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Lessons and Challenges of the Laptop Lifestyle (Premium?)

I have a regular job as a presales engineer. I'm not a digital freelance nomad like some. I have a desk at the corporate headquarters, a boss, co-workers, and regular meetings (which have gone virtual in the age of COVID). Still, I've spent the summer working in different rooms of my house (dining room, the home office/den, and even the basement), at my late father-in-law's house in Berlin, hotels and AirBNBs in Tennesee. Here's what I've figured out so far.

P.S. I welcome any critiques of this list or my writing, especially because I may choose to publish/monetize it in some way, so any improvement would be good.

    1. Accept That You Are Not Actually On Vacation

    Your time is not really your own, you still have deliverables and obligations (more on time in the next point). The change in scenery and whatever joys your family are able to find while in the new destination are your main pay-offs.

    2. Time Zones Are Not Your Friend

    Ideally, you could put in a 9-5 work day in the local time zone of your remote home/office. Or you'd keep the hours of your headquarters only. Neither of these is all that plausible. Your productivity is going to be linked to your local environment, but when communication, real-time responsiveness and/or collaboration are required, you're going to have to dip into the most comfortable times for your colleagues and clients. This can lead to 'burning the candle at both ends' - a workday that has a poorly defined beginning and end and a lack of boundaries. Be careful that you don't over-extend yourself even though a little bit of stretching your limits is going to happen.

    3. Finding an Appropriate Space Is a Big Challenge

    I see images like these all the time. This woman is not doing any work as I understand it. It may be my age, but I can't get by with the trackpad, I need a mouse. I also like to have a paper notebook for notes (or my bullet journal) so a table or desk or even a counter is necessary. There is rarely any work being done on top of my lap, so to speak. If there is a den or office, great, but dining tables are more commonly the spaces I've found myself in - and that means having to clear up my workspace around meals. Dining spaces are often communal and lack privacy, so you'll find yourself redeploying when an important call is scheduled. If it's just a call which won't require much note-taking, you may find yourself in a bedroom like the woman in a photo for the sake of seclusion, but use a virtual background and try to sit up straight if the camera is on.


    4. Know Your Essential Items and How to Move Them Quickly

    If you find yourself having to change spaces because someone else needs the space or because of other environmental changes (WiFi signal fades, glare on the screen), you want to be able to make the transfer as easy as possible. Fold up your laptop, and stack a notebook with it, if necessary. If you think your relocation is fairly temporary, leave the power supply behind. Maybe the mouse can stay plugged into the laptop if you make sure it's not dangling unsecured, but you ditch your pen for the time being. Finally, it's safer to make multiple trips than to risk dropping something expensive.

    5. Taking Breaks is Even More Important That Normal

    Your workspace is not going to be ergonomically correct, so stand up to stretch often. As mentioned in #2, you'll be having a workday that has an early beginning and late end, but that doesn't mean it has to be an overly long workday if you pack in the breaks. You can't go on a sightseeing tour, but if you're able to get outside for a walk, do that. In whatever small way you can notice the differences in your new environment (e.g. birds sound different) you're enjoying the diversity of experiences that travel brings, even if you're not "on vacation".

    6. A Reliable Internet Connection Is More Important Than Hot Water

    In Berlin, our hot water was broken for 2 weeks. That was not pleasant (I actually enjoy cold showers, but not when they are your only choice), but we got through it. If the Internet had been flaky, however, I probably would have had to book a flight home or at least different accommodations. When booking a destination, consider Internet service first and foremost.

    7. Cultivate The Right Habits Even When In The Office

    Respond quickly to emails and any internet-enabled communication media (instant messages, VoIP calling) but be slower to reach on the phone. I know some people prefer the phone, but that can be costly when roaming. We teach others how to treat us, so hopefully, people know they get the best response from you when they use your preferred medium. Over 90% of my incoming calls on my cell phone are scams nowadays anyway.

    8. Noise Cancelling Headphones

    ... can only do so much. If you don't have a pair and are considering the investment, please understand that they do well to eliminate mechanical noises like refrigerators, washing machines or fans, but not music or conversation or the screams and yells of children. Still, I love my pair, and wearing them helps me stay "in the zone" while working.

    9. Sleep

    Jet lag is going to screw you up. Furthermore, being in front of a screen till the later hours can interfere with circadian rhythms. Add that to the fact that you'll be sleeping in an unfamiliar bed and you have a heap of challenges with rest. Do what you can to prioritize the quantity and quality of your sleep - work on the most boring stuff toward the end of the day, or see if you can transition from your laptop to your phone for the final task or meeting of the day (phones have a blue-light setting that is more sleep-friendly, and their screen surface area is smaller). If you're sleep-deprived and/or irritable during the work day, you're likely to sabotage your work performance, and the permission to work remotely may be revoked down the line.

    10. Gratitude

    There are times all these challenges make for a very sub-optimal work experience and can threaten your perception of enjoyment of the trip in its entirety. If your trip includes a weekend, you'll be able to do the fun stuff then, and most importantly, imagine having to say no to the opportunity of such a trip/adventure because "you had to work".

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