Ask a Digital Nomad: What’s Your Work Schedule?

by gigigriffis

Photo credit.

Welcome back to my digital nomad series, in which I ask 4 – 8 location independent professionals to answer a question about the digital nomad lifestyle. The point? We all do it a little differently. There’s no right answer. Our unconventional lifestyles are distinctly our own.

Today’s topic is what is your work schedule? How do digital nomads work? Where? What’s the schedule like? And how does that schedule balance work and travel?

Here are some very different answers:

Gigi Griffis

Gigi Griffis

As you probably already know, I’m Gigi—the architect of this little website and the 100 Locals guidebook series. I’ve been traveling the world full-time since May 2012 with my freelance writing and content strategy business and my small dog. I’m currently in Italy with my partner Chad eating as much Italian food as I can stuff in my face.

Average hours worked per week: 15 – 25

When you work: Mornings (starting at 7 or 8 a.m.) Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

Where you work: Mostly at home. Occasionally in coffee shops or libraries. Very occasionally in the car or an airport.

What’s your work schedule like on a weekly basis?
Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays I work from early morning to early or mid-afternoon, putting in probably 6 – 7 hours per day. Wednesdays I work a bit as needed (answering emails or hitting deadlines), but usually spend the day doing more out-of-the-house errands (attending meet-ups, going to the grocery store or the market, scheduling coffees with new friends or business contacts). And Fridays are what I call No Technology Fridays, which means not only do I not work, but I’m forced to shut down for the day. No email. No phone. No screens. I almost always do some sort of exploration on Fridays, but they can also be relaxed days of laying on a patio and reading sometimes.

Weekends are free time. If I’m really inspired, I can work on something, but mostly I don’t. Instead, Chad and I go to brunch, hike on nearby trails, have a big breakfast on a patio or balcony, or otherwise enjoy life.

That said, it’s all subject to weather. If it’s sunny on Tuesday and rainy on Wednesday, I’ll take Tuesday off and work Wednesday. If the weekend is a blizzard and Monday is gorgeous, I shift my time to follow the sunshine.

Does your work schedule vary by time zone?
Not really. I rarely ever have calls/meetings, so I follow my own rhythms. I am most productive in the mornings, so that’s when I work. And if I need to take the occasional call or meeting in the evening or afternoon, I do that as needed.

How often do you get out to explore?
Afternoons, evenings, Wednesdays, Fridays, and weekends are free time. Sometimes for exploration. Sometimes for relaxing at home with a book or a movie or a good conversation. Sometimes for errands. And sometimes for travel and movement itself, be it moving to our next mini base or going on a day trip out of town.

You can find me, well…here at gigigriffis.com. Also, Facebook.


Mariana Calleja

mariana

I’m Mariana Calleja, a doctor, writer, and traveler who’s been building an online empire about health. Through e-courses, online consultation, workshops, and more, I’m empowering people in any field, occupation, and location to embrace healthy habits for a better, healthier, and more productive life. Whether at home, at work, or on the road, anyone can become their best version ever through my easy and medically guided steps for a true healthy mind-and-body lifestyle.

Average hours worked per week: 20 – 25

When you work: Monday – Friday mornings

Where you work: Mostly from home (always from home in the case of client calls, for privacy reasons); occasionally from coffee shops

What’s your work schedule like on a weekly basis?
I typically work every day from Monday to Friday for a few hours, ideally in the morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I prefer working in the mornings, as I feel lighter and clearer. Sometimes I do a little catchup on the weekends for clients who can’t make it through the week. And those 20 – 25 hours I work are distributed in 1 – 2 hour work blocks most of the time, with rests in between to enjoy my meals, go for walks, take naps, clear my head, and refresh. I try to keep all my daily work activities within similar hours when possible so I can have the rest of my day free to plan as I want.

Desk work such as replying emails and others, is always done first thing in the morning. I leave client calls for the afternoons three days a week (with those three days not fixed, but planned well in advance), which makes it easier to adjust with other time zones. As I schedule those calls ahead, I organize my work around them, so I don’t work more than I want to.

I plan a week ahead on my calendar, all written down so I don’t miss anything and with no more than three main tasks per day. These are my main rules. By following them, I keep track of everything and maintain a good, healthy amount of working time without overdoing it. Since I travel, I have also established a golden rule for myself based on three things: work-time, travel-time, and me-time. Whenever I’m doing one of them, the other two can’t be done at all.

For example, on a travel day, between airports and flights, I won’t work or recharge myself with some proper me-time. By doing this I keep my “human charge” on good levels without forcing myself into doing all the things. I prefer one thing at a time, guilt-free and completely balanced.

I also definitely try to leave weekends and nights off to relax, plus a nice night routine to unwind and get a lovely quality sleep through the night every time. Ideally, I stop work even if I’m having a long day, by 9 p.m. and from then on out, it’s pre-bed time, into my PJs with a cup of tea, my books, my partner, and myself.

Does your work schedule vary by time zone?
It does. I have clients, patients, and students from all over the world. I try to adapt the activities I need to do throughout the week with them in times that suit us both. Since I plan my days at least a week ahead, I always know what I’ll be doing and for how long. This way I can organize the rest of my day and week freely without being constantly in my email box or on the phone.

How often do you get out to explore?
Frequently! I haven’t been a sports person in the past, really, but this year I’m determined to change that and thus am challenging myself. So far, I’m loving it! Whether it’s a short walk or a long hike, I try to do some kind of outdoors activity almost daily. If I can’t because of weather, work, or whatever other reason, I do my exercises at home, even if just 10 – 15 minutes to move my joints and keep them tight. I never go to a gym (I find them utterly boring), but I do like swimming, biking, and, most recently, pole fitness! So when I’m going to a new place, I look for any of these options before getting there or as soon as I arrive. This is not only awesome and fun but it allows me to quickly immerse myself into the new place, meet new people, and continue with a social life that keeps me balanced and distracted from work.

Find Mariana at marianacalleja.com and travelthirst.com.


Shadi Paterson

Shadi

I’m Shadi, 22 and from Birmingham in the UK. In April last year, I dropped out of the University of Warwick and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. I haven’t looked back. I work mainly as an Influencer Marketer. I also have a little side-project blog I’m starting with my girlfriend to finally document it all.

Average hours worked per week: 10 – 60

Literally every week is different. This week was basically just 10 hours of calls. Next week will probably be close to 60 hours of work. It kind of cycles.

When you work: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. or later

Where you work: Co-working spaces mostly

What’s your work schedule like on a weekly basis?
My work schedule actually makes no sense at all. But I make sure to sit down in front of my laptop every day and write out a to-do list along with the calls I need to take for that day. I do that Tim Ferris morning journal thing. Then, after writing, I have a 15-minute meditation. The morning is basically just for me to get all of my thoughts onto paper. For some reason, I can’t actually do work-work in the mornings.

In the middle of the day, I do yoga or some other activity, perhaps a jog. I also only really eat fruit for lunch so that I’m not tired and my metabolism isn’t working overtime. I also use this time to hang out with friends, check out new places, or generally just have a little wander with some music or a podcast in my ears.

In the evening is when the work really starts. I’ll pick up calls with American clients and relay with the team about the day. I call these hours “my hours of greatness,” because for some reason, especially post 1 a.m., it feels like I have superpowers and everything just makes sense.

Does your work schedule vary by time zone?
Yes, completely. A lot of my job is telling clients that everything is going to be okay. So it really depends where my clients are and what timezones they’re in. For example: I’m currently in Kiev, Ukraine. So as soon as I wake up, I touch base with my client in Taiwan and my client in Sydney. Around midday, I’ll talk to London. Then, in the evening I’ll talk to the Americans. Next stop is Bangkok, so that’s basically all going to be pushed forward six hours.

How often do you get out to explore?
I make sure to get a little bit lost and explore everyday. For me, this lifestyle isn’t worth it unless I can be truly grateful and appreciate it. So I try and get out, try a new cafe, or just go into random shops or down random streets as much as possible.

Find Shadi at shadandjulia.com.


Barbara Weibel

Barbara Weibel

After years of working 70 hours a week at jobs that paid the bills but brought no joy, I felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut”…solid on the outside, but empty on the inside. In early 2007, I started my blog and headed out on a round-the-world trip to pursue my true passions of travel, writing, and photography. Nearly 10 years later, I’m still on the road full-time with no home base. I write stories about the destinations I visit and the people I meet with an emphasis on cultural travel and traveling in a manner that deeply interacts with locals.

Average hours worked per week: 35 – 40

When you work: 8 p.m. to 2 or 3 a.m.

Where you work: Usually coffee shops; sometimes at home; often during long flights or layovers.

What’s your work schedule like on a weekly basis?
For a travel writer, that’s a really hard question to answer, because I’m always working. When I leave my hostel or guesthouse in the morning to explore a new place, I’m working. When I meet with local tourism officials, I’m working. I’m also working when I sit in a coffee shop and talk to locals, because it helps me to understand what it’s really like to live in a place.

But that’s only the beginning. Every evening I have to sort through 200 – 300 photos, trash the bad ones, name them all, download them to the laptop, upload to an external hard drive, and, when I have a decent wifi connection, upload them to the cloud. On a normal day, that takes about two hours. Then I have to do all my social media and deal with the 100+ emails I receive each day. All that before I do the first bit of research, edit a single photo, or write the first word.

I would estimate that I work 35 – 40 hours per week actually editing photos, producing videos, and writing. If you add in all the other stuff, I’m working much more than the 70 – 80 hours a week I used to put in when I had a corporate job. The difference is, I love what I do now, so the hours don’t really bother me.

I’m one of those people who is most creative after dark, thus much of my writing is done at night, usually beginning around 8 p.m. and lasting until 2 or 3 a.m. I rarely get more than six hours sleep. I also take time to write on the fly when I’m touring. I use my iPhone for this and an app called Simplenote. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been struck with an inspiration for the premise of a story. I always think I’ll remember it when it comes time to actually write the story, but I never do. So when one of those inspirations strikes, I stop what I’m doing and write the lede paragraph.

One of the things that people don’t understand about my lifestyle is that the road is my office, so I’m not always out exploring or taking tours. Wherever I am (hostel, guest house, hotel, or a vacation rental apartment), I have to stay inside at least two days a week and work. Usually these hours are spent handling the business side of the blog (for instance, responding to requests to interviews like this one or doing research in preparation for writing an article).

Days of the week are irrelevant to me. I usually know what date it is, but rarely know the day. I travel without schedules or plans and decide on my next destination perhaps a day or two ahead of time. Because of this, my work schedule is completely variable other than working late each night.

My favorite working place is a great coffee shop, but that’s not always doable. Many countries I visit don’t have a strong coffee shop culture. In those cases, I work in my room, wherever I happen to be staying. I never use a desk, even if one is available. I work propped up in bed with the laptop on my lap. I also find that I’m pretty productive during long flights and long layovers in airports.

Does your work schedule vary by time zone?
No, time zones also have no meaning for me. I’m one of those fortunate souls who doesn’t suffer from jet lag. I experienced it once, years ago, after a trip to the far east, so I know what it feels like. However, my body seems to easily adapt to whatever time zone I’m in.

How often do you get out to explore?
At least four days a week and I try for five. I watch the weather and schedule my workdays for the gray and rainy days whenever possible.

Find Barbara at holeinthedonut.com, Facebook, and Instagram.


Hannah Wei

Hannah Wei

I’m Hannah (or @herlifeinpixels on social media). I was introduced to digital nomadism after quitting my job in Toronto and solo traveling Asia a year and a half ago. These days, I’m a design consultant for startups and a community builder. I’ve worked with folks in Asia, Africa, and (of course) North America. On the side, I write and take photos.

Average hours worked per week: 20 – 35 on client work; 15 – 20 on personal projects

When you work: Late morning and early afternoon.

Where you work: Co-working spaces and sometimes client offices.

What’s your work schedule like on a weekly basis?
These days, I’m most productive late morning to early afternoon. I tend to answer emails and tackle strategic planning around this time, leaving more creative work for later, when I can focus without getting distracted! I’m most creative at night, so after dinner is when I like to do design work, edit photos, and write. I can be a bit of a workaholic but I try not to stay up late.

When I’m working alone, I like to stagger: a day of hard work, a day of taking it easy. If I’m with a client with a project deadline, I’ll adjust to work whenever the team works. I also like to leave Sundays unplanned for social activities or doing absolutely nothing.

I used to hop around cafes, but quickly figured out that co-working is not only more enjoyable but a better investment of my time, not to mention expenses are tax deductible. As a solo consultant, having a community is really important, not just for the company but also from a networking and career growth standpoint. I’ve met great friends and found client opportunities, local mentors, and advocates for my projects from co-working spaces. I think every community has people who can provide new perspectives and it’s easier and quicker to tap into that when you are not isolated at home or working away in cafes. I’ve learned that being independent doesn’t mean going at it alone.

When I’m working with a local client, it makes more sense for me work from their office or wherever their customers are if I’m doing research. Sometimes this is a fancy office and other times it’s a bamboo hut with no hot water and terrible wi-fi but amazing home-cooked food! I love the change of pace.

Does your work schedule vary by time zone?
Yes. It also depends on where my client is and the local practice around working days. In Asia, I found myself getting up earlier to work because markets are open early and people tend to take a nap at noon. In North America, people in tech start their days around 10 a.m. with coffee and so I’ve adapted to that while I’m here. Sometimes I’ll wake up early or stay up late for a client call across the world, but that’s to be expected!

How often do you get out to explore?
Upon arriving in a new place, I try to make time the next day to walk, run, bike, or moped around the neighborhood and get lost. If I end up down a street getting funny looks as the only foreigner, there’s probably something interesting here that would want to come back to later with a friend and camera.

Having grown up in a beautiful Chinese community that hasn’t yet been discovered by western tourism, I’ve found that curating places to go with Google Maps and traveler reviews only leads to seeing the things we expect to see. So I don’t keep bucket-lists and I try let discoveries happen organically. Some of my best travel photos are shot when local friends take me out to some spot that’s only known to them, eating food that’s never been rated or reviewed, and riding down roads that don’t have a name. These opportunities take time, trust, and friendships to emerge, and I’m thankful whenever they do happen.

Find Hannah on Twitter, Instagram, and at Her Life in Mega Pixels.


Troy Wiley

I’m a digital nomad, vagabond, entrepreneur, and writer. A noncredentialist generalist and cultural philosopher exploring the evolution of humanity towards the better world we know is possible.

Average hours worked per week: 20 – 30

When you work: Late mornings, usually starting around 10 a.m.

Where you work: Usually my rental apartment; sometimes co-working spaces, cafes, or libraries.

What’s your work schedule like on a weekly basis?
Between writing my book, working on my business, and traveling my time seems to get all jumbled up. I guess I’m working on my business about 20 – 30 hours per week currently. I was inspired to design my lifestyle as Tim Ferriss talks about in his book Four Hour Workweek, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet (which is okay). I’m having fun with working and traveling, so it doesn’t feel like I’m working too much.

I work mostly Monday through Thursday. I try to unplug on Fridays and go have fun or see some sites. Saturday and Sunday are also play days or travel days.

Does your work schedule vary by time zone?
I correspond with friends, family, and colleagues in different time zones all over the world. Sometimes this means I have to do stuff in the evening, but I try to stick mostly to daytime hours wherever I am.

How often do you get out to explore?
Evenings, Friday during the day, and weekends. I tend to stay in each country for at least a month, so I like to take my time getting to explore and know a place.

Find Troy at artoflivn.com and medium.com/radically-practical.


Ariel Shultz

Ariel Shultz

I’m an illustrator, writer, activist, and outdoor adventurer currently based in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been living the nomadic life since 2010 and have lived in the UK, with my partner and dog in a VW Westfalia, and on boats for the best three and a half years. I enjoy getting to see places many people don’t get to see and documenting them through film, photography, outdoor painting, and writing, and I focus a lot of my work on education, from environmental to feminist.

Average hours worked per week: 40 – 60

When you work: Previously nights, now mornings for health reasons.

Where you work: In coffee shops and from our boat.

What’s your work schedule like on a weekly basis?
This varies greatly. I have bipolar, which definitely impacts my workflow. Sometimes I get up at five or six a.m. and stay up until one or two writing and painting for a few weeks, getting so into it that hours go by and I thought it was only five minutes. Sometimes I have a more reasonable workflow: get up at seven, have a cup of coffee, start working by eight, and by five or so I’m done for the day and it’s time for some kayaking! Overall, I work between 40 and 60 hours a week doing writing, art, and layouts.

I prefer to work at night and I used to stay up all night and then play all day when I was a bit younger. However, my doctor told me this was starting to impact my health, so now I try to knock my work out in the morning when I’m still fresh, work into the afternoon, take a break for fun things, chores, family time, farmer’s markets, or binge-watching cartoons, and then get back to work in the evening until about midnight. I do this every day, although I have a personal rule to have a “weekend.” My weekend isn’t a Saturday/ Sunday, but simply two days a week where my partner and I’s schedules line up and we work on projects together, go exploring, do chores, or go on adventures. The days aren’t always the same because our schedules aren’t always the same.

The nomadic life my partner and I live is often very unique; we live on a boat. If we’re in the process of taking the boat somewhere new to explore, my schedule involves a lot of navigation, steering, talking on radios, and tying and untying lines. My schedule can also include dealing with customs, packing or unpacking luggage and camping equipment, creating shopping lists, finding where I’ve stored particular currencies for particular countries, and brushing up on languages.

That said, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are mostly days for mind maps and outlines for my currently project, knocking a few pages of writing and illustrations out, making reservations for our next international trip, emailing friends and family we will visit, video conferencing, looking back at pages produced that day to see if earlier notes and outlines still work or if they need modified, getting another page or two done, getting laundry and/or dishes done, making dinner, drinking beer, kayaking, and watch the sunset.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we go to art museums, see local films, go scuba diving, eat at interesting places, and whatever else we have been wanting to try. I carry a notebook where I make lists of things to do and ideas about the things we are doing. The idea behind this is that usually weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) are packed most places and we want to visit places when they are more calm.

Does your work schedule vary by time zone?
When I feel like working, I work. Often this means that if I’m jet-lagged I’ll sleep, but this doesn’t impact my work. To me, it’s important to be healthy. I have some chronic health conditions and finding a way to balance taking care of myself with my wanderlust has been one of the things I am most proud of.

How often do you get out to explore?
As often as I want. When we’re at home, I try to get out at least a few times a day, even if it’s just to take the dog on a walk to the beach or through the forest or to go on a kayak around the harbor at the end of the day. I’m the kind of person who loves to work myself to exhaustion, but after a long time I’ve realized that creating that kind of burnout is actually counterproductive, so I try to let my mind rest fairly frequently. We also like to get away from home several times a year. We just got back from a long boating and camping trip in British Columbia and we’re headed to New Zealand next. I still have to figure out which camper van rental to use and which islands we’ll be stopping to scuba dive and snorkel off of. We also do quite a bit of domestic travel. Around the state (checking out local food, art, festivals, and camping), the region, and the country.

Find Ariel at Boat Folk Illustration and on Instagram.


Any other nomads out there? What are your work schedules like?

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3 comments

Filippo Malvezzi December 29, 2016 - 1:29 pm

Good job, Gigi!
Thanks to this blog post I’ve discovered some digotal nomads I believe I should reach out to sooner or later. Thanks!

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gigigriffis January 4, 2017 - 7:05 am

Glad it’s helpful!

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