“There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.” —Mary Wilson Little
Rather than being less productive, researchers have found that most remote workers are more productive than their office counterparts. Remote workers have to deal with fewer distractions, have flexible working hours, waste less time commuting and getting ready for work. No traffic jams or office drama. And, on the face of it, a lot more motivation to stay successful and continue their lifestyle.
However, constantly juggling travel and work can also quickly lead to burning out.
Anyone who’s worked second or third shift, weekends, or been on-call is familiar with the unique difficulties of working odd hours. Not only does your social life suffer, you realize how many of the conveniences we associate with daily urban life are only available for those who work nine to five.
That’s a frustration I remember often feeling as a flight attendant; it wasn’t just missing holidays or important events with family and friends, it was struggling with finding healthy ways to wind down when work finished at 3 a.m.
It can feel similarly odd to work remotely; making your home in new places and friends with new faces every few months.
You might be thinking that having an office in the cloud is the most attractive aspect of working remotely—not something to be prefaced with a word of caution. But, consider this: Travel is stressful without the added complications of attempting to work at airport terminals or in crowded cafes.
Plus, we humans tend to adapt fairly quickly. Meaning that the initial excitement you got by hopping from place to place begins to fade—the stress from travel does not.
A lot of remote workers first pin feelings of ennui on a lack of an office or the demands of creating your own business. You may notice that this lifestyle encourages a competitive attitude around pushing oneself to the limits, as many remote workers feel the need to prove themselves through long hours and heavier workloads.
Even when feeling burnt out, it can be difficult to justify slowing down, since freelancing is a cash-flow operation. When you work, you get paid. When you stop working, there is no passive income. You are the one providing the service, and every project requires effort from your side.
How to Avoid Burning Out?
I’ve come to believe you don’t need cubicle walls to stave off dissatisfaction. Instead, staying happy and healthy while working remotely has a lot more to do with how you create structure and purposefully organize your time.
Create a Schedule That Keeps You Engaged
Ever sat there staring at a blank screen, waiting for inspiration to come? Instead of chaining yourself to desk and chair, consider working on a small task in set bursts of 25 minutes, then taking five-minute breaks before diving back in for another 30-minute set.
It’s called the Pomodoro Technique, and it’s a method many remote workers find helps them stay focused and on-track throughout the day.
Don’t Forget to be Social
When you spend hours glued to a computer in your home every day, it’s easy to exist in a secluded state. After all, remote workers don’t get a chance to spend time chatting with their co-workers at the water cooler, or grab a sandwich at the local café. They don’t go out to lunch with their colleagues, either, and they don’t head out for a beer or glass of wine after work.
You might roll your eyes, thinking office chitchat is an annoyance. But, it forces you to take a break and engage with other people! While everyone has different levels of social needs, don’t forget that some level of human interaction is important for your mental health.
Move Your Body Often
A sedentary lifestyle is very bad for you—and you’d be amazed how many hours can whiz by when you’re immersed in a project. Go out for breakfast or coffee, go for short walks a few times a day, do some housekeeping.
Additionally, use your free time to exercise. You don’t have to hit the gym every other day, but you do have to walk around a lot to compensate for how long you’re sitting still. Plus, exercise helps keep stress and anxiety at bay.
Watch What You Consume
There’s no need to shun morning coffee, but caffeine isn’t harmless. Chugging it can make anxiety worse, mess up your digestive system, lead to excessive sweating, and mask signs of exhaustion.
And while there is nothing wrong with having a couple of beers or glasses of wine, relying on alcohol to wind down can mask symptoms of burnout and lull you into a sense of well-being.
Set Boundaries on Work, Too
Quality time off means that you need to set clear boundaries. For some people, that means no work after a certain time of day, while others may refuse to do any work over the weekend.
Remember, just because your office is anywhere you want it to be, doesn’t mean you have to be in it all the time.
Bottom Line on Staying Healthy & Happy When Working Remotely
There are infinite reasons to find working remotely attractive—from escaping the winter to working less. But, to sum it up there are three major reasons why people decide to become digital nomads:
You Can Enjoy a Great Quality of Life For Less Money
One of the best things about working remotely is that you don’t need to generate a lot of money to get started. If you choose to spend your time in a lower-cost country, you’ll be able to enjoy a great quality of life for around $1000 a month. You’ll have to work a lot harder and make a load more money to achieve the same quality of life in most western countries.
It’s an Important Step Towards Becoming Location Independent
As explained above, there’s a big difference between location independence and working remotely. However, becoming a digital nomad can be a great step towards building a location independent business. That’s one reason why many people move to hubs with a low cost of living, like Bali or Chiang Mai.
Being in an environment like this will mean that you’ll have a much better chance of building a location independent business or start-up than trying to do it alone from home since you’ll have many more opportunities to collaborate, and learn from others with similar goals.
You Do Get to Travel the World While Working Online
Once you’ve figured out how to stay productive, you can reward yourself and go on 'workations' to amazing places around the world. Want to escape the winter in Berlin and learn to surf in Bali, or work from Rio de Janeiro for a few months? You can do whatever your budget and workload allow you to do.
But, None of Those Are Possible Without a Good Routine
Find one that works for you and stick to it. Restrict most, if not all, your work to certain hours when you feel productive (for most people, it’s the morning).
And, as odd as it may sound, consider some less efficient habits. When you head out to lunch, for example, don’t restrict yourself to places minutes away from your home or office; take the long route, create errands that will compel you to spend more time outdoors, and take extra (healthy) steps to get your mind off work—because you’ve earned it.
Other articles in this series:
- Part 1: An Introduction to Working Remotely
- Part 2: Which Jobs Work Remotely
- Part 3: Your A–Z Resource Guide For Learning and Working Remotely
- Part 4: How To Choose a Destination, Estimate Cost of Living, & Find Accommodations When Working Remotely
- Part 5: 13 Steps To Prepare For Working Remotely