I’m going to guess that almost everyone out there has spent at least one afternoon staring at their inbox in a daze or sitting in a seemingly endless meeting, daydreaming about becoming a digital nomad. It sounds ideal: working from inspiring locations, being in charge of your time, skipping the small talk.
After nomading for the past year, I can tell you some things about the experience that really are dreamy. Not everyone can pop over to the monkey forest on their coffee break or take meetings against the backdrop of a glittering sea.
But you don’t necessarily have to pick up and move halfway across the globe to enjoy some of the benefits of this lifestyle. In fact, there are plenty of habits that anyone can adopt to make their days more inspiring.
1. Shake Up Your Scenery
One of the most obvious benefits (and the one we eye enviously on Instagram) is getting to work from beautiful locations, whether it’s a hip cafe in Berlin or a beach in Bali.
“I love being able to switch up my environment on a daily basis,” says Nisha Garigarn, who has been nomading for the past three years while co-founding Croissant. “I can find myself working from a classy hotel lobby one day, and from a sunny outdoor terrace with a beer on another day. I love the idea of injecting small doses of inspiration in your daily life by working from different spots.”
Even if you can’t get to quite such exotic locations from your cubicle, you’re still surrounded by places that are not your office. Is there a coffee shop around the corner or a hotel lobby you particularly love? Talk to your boss to see if you can negotiate one day (or even a couple hours) every week to go work from there, or organize a “retreat” for your whole team to get offsite and get some work done (here’s an email template to help you make that ask). If that’s not an option, try taking some of your meetings out of the office.
At the very least, see what moving from your desk to another corner of the office can do. “I think office workers will benefit from a change of pace or scenery to reignite creativity and problem-solving skills,” shares Krista Gray, nomad and founder of GoldSquare. “Creating this sense might be as simple as working from a new desk to avoid getting stuck in a routine or operating on autopilot.”
2. Take Advantage of Your Surroundings
Digital nomads love being able to explore exciting places and get to know interesting people—and you don’t have to go far to do the same!
I’m willing to bet that, wherever you’re living and working, there are plenty of things you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t. Finally seeing that new museum exhibit, trying a restaurant everyone raves about, or checking out a beautiful walking path could be the perfect way to inject some adventure into your routine.
“When you’re a digital nomad, you’re more likely to take advantage of your surroundings,” says Lynze Ballay, who’s living in Buenos Aires while working on her onboarding consulting business and She Works Abroad. “You know that you probably won’t be in this same place forever.”
Push yourself to do the same and be a tourist where you live now. If you have a real lunch break, use it to explore a new spot. Take advantage of the amazing people surrounding you at work and grab coffee with a colleague you haven’t gotten to know before. And if all else fails, sneak in a little time researching for an evening activity or a day trip you can take on the weekend.
3. Let Your Schedule Follow Your Energy
Many digital nomads love the freedom from a strict 9-to-5 office routine, instead opting to let their schedules change based on their energy or sightseeing plans.
“The ability to tailor my schedule to the individual day has changed my productivity levels immensely,” says travel and lifestyle journalist Jillian Dara. “I am very productive in the early hours of the morning and tend to have brainstorming sessions late at night.”
The most obvious way to bring this digital nomad benefit home would be to try to negotiate a schedule that works best for you. “Do you love working early and hate the afternoons? Consider adjusting your work schedule to be 7 AM to 4 PM if that suits you better. Your boss might be fine with it,” shares Megan Berry, VP of Product at remote-friendly Octane AI—and, I’ll add, that you won’t know if that’s the case unless you ask.
Barring that, work within regular office hours to create a schedule as close to ideal as possible. For example, block out your most productive hours on your calendar so you can focus on work without being distracted by meetings.
Or, if your energy rhythms are always changing, try staying ahead of deadlines so that you can switch gears if something isn’t inspiring you and come back to it another day.
4. Get Away From the Screen
Digital nomads have lots of opportunities to step away from their computers—and often find they have the best ideas when they do.
“I have an entire day to enjoy myself and not sit in front of a computer,” shares business coach Harper Spero, who uses her flexibility to work elsewhere during the New York winter.
“I go to the beach, read a book, meet friends for lunch, stroll around the city,” Spero says. “It's not that I don't think about my business during this time—I actually feel like I have more space to brainstorm and ideate, to embrace this time without feeling like I should be responding to emails.”
It can be easy to feel like you have to stay tuned into your computer every second you’re at work, but try taking some time away from the screen and see what happens. Go for a walk when you’re stuck on a problem. Grab a notebook and sit in a remote corner of the office when prepping for your next meeting. Schedule time every week to brainstorm on a whiteboard in the conference room. You might be surprised how much it clears your head.
5. Take Control of What You Can
What most digital nomads love more than any other aspect of their work and travel setup is the feeling of being fully in control of their own lives. “I feel 100% in control of my destiny, a perspective that keeps me learning and growing,” says Alissa Lentz, who’s been nomading for several years while starting her backpack company HERO NEW YORK.
Even if you’re reporting to a boss every day, it’s important to remember that—ultimately—you’re in control of your career. If you’re feeling uninspired at work, start taking small steps to understand why and see what you can do to fix it. Check in with yourself about what excites you about your job—and what doesn’t. Lentz, for example, makes it a daily practice to reflect on and journal about what went well and what didn’t—so that she can learn and improve.
Dara agrees that “fostering self-motivation is a life-lesson for anyone.” It’s important “to be able to ask yourself, why am I doing this? Do I want to be doing this?”
And if through this process of self-reflection you realize this job really isn’t working for you, start making a plan for your own escape—to a new job or to a new corner of the planet.