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I’ve been traveling the world and working on the road for more than five years now. Having chosen this path, I’ll be the first to admit that knowing how to be productive and stay focused as a digital nomad can be seriously challenging.
It’s tempting to forget about work deadlines and dive into play when there are places to visit, people to meet, and distractions at every corner. After all, I took up the digital nomad lifestyle to travel the world, not to stay in my home office all day.
But then I remind myself I’ll have no money to pay bills, buy food, or keep up this awesome lifestyle if I don’t get down to business. And I don’t need to stay glued to my computer all day if I come up with systems and routines that work for me.
8 productivity hacks for digital nomad success
For anyone in the same boat, here are eight tried and true productivity hacks that have helped me enjoy my time traveling while also getting work done, no matter where I am.
1. Practice slow travel
A lot of my friends will spend one or two days in a new city, hit up a few tourist spots and then head back on the road for the next destination. They might be lucky to see so many places, but this kind of speedy travel is a surefire way to lose focus.
Plus, this style of travel is unusual for digital nomads; it’s all play and no work. If you choose this route, your trip will likely end as soon as your savings run out.
If you really want to work and travel at the same time, consider settling in a new place for at least two weeks, if not for a month. This slow travel will save you a lot of time on planning, packing, traveling, and getting accustomed to a new locale.
When you know you’ve got plenty of time to explore, you won’t feel like you need to run around the city every second of every day. Instead you can slow down, spend time working, and see your productivity levels go up.
Once you’re ready for the next adventure, you can take your time planning while meeting deadlines.
2. Join a co-working space
Find co-working spaces near your hotel area for a true push toward productivity. Personally, I need to be in a certain mindset to write articles, and I succeed in an environment where I see other people working (because I don’t want to alone and glued to my laptop in my Airbnb on a beautiful day).
Co-working spaces typically offer robust WI-FI, snacks and refreshments and an opportunity to collaborate with other digital nomads. Some people like to work from coffee shops or cafés, and that’s totally fine, as long as you can stay focused (and remember to bring your noise-canceling headphones along).
3. Identify your most productive hours
One of the productivity tips I always give is to work when you’re most productive. Mornings are my favorite and waking up early has always helped me to get into the swing of things.
I usually try to complete assignments that need a lot of brainpower in the morning. As my concentration begins to wane, I move on to assignments that are less difficult or important.
It works for me, but you should be aware of your own highs and lows throughout the day and create a routine optimized for your energy levels. Working during your most productive hours will help you finish tasks faster.
4. Anticipate when you will and won’t have WiFi
While traveling, there will be times when you simply won’t have internet access. You might be on a train struggling with a spotty connection or squished into a shared cab on the way to a remote location.
This is why one of the best productivity hacks while en route is to create buckets of tasks. When you have a signal, try first to complete the tasks that need WiFi like online research, SEO work, replying to emails, posting on social media, or working on a website.
Similarly, if you have a long train or plane journey coming up, save tasks that you can effectively manage even without internet, such as editing photos, writing in a Word doc, or brainstorming blog post ideas.
5. Make the most of time-management apps
The best way to stay productive on the road is to automate as much of your life as you can. Take mundane tasks (setting up your calendar, handling invoices, or sifting through emails) off your plate and stay ultra-organized by utilizing various productivity apps.
I use Trello, Asana, Toggl, FreeAgent, and GoDaddy Bookkeeping to stay on top of my game. Make these apps your best friend, and you’ll notice a huge difference when you’re always on the move and trying to find the right balance.
And if your budget allows, sub-contract freelancers through a site such as Freelancer.com or Fiverr to take care of time-consuming tasks or low-budget projects. This can be especially helpful if you have a long trip coming up, as it gives you more time to focus on your core projects and make the most of your time in a new place.
6. Try the Pomodoro method of time management
The Pomodoro technique is one of my favorite productivity hacks while traveling. The idea behind this method is simple: Choose one task you’d like to get done (no multi-tasking please), time yourself for 25 minutes, and focus solely on that task without leaving your desk until the timer goes off.
After that 25 minutes is up, take a short break of three to five minutes to check social media updates, have refreshments, or do some light stretching. After that short break, move on to the next task. Once you’ve completed the 25-minute cycle four times, take a longer break of 30 minutes.
Having a concrete time frame to do a particular task is a better way to stay focused than knowing that you have an entire day to get it done. And the short breaks in between tasks help you energize yourself throughout the day. Give Pomodoro a shot and see how it works for you.
7. Limit your use of social media
Social media apps are undoubtedly the biggest productivity killers for digital nomads. It’s so difficult to pull yourself away from scrolling through pictures of puppies on Instagram or messaging friends back home on Facebook. Thankfully, there are a bunch of anti-procrastination apps to block out the distracting content.
Also, putting your phone on airplane mode can be a useful productivity hack, as it helps you tune out social media notifications and personal calls. You can use your dedicated breaks in between tasks to text back your friends or check social media feeds.
I also have some friends who get things done during the night when there are no distractions. (I’m more of a morning bird than a night owl, so this approach doesn’t work for me, but it might work for you!)
8. Dedicate a few days each week to work
My final productivity tip: set work days aside if you’re struggling to find the time to actually sit down and get stuff done. Throughout my travels, I always set aside at least two days a week where work is my #1 priority.
I do miss out on a lot of fun activities during these two days dedicated solely to work, but that’s what we all signed up for, isn’t it? The rest of the days I’m more flexible depending on my travel plans.
Keeping my Mondays and Wednesdays as definite workdays has helped me get into a routine and because of that, I have managed to take long trips without having to worry about my freelancing business falling apart.
Of course, you might need more than two days to get all your work done, especially if you’re working a full-time remote job. So take a look at your workload and make a realistic schedule based on what you need to get done.
But remember that even a full-time job doesn’t necessarily require 40 hours per week, especially if you can optimize your productivity and get more done in less time.
How to be more productive at work when you’re remote
To be honest, there’s no magic pill that will make you a productivity machine overnight. But, I hope this list of my best productivity hacks gave you inspiration to cultivate habits that will help you focus and get into a routine.
You don’t need to copy someone else’s process, but instead design habits that work for you. And most importantly, take time to appreciate what you’re doing.
After all, not everyone gets to work around the globe. Nothing will increase your productivity and motivation levels quite like having a positive mindset.