The flexibility and freedom of the location-independent lifestyle have transformed my life and the lives of virtually every other digital nomad I’ve met. However, achieving a healthy work-life balance as a digital nomad is harder than you might initially think.
Table of Contents
- How to Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
- 1. Establish a Routine
- 2. Create an Appropriate Workspace
- 3. Take Regular Breaks
- 4. Set Boundaries
- 5. Stay Active
- 6. Prioritize Self-Care
- 7. Explore and Socialize
- 8. Use Technology Wisely
- 9. Eat Healthily
- 10. Reflect and Adjust
- How to Achieve a Work-Life Balance: FAQs
- In Conclusion
It’s easy to reel off a list of the many benefits of being a digital nomad. Being able to live and travel whenever and wherever you want, exploring the world, avoiding winter, being your own boss, choosing your hours, and not having to commute at rush hour are just a few of my favorites.
Yet, to make this lifestyle sustainable in the long term, there are a few things that you need to bear in mind. Perhaps most importantly of all, you must maintain a proper work-life balance. Without this, you can easily find yourself burning out.
How to Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
The challenge of maintaining a work-life balance as a digital nomad is a topic that doesn’t get as much coverage as I think it should. That’s why, today, I’m sharing 10 practical tips that I use to help keep me happy as a digital nomad, healthy, and productive while working and traveling.
Whether you’re a seasoned digital nomad or just starting out, these tips should help you create a lifestyle that’s fulfilling, rewarding, and – crucially – sustainable.
1. Establish a Routine
Depending on how fast you travel, as a digital nomad you often find your environment changing quite drastically. It’s important to establish a routine and a daily schedule to create a sense of stability and normality amid the chaos of travel.
This is something I neglected when I first started as a digital nomad, to my peril. I was too busy having amazing travel experiences and didn’t prioritize any kind of work routine. As a result, my productivity dropped off a cliff and I struggled to get anything done.
Now, wherever I am, I try to keep as consistent a schedule as possible. In practice, that means a set number of hours and days per week that I dedicate to working. On work days, I always leave the house and go for a walk before opening my inbox, and always review my to-do list before starting any work.
I also try to set my alarm at a consistent time each morning on work days, unless I’ve been up late the previous night! One of the best things about being a digital nomad is that you can be spontaneous, although it is important to balance this with the need to get work done.
2. Create an Appropriate Workspace
Some people love coworking spaces, others don’t. I find they can be useful, as long as they’re quiet and comfortable, and I don’t have to listen to other people’s calls. But, more often than not, I find myself working from my apartment or wherever else I’m staying.
Wherever you choose to work, having an appropriate working environment is key. Your workspace should be quiet, comfortable, well-lit, and distraction-free. A room with a view can be a bonus! Remember, your surroundings can significantly affect your mood and productivity.
Don’t forget ergonomics. Working on a sun lounger in a tropical beach paradise may look like fun but, trust me, it’s not conducive to getting much work done. I’ve tried it – you just end up with a sore neck and back, and sand in your laptop. You need a comfortable chair and a stable desk.
Investing in portable accessories for your digital nomad set up like a laptop stand, keyboard, and an ergonomic mouse can make a big difference too, especially if you’re working long hours. Also, try to keep your workspace tidy and organized, to help keep you focused. See Also: Digital Nomad Packing List – Gear, Clothes and Equipment
3. Take Regular Breaks
Balance is key to sustaining the digital nomad lifestyle in the long run. Taking regular short breaks can do wonders when it comes to maintaining concentration and avoiding stiffness, fatigue, and eye strain.
Try to take a short break at least once every hour of working. Take a quick walk around the block, do a few stretches, learn a few words of French – it doesn’t really matter what you do. Just make sure you aren’t sitting in front of your laptop for solid hours on end.
Taking regular breaks shouldn’t be a luxury – it’s a necessity. It’s all about giving your mind and body the rest they need to function optimally and keeping yourself healthy and happy. This is much easier to say than to do, but it’s still incredibly important. Burnout is a real thing, people.
Don’t work every single day either. It’s tempting to fill every day with tasks, especially when you’re working for yourself, building a business from scratch, and your work is just a laptop away. However, setting aside at least 1–2 full days per week for complete rest is important.
Also, be sure to treat yourself to regular holidays. Even if you’re working from a tropical paradise, you’re still working. And non-stop working, wherever you are, can lead to fatigue and burnout. Every few months, take a longer break and disconnect yourself from work completely.
4. Set Boundaries
For me, one of the hardest things about being a digital nomad is the blurred line between work and non-work, both in terms of time and place. Unless you can afford to rent an apartment/house with an entirely separate office or study, your living space often needs to double up as your office.
☞ SEE ALSO: How to Stay Healthy When Working From Home
Because of this, it’s even more important to maintain a clear distinction between your work and leisure areas. One way around this is to go to a coworking space to work. But, if this isn’t possible (or you don’t like them), there are a few other things that you can do.
I always make sure I shut down my laptop when I finish working, and put it away so that it’s out of sight. It might sound pedantic, but if I can see my computer in the evening (or on my days off) I struggle to switch my mind off from work. Everyone’s different, but this works for me.
Also, it’s important to set clear boundaries around your work hours. Resist the urge to be always on. It’s tempting to check your emails or respond to messages and calls at all hours, especially if you’re in a different time zone. However, respecting your off-hours is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance.
5. Stay Active
We all know that staying active is important for everyone, both for your physical and mental health. Yet, as a digital nomad, it’s all too easy to spend days on end sitting in front of a computer. After all, that’s how we earn money, right?
I strongly recommend integrating some form of exercise into your daily routine. You don’t need to destroy yourself each morning at a CrossFit class (although some people swear by it!) – it can be something as simple as a morning walk, jog, or yoga session.
As I mentioned above, I always start every workday with an outdoor walk. The combination of fresh air and light exercise does wonders for my mental clarity and helps me start the day with much more energy and focus than if I hadn’t gone out. And I try to do a hike whenever I can on weekends.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you don’t have time for a bit of exercise each day. Yes, it “costs” you some time, but you’ll make this back several times over with your increased productivity, improved energy levels, and improved mood – it’s worth it.
6. Prioritize Self-Care
Being a digital nomad, it’s so easy to get caught up in the demands of work and travel, which can be exhausting in the long run. To counter this, be sure to take enough time out for yourself and make self-care a regular part of your routine too.
Exactly how to do this will be different for everyone. There’s some overlap here with staying active, but it also doesn’t have to be exercise. It could be something as simple as allocating a set amount of time each day to read a book, meditate, watch TV, enjoy a cup of tea, or whatever it is that you like to do.
Don’t overlook the basics either. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink enough water, and enjoy a balanced diet. I’m not trying to be overly preachy here – these things are just important, and easy to neglect, especially given the hectic nature of the digital nomad lifestyle.
Lastly, self-care is about knowing when to take a break (see above). If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to step back and recharge. You’ll be much happier, healthier, and more productive for it.
7. Explore and Socialize
One of the best things about being a digital nomad is the huge amount of freedom and opportunity you get to explore new places. Since becoming a digital nomad, I’ve been able to live and work in some incredible places, from Albania to Mexico and even Sri Lanka.
Working hard is important, but it’s also important to make the most of wherever you choose to base yourself. Whether it’s exploring a new city on foot, going for a hike, taking a boat trip, or visiting local markets, don’t miss out on these amazing experiences. Set aside enough time to discover what’s around you.
Socializing is equally important. The life of a digital nomad can be a lonely one, but it doesn’t have to be. Make the effort to connect with fellow nomads, locals, and other travelers – it can transform your experience.
I’ve made some great friends by just striking up conversations with strangers at coworking spaces, train stations, and guesthouses. Attending networking events and local meetups can also be great ways to make new friends and/or work contacts. You never know who you might meet!
8. Use Technology Wisely
Technology can be a double-edged sword for digital nomads. On the one hand, it gives us the flexibility to work from anywhere, any time. After all, without technology, the digital nomad lifestyle would be impossible.
But, while essential for work, it’s important to use technology wisely. Stay connected with your colleagues, clients, friends, and family – but not constantly. It’s tempting to be always online, but constant connectivity can be draining. Set specific times to check emails, messages, and social media.
I also have a real love-hate relationship with smartphones. The convenience is amazing, and they make traveling the world much easier than it used to be, but I can’t stand how addictive they can be. All too often I find myself staring at a screen rather than enjoying real-world experiences.
Of course, this applies to a lot of people, but it’s even more of an issue for digital nomads. What’s the point of being in an amazing new destination if you’re going to spend all your time glued to your phone?
9. Eat Healthily
In my experience, it can be hard to maintain a healthy diet when traveling. When I travel, I usually want to taste and experience as much of the local food as I can, especially when in places with delicious cuisine (read: most of Asia).
And, if you’re working long hours as a digital nomad, or constantly on the move, it can often be tempting to avoid cooking for yourself and just going out for meals – especially when food is cheap and tasty. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not eating particularly healthily.
Don’t miss out on the amazing gastronomic experiences. But try to also prioritize eating balanced, healthy meals as often as you can. Aside from the obvious health benefits, this can also help keep your energy levels up to fuel you in your work and travel adventures.
It’s also hard to overstate the importance of staying hydrated, especially in hot climates and when you’re out exploring. I always carry a reusable water bottle with me, which is a great way to ensure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day (and avoids unnecessary single-use plastic).
10. Reflect and Adjust
Finally, it’s important from time to time to stand back and take a look at how things are going. Think about where you are right now, in a personal and professional sense.
What’s going well? What could be improved? Are you meeting your work goals while still having time to explore and relax? If not, what can you change to make things better?
Adjustments don’t have to be drastic – sometimes, small changes can make a big difference. Stay open to trying new methods of working and living. What works in one place may not be as effective in another. And remember, the goal is to enjoy both your work and your travels.
Be honest with yourself too – it’s not about self-criticism, but making the most of the unique opportunities you have. As a digital nomad, you get to design your lifestyle, routine, and work habits. This flexibility is huge – embrace it and try to craft a lifestyle that works best for you!
How to Achieve a Work-Life Balance: FAQs
The best way to prepare for digital nomad life is to secure a reliable source of income, figure out a sensible budget, book accommodation in advance, and ensure you have all the necessary tech that allows you to effectively work remotely. Don’t forget travel insurance too.
The five main steps for achieving work-life balance as a digital nomad are (i) establish a routine, (ii) set clear work boundaries, (iii) prioritize self-care, (iv) take regular breaks, and (v) regularly reassess your work-life balance.
This post describes the 10 most important ways for remote workers to achieve an ideal work-life balance. It’s particularly important to have a clearly defined work schedule and a dedicated workspace that allows you to be productive. Don’t forget to take regular breaks, and allocate enough time for personal activities and relaxation.
Work-life balance means finding a healthy balance between the demands of your career (and/or your need to earn money) and your personal life, well-being, and priorities outside of work.
I hope you find these tips helpful. They certainly help me and have allowed me to build a sustainable lifestyle, both in terms of travel and work. I honestly believe that, if you follow the advice in this post, you’ll be in a much better place to enjoy a more fulfilling experience as a digital nomad.
Remember, being a digital nomad is a huge opportunity for personal growth. While it comes with its set of challenges, embracing these tips will not only enhance your productivity and well-being but also enrich your travel experiences.