Last month I was in Portugal. I was on a trip that I always dreamed of. My university friend and I had rented a renovated sleeper van and we were driving down the coast. If you’ve ever been to Portugal you know how beautiful the seaside is. We would camp out on amazing beaches and wake up on beautiful cliffs looking out to the sea. I had wanted to do this for the last year or so and finally set up my business so that this was possible. I’m at the point where I do not have to work all day, every day. I have a consistent income, my investments are growing. I also have an autonomous team that needs minimal management.
During my trip, I was still working as I didn’t take formal time off. A few days into my trip the anxiety crept in. I knew my business systems were good. I knew my clients were happy but what if I missed something. What if something was going wrong and I was too busy enjoying myself to catch it.
This fear had me opening my computer and checking my email quite a few times during this trip. I knew everything was fine but the idea of not producing and not working gave me more anxiety than my work itself. I had worked all these years to achieve this type of freedom but now had trouble actually enjoying it. This got me thinking, ‘what the hell are we doing this all for.’
I’m writing this from a co-working space in Bali called Dojo. Dojo Bali is filled with some of the most brilliant people I have ever met. You have entrepreneurs who are building schools online while others are creating banks. We are all sitting here on a Wednesday morning hunched over our computers. We have traded the 9-5 to live ‘the dream’ here in Bali. The irony is that most of us have not taken a moment to actually enjoy the fruit of our labor. Asking around, everyone wants to explore, go on weekend trips but seldom are we making the time. The pressure to produce is high in the digital nomad space.
The Pressure to Produce
The world of online business opens the door to so many opportunities. At any given moment you could be starting a drop shipping store, building an affiliate income or scaling up your service business. With global resources a click away the barrier to entry is low for starting your own project online.
We are living in one of the best times to be an entrepreneur. We have more tools and technological resources to get things done than ever. I can have a call with my client while inside a cafe in Spain, or send business agreements from a party in Bali. Pretty sweet. Yet, this access comes with its own risk. There’s no clear line for when work ends. The pressure to produce is high.
Walking through Dojo I tell people about my project. I’m building a school to teach freelancers business skills. The first question I get is “when are you launching.” This question is valid and i am sure they mean well but I do think it’s a reflection of our culture. We are obsessed with productivity. We bio hack ourselves to be able to focus more and increase efficiency. There’s an undertone of discontentment. An undertone of always doing more.
Are you busy or actually more productive?
When exactly are you most productive? Thinking back on your week, or last year you might not have an idea. Rescue Time, tracks your computer activity. The app categorizes your activity into productive and non-productive activity.
Rescue Time recently released a report on productivity in 2017. The report looked at over 225 thousands of hours of digital time from hundreds of Rescue Time users. They made some interesting observations about productivity.
One observation was that on average people get about 12.5 hours of productive time per week. According to CNN, the average American spends about 10 hours a day on screen time. That means for the average American only 18% of screen time is actually productive. I won’t classify digital nomads as the average American. Yet, the numbers do create an interesting picture.
The irony of productivity is that the more we work, the more we tend to sacrifice productivity-boosting activities. These activities include sleeping, meditation and napping. Working less can make you more productive. One study shows how a nap can boost your productivity by 34%. Crazy!
A study from Michigan State University highlights this irony. People who check their phone for business purposes after 9pm tend to be more tired and less productive the following day.
The irony of productivity is that relaxing and enjoying life actually makes us more productive. Realizing that, made me think about why we are addicted to being busy, what are we trying to avoid?
I am not busy and I am not consistently productive. When I stopped being busy I noticed what came up for me. I had to face how uncomfortable I am with being bored and my fear of being ordinary. I had to face my correlation with self-worth and my achievements. I had to think about who would I be if I wasn’t busy accomplishing stuff?
Do you know what you’re working towards?
I still love the feeling of productivity. I enjoy working on my businesses but I’m starting to reflect on what I’m actually working towards. A life with more freedom is actually not what I’m working for and that’s okay.
A few years ago in school, we were asked what our ethos is. An ethos is defined as
the characteristic spirit of a culture, era or community manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.
In other words, what belief system drives what you do in the world?
My ethos is empowerment. If people knew how important they are on an individual level, they would understand how they can impact the world as a collective. As a result, the individual would make better decisions for the global community.
Overworking is not empowering, even if it’s only to get that message out in the world. I want to be a reflection of the belief systems I want to put out into the world. I want to be a source of balance, joy and content so that everything put out has that same tone.
What tone you want to put out into the world? What is your ethos?
So what now?
I am enjoying my journey as a digital nomad and starting to find a balance. We are in an amazing time where we can define what work means and looks like to us.
Each day I am challenging myself to reflect on why I’m working in the first place. Some days the answers are clearer than others and that is okay.
I am working on enjoying the fruit of my labour. Making time for activities that lead to personal fulfillment has been my priority. I have made fulfillment and happiness the centre of my decision making. In doing so, I have become more productive. I have increased my income and my clients are actually way happier. Focusing on myself has made my output a lot better.
What would your business look like if it was focused on your personal fulfillment?