I’ve been digitally nomadic for over 15 years, before author Dan Pink coined the term Free Agent Nation, before laptops, before Blackberries and iPhones, even before e-mail was ubiquitous. So what was the digital part, you ask. Well, we had computers. I had one of the first Macs as well as a series of (yes, really) Dell computers.
And we had faxes. My mother gave me my first fax machine. I wasn’t sure exactly what it did so I let it sit in the box for six months. It turned out to be very useful.
So we were digital even back then. I could e-mail or fax knowledge-based work from one place to another — and not have to be tied to an office. (I was a freelance journalist – with three small children – before I went to business school.)
I should note that I can look back far enough to remember when “working from a home office” was code for “Oh, so you lost your job.”
Now, of course, “home office” more often conjures up, “Cool, how smart!”
I’ve had several forays into cubicle life, of course. But the fact was I hated them. I hate being told what to do by someone else. In particular, I hate being told *when* to do it.
That gets to the nub of being a digital nomad: time. Unstructured time, off-hours, scheduling flexibility, using your time most productively. You can stay up all night, sleep late and work at odd times in the 24-hour cycle. That can also be a problem, however.
Then, as now, the biggest challenge of being a digital nomad is finding the right balance between working physically alone – plugged in as you might be with all your digital toys – and interacting with others face-to-face. There’s no substitute for that.
The old standbys still work:
- Schedule a lunch with a colleague
- Attend an early morning or evening networking event (BTW I can honestly say that every one of the countless times I’ve done this I’ve made at least one contact that made it worthwhile)
- Take your laptop to the nearest Starbucks or wireless café (interestingly, these are the best places to find white space even if you work out of a home office)
And there is the new co-working movement. Unfortunately, there is no space, as yet, in Washington DC.
I find I have to fight a tendency towards being a bit of a recluse.
It’s the constant downside of being an independent. But the upsides are so clear: freedom, flexibility and… excuse me, it’s 9 AM and time for my yoga class.