If you were to ask ten digital nomads what the hardest parts of their work are, you’d probably get a variety of answers.
These answers would vary from person to person, depending on the type of work that they do, how long they’ve been working remotely, and other factors.
If you asked someone who was new to the digital nomad life, they might tell you that landing jobs and clients can be a struggle. A more experienced nomad might tell you that diversifying your income or the threat of getting burned out by monotony is a challenge.
Finding good WiFi, meeting strict deadlines, and budgeting for travel expenses are issues that every freelancer faces from time to time.
But while all of these problems are ones you’ll likely face during your own digital nomad life, there’s one common issue that will remain persistent from the time you start your new career to the day it ends. In fact, most of the other challenges I just mentioned can be boiled down to a single issue.
That issue is discipline.
If you’re already thinking to yourself that you have excellent discipline, good for you. Maybe you go to the gym three to five times a week. Or you’re known for turning in assignments at your desk job a day or two early.
Discipline could even be remembering to call your mom/boss/friend back, doing the dishes before they pile up, or paying bills on time and sticking to a budget.
But discipline for a digital nomad is an entirely different ball game.
After all, your income, your savings account, the roof over your head, and your WiFi connection all depend on you sitting down to get work done. Even when you’re surrounded by beautiful beaches or exotic locales that feel like dream vacations, you’re usually there to work. You have deadlines to meet, new clients to connect with, updates to post, photos to edit, hotels to book, travel plans to finalize…..the list goes on and on.
Juggling the endless responsibilities will feel easy at first.
The excitement of ditching the office and traveling the world or even staying home and spending time with your family will be enough to make even the toughest freelance assignments feel simple.
But no matter how disciplined you are during that first couple of weeks doing freelance work, at some time or another you are going to hit that wall and understand exactly what I am talking about.
It might start when you run into an assignment that you just don’t want to do. Maybe it’s too time-consuming or you find it boring, and you keep putting it off.
Or maybe it will come when you are facing deciding between spending the day getting caught up on work or taking your friends up on a dinner invite. Either way, distraction will strike, discipline will slip to the side, and you’ll lose focus.
Sometimes it passes just as quickly as it comes on. For me, something as simple as a caffeine boost and a tasty muffin gets me back on track. Other times, the distraction is more serious.
When this happens to you, the first thing you need to do is remember to not freak out.
Feeling unmotivated can be terrifying, especially when your livelihood or at least your vacation money is depending on it. But before you start calling your old boss to beg for your job back or booking a flight home, take a deep breath.
Everyone who is already living the digital nomad life you’re dreaming of has faced this same issue. And all of the successful ones have overcome it. You can too, with a few simple tricks:
This one may seem obvious, but you might be surprised the kinds of things that are distracting you.
Maybe sitting too close to the window is making you dream of going outside. Or just being in the same room as your TV means that the only thing you can think about is finishing that next season on Netflix.
Can’t figure out what’s keeping your mind away from your work? There are plenty of apps and other tools that can help.
Work more efficiently, not more often
If you find yourself having a hard time getting motivated to work, maybe it’s because you feel like work is taking up too much of your time. If you don’t want to or can’t take on fewer assignments, you’ll instead need to learn to better manage your time.
One way to do this is to try to create a set schedule for how you want your day to go. If you worked in an obvious prior to becoming a nomad, then you already know that most people have a pretty set work day. Getting up at the same time and tackling the same types of projects in the same order can be a comfort, and can help make the work more routine, which reduce burnout.
Another way you can work more efficiently is to stop putting projects off. If you’re someone who waits until the last minute to do the jobs you’re dreading, you know how stressful crunch time can get. When you’re dreading that feeling of having to work quickly to meet a deadline, your discipline level takes a major hit.
For me, keeping an actual planner helps me stay on track and tackle projects before their deadlines get a chance to blindside me. (My planner of choice is always one from Rifle Paper Co. Something about the beautiful covers and simple layout keeps me on track!) I also thrive on checking off tasks as I finish them!
Try taking on more “fun” jobs
Everyone has some kind of work that they enjoy more than others.
Maybe you enjoy blogging about a certain topic, writing legal documents, or designing colorful print ads. While defining a niche can help you land more clients, taking on a few odd assignments outside of your niche can be a great way to reignite your passion for your work. This can go a long way to inspiring you to get to work on other projects as well.
Remember Why You Started
Taking the leap and launching your own freelance business is intimidating. But if you’ve already had the courage to do so, that means you had some strong motivation.
When you start to lose your drive, remember why you started. Think of the places you’ll travel, the things you’ll see, the time you’re getting to spend with your family, the savings you’re (hopefully) putting in the bank. Remembering your personal motivators can be a quick and easy way to put an end to procrastination.
Learning to stay disciplined takes constant work. I’ve been freelancing for several years now, and trust me, I struggled with this hard when I first started and I continue to have to work to motivate myself from time to time. But trust me, the freedom of the digital nomad life is well worth the effort in the end.
Are you already living the digital nomad life and looking for more tips on overcoming its challenges? Or are you still dreaming of taking the plunge? Drop me a message to join my mailing list to receive all the latest blog updates!