I became a digital nomad by accident. I'm not even really a fan of the term, for many working from anywhere is par for the course. It's vagabonding that seems to generate both stigma and envy depending on who you ask.

After a dozen years of living in London, I wanted a change. I didn't know where that might lead me in the world, but I knew what I would be doing. Yes, I would double down on my writing and speaking. Surely that wouldn't be too difficult. I had an inkling of how but looking back these are the lessons I wish I had learned sooner:

1. Perspective Hacking

If thoughts create our reality then perspective hacking is the skill du jour. The cake may be meeting new people, reading books, listening to podcasts, watching movies and the like but it's the traveling - hitting new spots every few months that's the icing. Staying on the move affords endless novelty, assumption busting, tolerance building, and perspective widening. But be warned, it can also be wildly addictive. If you have a proclivity for the new it's wise to keep this impulse in check. Restless souls become content wherever they are so long as they know where they're heading next.

The best way to hack your lens on the world is to stretch it further than your comfortable with. While you're in a new place with a different language and relatively clueless as to what's what - why not go that extra mile and put yourself even more out there? I did just that in Yangon. As night fell, I found myself in the wrong part of town. Sure enough with one right turn, I found myself wrapped inside a musical extravaganza that would soon morph into a full-blown parade. The point here is while seeking out the new, whether it's a new destination or experience, is to 'find the torture you're comfortable with.'

2. Remote Empathy

Connecting with someone by 'walking a mile in their shoes' can be increasingly challenging when you're on the move and folks aren't in 3D. Thankfully there are some great ways to connect with others even when they are far away. The easiest is to stay sensitive to their locations and cater to their timezone. Boomerang is a great way to hit people's inbox on their time, not yours.

Beyond that, there is the emoji, slack, Google drive, Dropbox, Trello, Mural, Invision, and a host of other collaborative tools. And Voice Over Internet Protocols (VoIPs) should really be ranked as a new wonder of the world. Whether Zooming or Whatsaping, it's still mind boggling that we can see and talk to anyone, anywhere for free.  

As an enabler, the right technologies are a great way to extend our empathic concern. When we think and work aloud in the cloud - folks don't ask for access because they already have it. If you are serious about upping this in your own work there are people who specialize in making remote teams work.

3. Proactive Mindset

When you are in stationary there is a semblance of sanity to making plans, but when you are on the road, folks have the expectation that you're not around. With your friends and family, it's up to you to reach out, cultivate, nourish, and nurture these relationships

You may not be interested in planning your next hotel stay but reaching out to your best pals weeks before you arrive in their city is the way to go. I learned to make it exceptionally easy for them to say yes to hanging out.

4.  Golden hours 

No matter what you do, there are ways to design and re-design your workday so you can get done what needs doing. When you're nomadic, managing your time (and energy) can become increasingly challenging.

Understanding when you do your best work, those golden hours in the day, is the key. For most folks, it's between 10 a.m. and noon. This level of self-awareness can help you work smarter instead of harder. The trick is to group your work into blocks of time so that you do your best work when you're at your best. Regardless of how you plan the rest of your day, you can ride that wave of momentum.

With the comfort of at least one burst of deep work done and dusted, you can respond to the world with more ease. One trick when acclimatizing to a different timezone is to keep your circadian rhythms in check. A run, walk, meditation can help, or even better - link up with locals to get into their groove. You'll be able to better match your mood to your given mode of work or play.

Published on: Jun 19, 2019
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