How to Stay Productive as a Digital Nomad

How to stay productive as a digital nomad
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🖊 This article was last updated on January 21, 2020

Staying focused in your work can be a challenge even at the best of times, but when you’re an entrepreneur then staying motivated can be even more difficult. Now, add to that the constant traveling lifestyle of the ‘digital nomad’ and it becomes near impossible! 

You’re in a new city, new country, you’re excited to explore a whole new culture- that’s the allure of being a digital nomad, right? But you also need to work! Not only do you need to stay productive to keep clients happy and your business ticking over, but you also need a steady income to maintain the wandering working lifestyle. 

I know that struggle well! That’s why I’ve put together a few handy tips on how to stay productive as a digital nomad, enjoy your travels AND have a successful business.

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At the Tegallalang rice terraces in Bali during my 4-month Digital Nomad adventure (2019)

1. Set a Daily Routine

Moving from city to city or across time zones can mess with your head a little. You can end up feeling unsettled, unable to relax, or focus. The best way to counteract that confusion can be to get yourself into a routine. 

Having routines can help us ease into new situations and surroundings, lowering stress levels and allowing us to be more focused and therefore more productive.

Start with small things, such as setting your alarm for the same time each morning, get up, make a coffee, or do some exercise or meditation. Whatever you choose to do, do it every morning without fail.

2. Work When You Are Most Productive

Not everyone is productive at the same time of day. While some people are the early bird who catches that proverbial worm, others are night owls burning the midnight oil. It’s all down to our individual circadian rhythms and chronotypes which is about our energy levels and how they peak and fall throughout the day.

When you figure out when you’re the most productive, you can organize your day around that. Maximize your high-energy time to get the most done or tackle the most difficult or important tasks.

3. Prioritize, Organize and Track

Identifying your priorities and organizing your schedule is one of the most important elements when it comes to staying productive as you work remotely. Of course, when you’re traveling you don’t have the nice office whiteboard to write your tasks and goals. 

But there are plenty of online project management platforms, such as Asana or Trello that are even better. It’s a great way to create projects, add subtasks, set goals and track your progress. Ticking off tasks as you go gives you a sense of achievement which helps keep you motivated. 

Check out my tips on how to prioritize your tasks

4. Be a Smart Traveler

If you’re living and working as a digital nomad, then you need a laptop that is travel-friendly, something that fits in your backpack or hand luggage. If your work allows it, make use of the time you spend on buses, trains, and planes. Long-haul flights are great for writing those blog posts you’ve been putting off!  

It might sound like bad advice for a ‘nomad’ but… travel less! Instead of bouncing from place to place, maximize your working time by spending MORE time in the places you visit. This lets you catch up on work and explore the area at the same time. 

Before you head to your next destination, check out the free WiFi spots. You can download a country or city WiFi map before you go. This will save you so much time and cut the stress of wandering around looking for a good connection.

5. Eliminate Distractions

When you travel, it’s hard not to spend hours uploading your photos and videos to make friends and family jealous but it’s not the most productive use of your time! Avoid getting sucked into the social media whirlpool by using applications, such as the Freedom app to limit your access (and the time wasted) on certain sites. Keeping such distractions to a minimum can really help your productivity. 

Also, keep in mind where you’re going to stay and the possible distractions they might pose. For example, staying in a party youth hostel might be fun but it’s maybe not the best for productivity! 

6. Create a Dedicated Workspace

Staying on the topic of your work environment, try to create a dedicated workspace. This can be difficult when you’re staying in places you have little control over, like hostels or Airbnb’s, but there are a few things you can do to ensure you have a suitable work zone.

Coworking spaces are a great option for digital nomads. Coworker.com even has a map showing you coworking spaces all over the world. Coworking spaces are a great option, as they have everything you need, including coffee and you can meet other digital nomads to hang out with or even collaborate with! 

My set-up in the Heartwork coworking space in Chiang Mai, Thailand

7. Time Management

Learning to effectively manage your time will be a lifesaver the more you travel. It helps you stay in control, keeps stress to a minimum, and just lets you get things done! There are many time management techniques you can use, from the Pomodoro Technique to Timeboxing. You can also make use of time management tools to help further boost your productivity.

Check out some of my favorite approaches to time management here

8. Don’t Forget to Relax

We know that working longer hours does not increase productivity, in fact, nothing will kill your productivity more than over-working. You can’t be the top of your game and burnt out at the same time. Making time for yourself is a huge factor in increasing productivity. Studies have shown that downtime can actually refresh your focus, prevent decision fatigue, increase creative thinking, and reduce stress. So, take breaks and enjoy the life you’re actually working for!

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Enjoying the views of “Gardens by the Bay”, Singapore

Conclusion

No matter where you are based, or how far you roam, productivity will always be something we have to work at. But by making small changes in how you approach work, how you start your day, or even how your travel, you can create productivity-boosting habits that will stick. 

It won’t happen overnight, but with consistent effort, you’ll see your productivity soar and you can continue your digital nomad dream!

Kristof
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