Embracing Restlessness
Photo courtesy of Garry Knight

Embracing Restlessness

Written by Janet Brent

Topics: Productivity

As a multipotentialite and location independent entrepreneur, I like to take on the digital nomad lifestyle. It fits my anachronistic beatnik, bohemian demeanor; traveling from place to place with the soles of my wandering shoes and my wanderlust soul. Outsiders could call this confusion, but not all who wander are lost and I’ve never been so sure of myself until now; a little older and (hopefully) a little wiser.

The fact is, I’m restless. I thrive in the unknown and the uncomfortable. Complacency is my prison. Routine makes me feel stuck. This is the essence of what translates into a love for travel. This is what makes me question whether I will ever “settle down” and play nice with someone, or how that could look differently given my particular tendencies.

I’ve got to keep on moving, and maybe you can relate too. Whether it manifests as travel or switching locations and never being rooted to one place, or switching from one interest to the next and never being rooted to a particular passion, or even going from one relationship to the next, never being satisfied with one person, my restlessness has no bounds.

Some could call this an affliction. It depends on which way the pendulum swings. You can take on a healthy, or unhealthy view of restlessness and let it affect you in either life affirming or self destructive ways. You can either work against it or embrace it. The choice is yours.

Harnessing Restlessness

If you have a natural inclination towards restlessness, acknowledge it. Don’t fight it. Be your authentic self and let it shine. Don’t change because it would be convenient for society or your friends and family. Just be who you are. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

Flip restlessness from a weakness to a strength.

If restlessness has been a shortcoming in your life, look for ways you can work around it so that it works for you.

The insatiable yearning for new, different, more can help fuel your life towards innovation, discovery, exploration and gives you a natural inclination towards an entrepreneurial drive. It keeps you on your toes. Playful. Hungry. Motivated.

Restlessness can be a clue to try new things, switch it up, explore old hobbies or create new routines. When life feels like its plateaued, restlessness can be a gentle reminder to play. Variety is the spice of life.

Restlessness and Productivity

Stagnation is the opposite of being productive. For me, stagnation comes in the form of being in one locale for too long (three years maximum seems to be a good pace for living, and 1-4 months for traveling). I’ve got to keep moving. It’s Thailand next month and maybe Malaysia after that, followed by Hawaii. This is how I stay productive.

Can you manage restlessness? Believe it or not, you can make restlessness productive.

If you’re inclined to growing restless throughout the day, your productivity schedule should cater to your natural rhythm by scheduling short bursts of time to concentrate on one thing before moving onto another thing. Does 20 minutes feel good to you, or one hour? You can set your work block and then use a timer to remind yourself to break and go on to the next activity.

Take a cue from exercise workouts and do a ‘high interval intensity training’ schedule by choosing X amount of time to concentrate intently on a particular task and then X amount to take a break and relax. Try experimenting with making your breaks twice as long as your work amount or half as short. See what works for you.

Remind yourself to take a break. They are essential to productivity and creativity.

Keeping a Routine

Having a routine is another way to stay productive. You can make this work for you even if you travel. Do you have a morning ritual for self-care? It could be as little as writing in a journal for 15 minutes when you wake up, doing a 10 minute meditation, and saying affirmations. Your ritual can be done no matter where you are, and as long as you dedicate some time to do them, you can start your day refreshed and ready to work.

Go easy on yourself. If completing a checklist each day will start to feel like a mandatory chore, decide what you’d like to do each morning and allot at least one hour of self-care to do them. Do what feels good to you at that moment. If you’re restless and crave change, your routine can vary from day to day, as long as it’s at least an hour.

Your Turn

How have you let restlessness work for you instead of against you? What do you do to stay focused and productive?

janet_aboutJanet Brent is an intuitive graphic/web designer for creative, holistic and heart-based entrepreneurs. She’s interested in passionate people making positive change. Find her blogging on Purple Panda and on twitter @janetbrent.


  1. cotey bucket says:

    Janet you’re singing my song.

    I struggle so much with the restless bit bit at the same time I get scared about things like money and relationships and all that.

    And so instead of moving forward I can often get trapped in a half way kind of limbo.

    I’ve discovered that for me that’s the worst of both worlds.

    The “normal” world, the non nomadic, expects a lot of things from us that the life of of a nomad simply doesn’t care or have time for and mixing all that junk together is really really hard.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is when you’ve decided to make the leap, if you think the life of a nomad may be right for you, it’s best to use the band aid technique.

    Just close your eyes and go.

    • Janet says:

      hey Cotey!
      I still totally get scared by relationships and money…
      Those are heavy topics!

      I get this “going nowhere” sort of sense with me around that…
      But instead of judging as a bad thing, I try to go along with it and just embrace that too.. like say a relationship is going nowhere for me.. as you know, I wrote the poly post and am realizing that traditional relationships may not be for me.. so of course traditionally, with marriage, since I don’t want MORE in that sense, relationships are “going nowehere”. I’ve been in this limbo in a lot of relationships and I thought I was messed up for a long time. But now I realize it’s just the relationship model that isn’t for me. So I’m exploring being single, having flings, affairs, friends with benefits or what have you… but choosing not to be in a relationship because that for me is like saying I want marriage (or at least screening for it) and the whole she-bang. Why get into all of that and the inevitable breakup when I KNOW it’s not what I want in the first place? :)

      And here I am talking about relationships instead of being nomadic.. haha. Guess where my head is at. :) (more reason why I NEED to start this sex blog..)

  2. Kylie says:

    So glad you wrote about this, Janet. There’s so much pressure out there to be a certain way, whether that way is some certain form of location independence or settling in one place forever and ever.

    The option that, to me, is far better than listening to all that pressure is to get to know yourself and trust your own rhythms. Thanks for sharing yours, and your take on how we can find out own.

    • Janet Brent says:

      there are so many aspects of location independence and so many varying degrees of it! it’s definitely not a one size fits all. so the important thing is to know who you are; what you like and don’t like. thanks for reading!

  3. Hannah says:

    I totally hear you on this Janet. I struggle with feeling restless a lot and it’s only very recently (through resources like Puttlike) that I’ve come to realise that this isn’t necessarily something I have to crush, it’s more something to tame and use to my advantage.

    I think your point about routine was great—that’s probably been the most helpful thing to me. The Pomodoro Technique (separating your work day into chunks of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break) has also been helpful. It allows me to spend time on multiple projects without feeling overwhelmed or lost.

    Thanks for a great post! :)

    • Emilie says:

      I second that routine point! Whenever I travel, I always try to maintain my morning work rituals (and then explore in the afternoon). They help me stay grounded and feel healthy and productive.

  4. Christen says:

    Thansk for the post, janet! It really resonates with me. I used to fight so hard against my restlessness that it’s really encouraging to hear other people feel the same and can make it work for them instead of against them.

    Following the blogs of other people who are doing what I want to be doing has been the most helpful thing in keeping me moving forward and motivated. I spent most of my life being reminded only of barriers to what I wanted. Knowing things are possible and being encouraged to do them is totally new to me!

    • Janet Brent says:

      yeah, it’s really easy to fight against it! it’s not something that’s easily accepted in status-quo but once you realize it’s just how you might be wired, you can embrace it!!

      blogs are definitely a great support system and the networks around them. i’ve found a whole new world opened up online that i couldn’t have on my own. and i think this continues to expand my horizons in meaningful ways!

  5. tulpoeid says:

    Nice one. Also, the tips are specific, practical and make sense which is a thing one doesn’t often come across :)

  6. Emily says:

    Dear Denise,

    Just a word of support for your brave decision to shun the meds – from where I’m sitting, the problem is with societal attitudes, not with you.

    Following my degree, I landed a job that made me look ‘successful’ in the eyes of my family and society. As my first full time job, I had no idea what to expect – but sobbing inconsolably after day 4 wasn’t it. I liked the people, the responsibilities, the productiveness… but I couldn’t cope with the 9-5 routine, nor with the fact that everyone else in the office found it so ‘normal’. I tried speaking to family and friends, to a counsellor even – but they all told me – in a nutshell – to grow up and accept that this is life. I was petrified of going to a doctor – scared of being put on some mind-altering drugs that dulled me into submission ! My family were convinced I was ‘depressed’ – the soul-sapping dark place I was in definitely suggested so. I however clung onto the fact that it was just circumstances – not me. It was destroying me, the idea that this was ‘life’ – of committing to one thing, in one place until the sweet release of retirement when you actually started living. So.. when my contract was coming to an end (no, I wasn’t brave enough to quit), I decided to turn down an extension and booked a one-way flight to somewhere tropical and just.. wander. Exploration of the world and of my mind at the same time. I haven’t been ‘depressed’ since that point. I’m not crippled with self-loathing at not fitting in… I’m finding my way, in my own way.

    Denise, I don’t think we have mental disorders… we’re not mentally unstable (who’s mad here? Us or them?!), we’re just different. & I am grateful every day not to be part of the beige army – its not easy, but would you rather be shoehorning yourself into some mould of ‘normal’? Best of luck to you ! :)

  7. Daryl says:

    Hi. I just stumbled upon your blog today for the first time and I didn’t know such a community even existed. I not only relate but I’m pretty well the epitome of being a multipotentialite. I’m 32 years old and I’ve never held one job for more than a year simply because I get bored of doing the same old thing. I’ve always been entrepreneurially focused and through changing professions I’ve amassed a great number of reasonably well developed skills. I’ve always had a notion that it would culminate in something great. I really identify with this. I love to travel, I couldn’t care less if I know where I’m going, I have a very wide range of interests and people have tried to put me on medication as well. I work in Canada’s oilfield, with no days off and sometimes working over 100 hours a week. I can’t for the life of me understand how this is “normal.” I butt heads with my wife because she likes the steady money that comes with this lifestyle, but frankly I thrive on uncertainty. I owned a landscaping company for 3 years and my finest moments were when things were the most uncertain. My wife can’t handle uncertainty and I thrive on it.
    The biggest challenge I face today is with a paralysis of creativity. I want to start up a new company and build it. I know exactly how to do it but can’t decide on what kind of product or service to sell. I’m hoping that by getting involved with this group I might find some inspiration.

Leave a Comment