One of the great pleasures for many digital agency and freelance workers is location independence. I’ve spent the last 5+ years working anywhere but in an office, and like many remote digital professionals, my work has taken me to places ranging from Serbia to San Jose. In-fact, traveling was one of the reasons I originally got excited about being location independent (besides axing a commute and having killer coffee). I dreamt of working anywhere in the world, and becoming a part of the culture in that place—you know, throwing a laptop open in the outback, exploring national parks during the evenings and weekends, or keeping up with my task list in a quiet coffee shop in Europe. I thought it’d make the hard work more palatable, and the fun work more creative. I thought I’d find myself less wrapped up in work, and more immersed in the local way of life.
Oddly, during the first couple years of working remotely, I found myself just as wrapped up in work as I was before. It was like I was working at my home office with a different ambient Spotify playlist in the background every time I traveled to a new location. It wasn’t until a few years into the remote life that I figured out how to fully enjoy the benefit of location independence. I learned that working remotely was only fun if I gave myself the space and time to enjoy the places I visited. In short, I began working more digital detoxes into my life.
Here are four things I’ve done to live a truly enjoyable location independent work/life.
Working from a coffee shop? Start with a digital break.
We all know the drill. Get to the coffee shop, scope a good spot near an outlet, plug in, head to the barista, get a cup of black gold, and start working on the next big idea or client project.
It’s interesting that the place people used to go to get away from things—to have a drink and conversation with a friend—has been repurposed across the world as an inexpensive alternative co-working space.
It’s time to reclaim the coffeeshop as a social institution, if only for a few minutes each day! Instead of setting up right away, grab a newspaper or (if you’re meeting other workers at the coffee shop) let your coffeeshop working companion(s) know that you’d like to shoot the breeze for a few minutes before you get to work. Just 15-30 minutes of conversation (with the laptop closed) can lead to some pretty great #workvibes for the rest of the day.
Never have a working lunch unless it’s with a person.
Working lunches can be a super productive way to spend a lunch hour. Collaboration over crumble cake, crudite, or crumpets (sorry couldn’t resist the alliteration) can be really useful and lead to all sorts of sugar-induced creativity. At some point though, working lunches (especially for remote workers) have become more of an excuse to casually browse the internet, check up on social media, review code, or read news online. Unless whatever you’re working on is mission critical, opt to spend an hour chewing, chatting, walking, and maybe even looking off into space. You’ll come back to your work more refreshed and ready to tackle even more than before.
Book an evening or afternoon excursion.
If you’re one of those people that follow their calendar religiously, this one’s for you. Booking an excursion is one of the best ways to force a digital detox after work. Airbnb Experiences and Expedia Activities are both great resources for finding interesting experiences to book when you’re visiting a new city.
Book a digital detox for your future self, and throw it on the calendar, then treat your excursion like another meeting. Big companies offer their employees perks like these for mental health benefits and employee retention, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give yourself (and your employees) the same opportunity!
Decide what your ‘thing’ is.
Something that really helped me as I started to enjoy traveling and working remotely was determining what my ‘thing’ is. A couple years into remote work, I decided that whenever I visited a city, I would find the best overlook to snap a pano of downtown. That goal created some pretty fun and interesting opportunities. I always asked coworkers, friends, and business prospects to go with me. It’s a great way to enjoy the city, do something unexpected, break the ice, and get a little exercise in along the way.
It’s time to check in.
It’s a great idea to check back in on why you chose to become location independent, to run an agency, or to become a freelancer. Maybe it’s because you wanted to travel more, or spend more time with your cat, or hang out with your kids. Whatever the reason, remember to build little digital detoxes into your day to accommodate the work/life you want to enjoy as a remote worker.
Mendel is the Head Geek at Geek Adventures, a community and outdoor adventure company for geeks built on top of WordPress. Prior to Geek Adventures, Mendel helped build the pro evangelism, training / education, SMS marketing, and online advertising programs at GoDaddy, and further back ran the Web Development engineering team at West Music Company. He’s also a trained software engineer (Pascal, C++, Perl, PHP, .net) and loves craft coffee.