I'll be the first to admit that staying focused and productive on the road can be a challenge sometimes. However, over the course of approximately 2 years working remotely on and off, I've picked up some great habits and productivity hacks to help me get (and stay) in the zone and get my work done, no matter where I am.
Constant travel, jet lag, different time zones, and beautiful distractions can be a deterrent for getting work done...but only if you let it. Here are 8 tips for staying productive and focused as a digital nomad.
Getting in a routine
Trust me, I know waking up early is hard when you work for yourself and technically could wake up anytime you want, but I admit, waking up at a set time and establishing a routine during the week can really help you get into the swing of things. A morning ritual, even something as simple as journaling while you have your cup of coffee, can help you get ready for the day and set you up for success. Staring work around the same time each day and working for approximately the same amount of hours is a great way to ensure productivity and hold yourself accountable for getting work done. On top of all that, having a daily routine can help minimize stress!
Lists, lists, lists
Lists are one of my favorite (and simplest) productivity hacks. Especially when you’re working on a variety of projects with different deadlines, it’s crucial to stay organized to make sure you meet those deadlines. You can make to-do lists each morning to really set your day up and prioritize. I prefer writing my lists in a little notebook instead of on my phone or computer. There’s something so satisfying about literally crossing something off of your to-do list. I’ve found that having a nice notebook I love motivates me even more to use it and take it with me wherever I go. Right now, my go-to is the Moleskine pocket-sized Cahier journal.
Project management apps & sites
To stay ultra organized and manage projects, there are a bunch of apps and websites you can use to stay focused. These are especially helpful if you’re working with a team or managing others, so you can delegate tasks, set deadlines, and see what everyone’s working on. Some examples of these productivity apps are Monday, Asana, and Trello. You can use these programs on both your computer in your web browser and on your phone with an app for on-the-go project management.
Work in bursts
This is a productivity hack I use most days. In fact, I’m using it right now! Instead of working non-stop for hours and multitasking, I set timers and work in short bursts. During each short burst, I only work on ONE project. No multitasking allowed! Usually, I’ll time myself for 20 minutes and see how much I can get done in that time. It’s almost like a little game! This actually has a name: The Pomodoro Technique. With this technique, it’s recommended you set a timer for 25 minutes, and then take a short break before moving onto the next 25 minutes. After completing 4 of those 25 minute bursts, take a longer break of at least 20 or 30 minutes. It may sound stressful or too nit picky, but don’t knock it before you try it. Plus, you can adapt the technique to make it your own.
Work in a coworking space
Technically, we digital nomads can work anywhere we want as long as we have wifi and our laptop, but there’s something to be said about coworking spaces. Having a proper dedicated work environment can be a lot less hectic than working out of a busy coffee shop or a hostel common room. You might be more likely to stay productive and not give into distractions like flipping on a TV if you’re in a coworking space. Another option is staying at a coliving and coworking house, like Outsite! All of Outsite’s locations have a coworking area where you can set up shop and plow through your to-do list while also meeting and possibly collaborating with other digital nomads.
Limit social media and phone use
Social media and texting have got to be the number one productivity killers–I know they are for me! It’s so easy to get distracted and fall down a rabbit hole of stalking and endless scrolling on Instagram or Facebook, so it’s really best to avoid social media while you’re trying to be productive. Instead, wait for your dedicated breaks to check your feeds and text your friends back. If you lack self control (like I do) leaving your phone in another room can help you to resist temptation. It’s a lot less tempting to quickly check your phone if it’s upstairs rather than a few inches away from your computer.
Work with fellow digital nomads
Working alone all the time can get lonely, so plan coworking days where you can meet up with other digital nomads! Facebook groups are a great resource for finding other digital nomads in your location. You can hold each other accountable for finishing projects, help eachother out when you get stuck, or even all work with the same timer using the Pomodoro Technique. Plan something fun for the end of the day as a reward for getting your work done!
When you’re a digital nomad, it can be hard to leave work at work, but compartmentalizing your life can help you be less stressed out and make you more productive when you’re working. An example of this is not working from your bed. I know how tempting it is to work out of bed on lazy days or late nights, but it blurs the line between work and relaxation. Use your dedicated work time to really work, and then you’ll be more likely to feel like you can fully go offline and enjoy life at the end of the day and on your off days. Oh, and definitely say “no” to checking emails in bed before you go to sleep and right when you wake up!
These productivity hacks can really help you to stay focused to produce high quality work in a shorter amount of time. Experiment and try new things to see what works best for you to become your most productive self yet.
Travelling with your partner? Check out these digital nomad tips for couples travelling the world, or read more about finding your own work life balance on the road.
Words: Ashley Laderer