The digital nomad work-life balance… it’s a tricky one

Being in Madrid: definitely helps with the “life” part

We’re the first to admit that we have a tendency to overwork – in a “working hard rather than smart” kinda way. We obsess over tiny details at the expense of the bigger picture; we choose to make everything perfect before getting it out there; and we’ll happily fill any spare time with work-related activities.

Heck, we even exercise to business podcasts – and lunchtimes are dedicated to training courses or entrepreneurial videos.

But last week, we left our “home” country – where we’d been living for over two whole months – and flew to Madrid. And while obsessively trying to type out some final emails before the cabin crew told us off, we realised things had to change.

We LOVE our work, and that’s part of the problem. But we also love experiencing new cities and cultures. And we love learning about new things that aren’t to do with business.

So, the business podcasts have been replaced with a combination of Spanish-learning audiobooks and historical biographies (something we’ve both become a bit obsessed with). We started with the best biography out there – Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. Mish then moved on to JFK followed by Pepys, while Rob went on a Montaigne tangent and is now about to start hearing all about Einstein. This shit is FASCINATING – and it’s helping us to understand so much more about other things too, such as the art we saw at the Prado Museum the other day.

Yup, we’re also doing heaps of visiting, walking about, tours and meals out. (You’d be silly not to do meals out in Madrid. Their Menus del Dia may turn you into fat alcoholics, but at least you won’t be poor.) We pack all our work into 8am to 3pm, have lunch and then do whatever the heck we like afterwards.

While we’ve always tried to do some sort of activity every afternoon (seeing friends, reading in cafes, visiting the sights, etc.), work was always on our minds and we’d always get the laptops out as soon as we arrived home. These days (“these days” being the past week), we allow ourselves an hour or two in the evening for emails, but that’s it. By knowing that work very almost officially stops at 3pm, we’re teaching ourselves to work smarter too: we’re focusing on what really matters, and we’re not obsessing over the little, unimportant details.

Lunchtime telly is about to become “Let’s watch American sitcoms that have been dubbed in Spanish”, and we’ve swapped blog posts and business books for Kindle books about learning Spanish. (We have myriad questions about the verb “to be” if anyone wants to help, by the way.)

Our conversations with each other are more wide-ranging than they’ve been for a while, and we’re stressing less over work-related stuff that isn’t worthy of it.

We REALLY intend to mean as we carry on – regardless of the city we’re in. We probably haven’t nailed the ratios quite yet, but we’re getting there – and we’re back to making the most of our lifestyles as digital nomads.

Having said that, we’re really going to start toning down the wine consumption. Two hangovers in six days? Disaster.

  • Beto

    Nice post. So, enjoying España? Tell me about the work-life balance challenge while moving abroad… so many things happening out there, yet you get to be stuck in your room working your *ss off because, well, you still have responsibilities to honor to your clients, etc. And don’t get me started on time zone differences… if you don’t have to attend conference calls for work, let me be a bit jealous of you. Still, once you are done and can finally get outside, treating yourself to different places and cultures in the world is something that makes all the hassles worth it, I think. 🙂

    • Mish @ Making It Anywhere

      Thanks Beto!

      Yep it’s definitely worth it! For us, it’s all about getting the ratios of work/life/travel right, and I think we’re slowly getting there…