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Tech Voices

November 3, 2022 - 7 minutes

Tech Voices: Productivity as a Digital Nomad

With computer engineer, podcaster, and Digital Nomad, Magali Bejar

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You're reading the next installment of our Tech Voices series! We want to make sure we share diverse voices from the Ironhack tech community so you, as a budding tech professional, get to know your peers and learn from their experiences.

Tech Voices: Magali Bejar, Product Manager at Toptal

Magali Bejar is a computer engineer from Argentina, creator, and podcaster in tienequehaberalgomas.com. She worked as a technical product manager and became a digital nomad to travel the world in 2018. She has been recently recognized as Emerging Leader in 2022 by the London School of Economics. Magali organizes BA Digital Nomads in Buenos Aires, is an ex-TEDxUTN organizer, part of the Singularity University chapter in Buenos Aires, and is a hip-hop dancer.

How to be Productive While Traveling as a Digital Nomad Around the World

Working from home could be challenging already depending on your job and adding traveling on top of it is even more complex. When you travel, there are always a lot of distractions and things you could be doing instead of your job but the good news is that you can still be productive while you are on the road. 

I believe you need to be in a good personal place to perform at work so if you want to keep your productivity up, you need to clearly understand what you need and what works for you.

Let's start with the basic know-your-self questions. Have you ever thought about what gives you energy and what depletes you? What activities do you like doing besides work? How do you have fun?

If you are unsure about any of these answers, the next step is to go experiment. Travel by yourself, with family, and with new or old friends. While you do this, pay careful attention to what you feel comfortable with. 

Work

What has worked best for me is when I was working in a safe place with a positive work culture. No matter if you are traveling or not, it is always better if you have clear responsibilities, and independence to execute your tasks and you are surrounded by a good accountable team. 

Choosing where you work is key. Would you rather work from a cafe, your own Airbnb, or a coworking space? You need to be comfortable without the extra stress of thinking about closing hours, safety, and plug availability. 

Most jobs require you to be online or on calls with either team members or clients, so the first step to picking a destination will be considering the time zone you need to be in.

Have you thought about your work type? Ideally, you can ask for much asynchronous work as you can but if you have a lot of calls, when are those happening?
In my case, I organized the day to be overlapped with the office during their morning so I worked by myself before they started their day and later had 4 hours of calls.

When I started traveling in North and Center America, I was working for US west coast which could mean up to 5 hours difference. After a few months, I felt more comfortable traveling to Europe adding an extra 4 or 5 hours difference. I had 6 months with a 9-hour difference while being a team lead.

During this time, my day was upside down. I had my morning free to go to the beach for a tour and then I worked from 4 pm to 11 pm. It was crucial to find a 24-hour coworking space with a kitchen that allowed me to cook and have dinner in between calls. 

If you have an employer they could pay for your membership cost.

What always helped me is overcommunicating to get ahead of possible problems. I document as much as possible so the information is available for people to see when I am offline. Remind yourself to be flexible. Accessing your information on your phone, having backups and a local SIM card with internet can save you a lot of headaches. 

Destination

You can design your life based on what a place has to offer. You could easily go to a place where you can visit a museum every morning or head to the beach after work. 

It is very different to pick a vacation destination than a digital nomad one. Think about the places that you want to visit and ask yourself these questions: What is the place's vibe? Are things happening during the day or at the night?
If you are a morning person, you will have a lot of 7 am healthy plans in Bali but if you are a night owl, you could have dinner in Buenos Aires every day until 1 am. 

How do you feel about the high or low season? How does it affect your economy when places are packed and prices go up? Are there other digital nomads there? Does the place offer activities you like to do? In my case, I am a pool type of swimmer which is a very inconvenient sport when traveling. Also, being at the beach near the water is a good way for me to recharge so I keep that in mind to pick a summer location. 

Build a routine

When you travel, you are constantly making so many decisions: where to go next, how to get there, where to sleep, what to buy in a supermarket, and what to do after work or during the weekend. 

We all have decision fatigue which is the idea that after making many decisions, our ability to make additional decisions becomes worse. Avoid this trap by making one choice that solves many because it could be really draining depending on the city. For example, with my diet that one decision was becoming vegetarian which crosses out 80% of the menu options. Now, it is much easier to decide what to eat. 

Physical health

When you are on a two-week vacation it is not a big deal if you go off track with exercise, sleep, or food but in this type of trip, you constantly need to remember that this is your long-term lifestyle. 

There are some basic and very logical things that are hard to maintain on the road. Figure out how can you keep working out regularly. In order to keep a balance, you need to eat healthily, drink a lot of water and avoid eating out every night.

Depending on where you are staying it could be challenging to have a good 8 hours of sleep. If you are sharing a room in a hostel you might not be very comfortable or if you sleep in a hotel check-in and check-out times might be an issue for you.


Mental health

During 2022, I have already traveled more than one round around the globe so I try to not normalize what I go through as part of my digital nomad travels. I know it still is very privileged to have this lifestyle so gratitude journaling keeps me grounded.

My best trick to work on happiness is to invest in new and old relationships. Do not forget to keep in touch with friends and family back home as often as you can. This requires extra work but I sometimes schedule catchup calls with friends just to see what they are up to.

As my way of meeting new like-minded people, I always join coworking spaces and meetups wherever I go. Ask another nomad what is the best way to connect with similar people in a city maybe you can find the right coliving space or Whatsapp group to integrate yourself with the city. If you are in Buenos Aires, you can join the digital nomads' meetups I host.

Conclusion

I always keep in mind that working allows me to travel long-term. I might only see a few new things a week but I still get to be somewhere else for an extended period of time instead of having 3 weeks of vacation each year. Having this lifestyle helped me become more efficient to finish my work and enjoy the city where I am. Parkinson's law shows that we will use all available time to complete a task.

Figure out how long are you staying in each place to avoid being stressed that you will miss seeing attractions. A good idea is to stay at least a month or two in each place. 

Being a digital nomad is challenging because your mind and body might experience extra stress if you are not exposed to it back home. You have always the choice to design a trip that works well with your style. Remember that there is no right or wrong way of doing it, what is important is to enjoy the ride and have fun!

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