It’s been business as unusual for me this week, as well as a glimpse into the digital nomad lifestyle. While I’ve sadly learned a bit about my own almost primal aversion to bureaucracy, it’s been insightful, and I’ve discovered some real upsides to—what I once would have viewed as—‘nothingness’. Somewhat surprisingly, these benefits are related to productivity.

Business as Unusual

Ordinarily, I travel around extensively. All the while, working intensively—staying in one location for 5-6 days while I deliver a 3 or 4 day workshop and work closely with a specific team or group. Sometimes, I’ll fly back home, sometimes I’ll move straight on to the next workshop or session.

But these past 10 days have been drastically different, and I’ve been in a single place for one main reason alone: setting up our business in Dubai. Admittedly, the idea of 10 days in the sunny Middle East sounded relaxing, so I am surprised by how intensive it’s been, both work-wise and in a positive sense.

I’ve started to experience a brand new way of approaching things which is very distinct from my usual ‘analog nomadism’.

A Taste of Digital Nomadism

This time, I’ve been alone by myself for ten full days; it’s given me an unfamiliar experience of doing almost everything virtually. It’s meant a lot of coaching, conversations, and other things have been almost exclusively digital. Assignment preparation, writing my book (which is now 80% done), and even iterating facilitator guides back and forth.

And yet, it has emerged to be one of my most productive weeks in months, despite not facilitating a single workshop. I’ve:

  • Finalized almost all the revisions for my first book, including the author bio and book description;
  • Had an intense, efficient, and productive coaching session with one of my clients. I would go as far as to say more efficient than I’ve ever had face-to-face. But breakthrough nevertheless. Somehow, being limited only to 2D ‘screen time’ has made both of us work harder at it—we confronted some really essential questions; and
  • Sorted almost everything out for the soon-to-be Dubai Time To Grow Global.

What struck me the most is how, and why, the coaching session was so intensively useful.

You would think that without the physical closeness, there’s a critical element missing. But because we both had to get creative about our ‘business as usual’, we brought in a new dimension, some extra energy. By the end of our one hour together, we’d created crucial action points that were highly necessary. Without another coaching conversation to switch to directly afterward, I had thirty minutes to really refresh: and come at the next thing with renewed vigor.

A Serious Allergy—to Bureaucracy

Things haven’t all been positive, though, and I have had to confront my own bureaucracy allergy head-on. The past few days have also been a haze of ‘forms and formalities’ while going from bank to bank and ‘battling’ administrators. On one day full of bank visits, I ended up completely drained and felt just plain bad: while bureaucracy has never been my ‘thing’, I’d never realized it was such an energy drain.

It’s a necessary evil if things are to go smoothly afterward in terms of the business, but also extra-confrontational and I found myself in fight-or-flight mode for almost a full day. They say your IQ drops about 20 points when your survival instincts take over, but I think mine fell about 40 points (for me, that left very little remaining!). The whole time, thinking things like “I want to scream,” and “When can I get out of here!?”. Very raw, very insightful, incredibly intense. Have you had a similar experience?

Learning From It All

Don’t get me wrong, it has all been worthwhile, especially when viewed through the more rational and forgiving lens of hindsight. The bureaucracy mountain has been conquered, and Time To Grow Global will be up and running in Dubai within just a few weeks. As I head to Shenzhen tomorrow, I feel good about having accomplished so much in what’s actually been a radically different week—on so many levels.

Looking ahead, I am excited to start coaching a talented executive team in their new roles. We’ll be talking about personal, team, and business development, really ‘bringing the context into the room’ at the start of their new journey. And all in the Silicon Valley of Hardware: what’s not to like?

As I reflect, there have been two key learning points from my week as a digital nomad. First, with ‘not much else’ going on, it can be easier to tackle even a hugely diverse range of things with hyper-concentration and focus. Even with the friction of more task-switching, digital nomadism also comes with more time—time which allows for that friction, and to really be present in the moment when it counts.

Second, I am going to be much more conscious about engineering my time from now on. I am going to start creating moments where I allow for this type of creativity and focus. And if your schedule is chock full of back-to-back tasks, it might be useful to try the same. Just having more time for some sort of ‘nothingness’ has actually made space for more concentrated and creative work: and it’s been beyond insightful.

What do you think?