital nomads are designers, photographers, developers, programmers, and writers who have chosen a life less ordinary and the difficult task of juggling their lives offline and an office that never really closes. Through their journeys, Maia and Amie have learned how to create consistency as well as balance in their lives and want to share a few personal tips with our fellow nomads and anyone who may need a little love.
Amie: I’ve been running my own business for almost 9 years. I’m a graphic designer by training, but over the years my role has evolved into branding companies and helping them expand their digital marketing efforts. Over the course of 7 years, my husband and I have moved 7 times east coast to west coast, up and down coasts and then back. I’ve grudgingly worked through some of the transitions ramping my business up and down. This can definitely be taxing on the mind and body. After reminding myself why exactly I gave up that 9-6 job, I have found the following tips crucial for me. Success results from being attentive to my health and well-being as well as client’s needs. When I first started out, I felt like I had my business switch always flipped on and over time, that is not sustainable.
Maia: I’ve been working as a remote freelance web developer since 2015 and since then, my husband and I have been traveling around the world. We both work in the same industry and help each other out whenever we can which is really great. I really like what I do which makes me forget I’m working a lot of the time. Obviously, I can get swamped with work sometimes or have challenging clients which can make it difficult at times. I also try to remind myself to take care of myself and take multiple breaks throughout the day.
Are you a morning or evening person?
Amie – Morning is when I am most focused for production work. That said, sometimes my wheels don’t stop turning or I have a deadline and I want to work at night.
Maia – I’m definitely an evening person, I never schedule calls with my clients in the morning, it is usually my ‘me’ time when I take the time to read the news, catch up on my TV shows, and just relax. I usually start around lunch time and work until late at night.
What is one habit or routine that keeps you interested in your work?
Amie – Allowing “free” days away from the computer is really essential. I make time to read and mix in a few hours a week for either a lecture, meet up, or other interaction to help expand my mind and thoughts. The more I learn, the more I see where I can help people and in turn, this feeds my creativity.
Maia – I constantly browse beautifully done sites to get inspiration for new designs. I also go to a lot of networking events and get to meet a ton of great women developers. Lastly, since I travel a lot, I tend to do half days of work and half days of discovery. My husband and I go visit museums, walk around the city, and go to events and then return “home” to get our work done for the remainder of the day. This has led to a better work-life balance and I come back to my projects with a refreshed mind.
What is one thing you do before you sit down to work that helps get you get started in your day?
Amie: I get up and get ready each morning like I am going to walk out the door even though I work from home. This way when I need to run out quickly, I can run out quickly and not be stressed. Sounds so simple, but I think it’s really helped me be able to embrace the discipline needed for freelancing success.
Maia: I have to have a cup of tea or sparkling water and read the news before I start to do anything. Once I am done with that, my goal is to get to inbox zero by the end of the day.
I also started avoiding working from bed (which I used to do a lot). This way, my mind switches to work mode when I get to my desk.
What is the one type of task you most dread working for yourself?
Amie: Having to deal with tech support issues for myself.
Maia: Financial tasks (taxes, healthcare, etc) overwhelm me sometimes.
Do you have a tip that helps you motivate and relieve the stress of the task?
Amie: First, I will mention that I have learned to pick service providers based on how good their tech support is and sometimes this means I have to pay for it. I’ve been learning breathing exercises to help keep my cool under pressure. I make myself a cup of hot tea, put on my headphones, and call or message tech support if I can’t figure out the issue within 10-20 minutes.
Maia: I put on some calm music, get a cup of tea, and list all of tasks I have on a piece a paper. As soon as I’m done writing the list, it does not seem as daunting anymore.
Do you prefer to read print or the internet?
Amie: I prefer to read print. I like the tactile experience of holding a book or magazine and focusing my eyes on something other than a screen.
Maia: I usually read print, but since I started traveling a lot, I read mostly on my kindle but I kept my old model which has not backlight and is not bad for my eyes at night.
What is the most helpful tip you’ve discovered that makes you more efficient?
Amie: Beyond making a daily task list, I changed the way I do one of my most time-consuming admin task. Instead of putting off my billing till a specific date and I bill as soon as I wrap a project up. I found that on the days I scheduled myself to do billing, something like dealing with tech support another admin task always pulled me off. This caused me a lot of anxiety.
Maia: First, taking frequent breaks from my screen. Second, I have stopped checking my emails after a certain time in the evening, which can really mess up my sleep.
Finally, I bought a couple of notebooks to keep track of my clients on paper at the end of each day. I feel like it takes away my stress of the day when I cross the things out that I was supposed to do that day.
Name the three most imp. items you take with you when you work on the road?
Amie: My notebook, iPhone, and chargers.
Maia: My laptop, my chargers, and my phone.
Do you have a creative outlet away from the computer? How often do you tap into it?
Amie: Yes, photography and cooking. At least every other day I make time to cook in the evenings. The additional benefit is that I eat healthier when I have home cooked meals.
Maia: Photography and reading. I travel a ton so I started a travel blog (http://dev-travelers.tumblr.com/) where I feature pictures and stories about the places that we’ve visited. I try to update my blog weekly which pushes me to get out of the house and actually do something that does not involve work.
Music is so incredibly good for our soul and focus. What music app do you tune into and why?
Amie: Spotify because I can choose a music genre based on my mood.
Maia: Spotify! I love their playlists, I also love the fact that I can make my own playlists or follow someone else’s’.
Any other personal tips that you would like to share, Amie?
- I set parameters for my work hours now and take a break on the weekends to spend with my family.
- I can’t emphasize enough how making exercise a priority has helped. It’s not only good for our bodies; it also helps with mental clarity and combats stress. My dog makes sure I at least take one walk a day. 🐶 If you have a hard time getting into it, commit yourself to a feel good class like meditation, yoga, or conditioning like gyrotonics at least once a week and enjoy the release!
- This one is really hard to do, but because I am a morning person, I really do try and tune out from email at least one hour before bed to help the wheels in my head stop spinning. (There are published studies that give tips on how to disconnect to decrease anxiety.)
- Pay attention to your posture and the ergonomics of your workstation. Adjusting chair height, the height of the arms of my chair for typing and using my mouse, using a stool to prop up my feet, and working off larger monitors (not laptops) has made a huge difference in how I feel throughout the day. If I do go to a coffee shop or somewhere else to work, I make a point to not sit on a stool for very long.
And you, Maia?
- Working out is a new thing for me, I signed up for ClassPass which lets me work out in each city I am going to without any attachments or contracts. I try to do one of their classes at least 4 times a month.
- I also started pampering myself a bit more, going to get a manicure or doing a face mask while watching a tv show which lets me recharge my batteries.
- Reading every night also helps take the anxiety of work out of my head before I go to sleep.
- Finally, having a desk is something that definitely helps with productivity and comfort. I could work on a couch or a bed, but a desk makes me focus on my tasks.
Tending to yourself is not only good for your health and well-being over the long-term, but it will actually increase your daily productivity. If your mind is calm, you will be more focused on the task at hand. You will also feel less stressed under those deadlines that pop up and have more energy to put towards that networking event. No matter where in the world you may be located, we hope some of this advice we share with you helps you figure out how to develop a better work-life balance and increase your overall happiness!
P.S. – If you have a tip you’ve discovered and wouldn’t mind sharing in the comments below, we would love to hear it! (Even if it’s to share the discovery of a favorite cafe that you love to work in or the most inspirational place you’ve traveled to. After all, our experiences in travel and living in various places are what connect us all!
You can learn more about Maia Hariton’s work at: http://maiahariton.com.