I just came back from a month-long “workation” that I mostly spent in Tallinn, Estonia and I wanted to share my experiences with coworking and being a digital nomad.
Motivation – Why, What, How?
As a PhD student you never really have a sense of accomplishment. Unfinished paper projects, new research ideas, and new approaches are constantly on your mind. So instead of working on my vacation I decided to embrace this and work 50% during August while being abroad. This way I could continue with my projects and also take time off when I need it. Usually I don’t mind combining work and leisure time, for example on the weekend, as long as it does not feel forced.
How did it work?
It was a bit more difficult than expected. Sometimes I felt not able to relax properly while not being productive at the same time. So I needed to actively develop some strategies that for example I don’t need when I am working at home on the weekends. In the end I managed to sort everything out and looking back I both achieved my planned goals (e.g. finished and submitted my research paper) and was able to relax and recharge my batteries. These are my tips:
Infrastructure: Just taking your laptop to any café does not quite work. I needed a comfortable desk, a proper chair, some background mumbling, and of course a power outlet to be able to spend some hours at work. The infrastructure may vary depending on the task, like am I just reading a paper I can do that on a rooftop terrace or beach bar, if I am on a conference call with a client I need a silent location with stable internet. I tried out lots of different spaces – coffeeshops, home office, coworking spaces and I will share some of my work locations in a separate post.
Set goals: During the first week I tried to track my hours and kind of look after that I worked about 50%. This made no sense. Sometimes I was just not productive (which can happen when I am in the office as well) and felt like I wasted my hours. It made more sense to define a set of tasks and goals that I wanted to finish and just focus on the completion without tracking hours.
Actively relax: More than at home I felt I just could not just hop on the couch after work in order to relax, but I needed to get out and do something active. Be it hopping on a sightseeing bus, taking a bike to go around in Tallinn, exploring some sights or going to another coffeeshop with a book. This helped me to clear my head and still feel like I enjoyed my vacation.