It may not seem as glamorous as some of the other topics within the world of digital nomads and remote work, but an easy to trap to fall into when you pursue those dreams of location independence is that you cut yourself off from humanity — You get lonely.
When working for yourself, you are the one accountable for the results and success you desire, but that drive can lead to some negative results if the balance is left unchecked.
Everyone has felt lonely before if they work from home, it’s inevitable – it’s challenging to keep up the same kind of structure that comes with a more traditional job, and you’ll have to schedule in social time just as you would your work tasks.
Create structure and plan your time, so you know your working hours and boundaries. Make the same kind of structure as you would encounter in one of the “real” jobs – with a focus on generating regularity in your routine, so you don’t have to stress about what work is coming up, or if you’re seeing friends, you plan it out and just have to follow your own directions.
It might seem tempting to sit around in your underwear or work from bed, but these things put you in a mindset not suitable for getting things done, you’re relaxed and chilled out which will not lead to results – it will just harbour laziness and negatively impact your work.
When you plan your time in detail, even down to when you should head outside to walk around and let your ideas and perspectives flourish or grabbing lunch with a friend, you stop sitting around feeling lonely for days on end and start taking action. It’s important to touch on the importance of getting outside to contemplate ideas, a 2014 study by Stanford University, inspired by creatives like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg taking their meetings on foot, found that walking boosts ideation and convergent thinking by up to 81%. So the importance of getting out there to work out your ideas is definitely in your best interests, and it keeps those feelings of loneliness from seeing the same four walls all day at bay.
One of the benefits to there being so many other people on this floating rock we live on is that there will always be others like you or tribes that exist solely for those in a similar position. Go ahead and seek those out either geographically close to you or find a group online you can speak with like-minded and relevant peers. Having a support system like this is huge for getting and giving advice and not getting lost in your head or too small of an ecosystem, you’ve got to get the balance right here too. You could end up with too many people, and that’s hard to keep up with, but having too few means you hear the same opinions over and over and run the risk of following the journey of another for no reason other than that is the only information you’ve received.
Make a group, find a community and embrace the culture by going to places other solo workers hang out, be it online or in the place that you live.
On the other side of the coin to getting out there and finding others to talk to, work to make your time alone more rewarding, so you feel less overwhelmed or lost in your isolation. You don’t have to spend every day going to a cafe or a co-working space to get your work done, nor do you need to log on to your Slack community, sometimes you need space from the 24/7 noise machine that is our modern society, and that’s okay.
Plan your time alone just as you would plan your work and always be finding ways to improve your ability to be comfortable sitting and thinking on your own, instead of fearing the silence or feeling lonely, embrace the quiet and use the time to think or relax.
Even God took a day off.