Staying productive and focusing on work isn’t the easiest at the best of times—throw in a remote setup and an unfamiliar and enticing environment and the task can become near impossible. This is the reality for digital nomads touching down in new locations all across the globe. A look from the outside-in may see digital nomads traveling to new and exciting destinations on a regular basis, but the reality is that working does need to remain a priority. But how do digital nomads stay productive when working remotely from new destinations? From creating solid morning routines to separating thier working and living spaces, we’re taking a look at the strategies the best digital nomads use to stay motivated to make it work on the road.
Create a Morning Routine
Getting a good start to the day is vital to a successful, productive working day as a remote worker. When traveling as a digital nomad it can be easy to brush off routines, simply taking each day as it comes and going with the flow. This can work for some people—and I have to admit I’m jealous of those that can perform this way—but the majority of us won’t run on all cylinders when leaving the day down to chance.
A more reliable way to start the day is by creating a morning routine that sets you up for the best possible day. Whether that routine involves getting in an early morning workout or simply getting that laptop open and started after rolling out of bed. Having a routine that works for you is a serious productivity top tip.
Make a To-Do List
Once you’re up, moving, caffeinated, and motivated, it’s time to open that laptop and get to work. Knowing exactly what you should be focused on when can be a problem faced by all employees, freelancers, and digital nomads. Luckily, there’s a good, well-practiced, simple solution for planning out a day of remote work: the humble, but effective, to-do list.
Whether it’s written on a scrap of paper or made using one of these fancy new scheduling apps, a to-do list is your best friend as a remote worker. An online calendar, such as the software offered by Asana, proves the most popular option for digital nomads. The paperless solution not only allows for tasks to be arranged much in the traditional to-do list sense but also in a calendar form, planning weeks and months ahead where possible.
Separate Living and Working Spaces
One of the top tips for remote workers to increase their productivity when working away from the office is to separate their living and working spaces. With accommodation space often reported as the limiting factor, it can be difficult to separate living and working spaces for digital nomads. Careful consideration when booking can find accommodation with dedicated workspaces, but integrated offices are rare.
When a standard hotel room just won’t cut it, Airbnb can offer just a little extra flexibility in terms of property size. Apartments with multiple rooms often prove the best bet for digital nomads, with dedicated workspaces plentiful among the listings. Where possible, we would recommend searching for a separate room reserved purely for working. This isn’t always possible, and depending on budget, a desk or table in the main living space may be a compromise that nomads may have to make.
Consider a Cafe or Coworking Space
Remote workers struggling with productivity at home often find that having a dedicated place of work from is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Cafes offer a great choice for digital nomads with food, drink, and a place to work all catered for under the same roof. There are, however, a number of downsides to working in a cafe, namely the distractions of a busy environment and the bill quickly racking up during long work days.
Coworking spaces offer an alternative and are increasing in their popularity, in no small part due to the rise of remote workers. These shared office spaces offer an inexpensive alternative to a traditional private workspace. Despite the cheaper overall price, the spaces do share much of the same strengths as a private office with additional networking and social benefits of other professionals sharing the facilities. There are thousands of coworking spaces dotted around the world with digital nomad hotspots (Lisbon, Chiang Mai, Barcelona etc.) claiming the lion's share of the top-quality communal offices.
Use Noise-Cancelling Headphones
A pair of noise-cancelling headphones are fantastic for really getting into the right frame of mind, whether that’s focused, creative, or relaxed in your work. Choosing the right soundtrack, not simply relying on the radio or the background noise can dramatically change the way we work.
Looking for a tranquil playlist that will keep you calm, relaxed, and focused? Choose a lo-fi beats or anxiety relief playlist. Searching for inspiration for your next advertising campaign? Search for something a little more upbeat. If you are opting to work in a cafe or coworking space, a pair of headphones can also act as a conversation deterrent. If you’re working to a tight deadline or simply don’t want to be disturbed, the magic earbud trick works wonders. They’re the universal “do not disturb” accessory.
Designate Dedicated Working Hours
Remote working offers digital nomads just as much freedom to work when they like as it does wherever they like, but that freedom can be less of a blessing and more of a curse for some. Working outside of the office can often feel like you are on-call at all hours of the day. This is especially true if your workspace doubles as your living space and can quickly lead to burnout. Naturally, this isn’t the best way to operate and if you’re finding yourself perpetually exhausted, something has to change.
Instead of working loose or non-existent hours, a dedicated period for the working can help you get a lot more done. By setting a finite period of time to focus on work, whether that’s four or eight hours per day, you’ll also be able to improve your work-life balance and plan more fun activities for your non-working hours.
Take Breaks to Explore
The working day doesn’t just have to be one solid block of deep work, it can be broken down into more manageable chunks. For example, you could plan to start with deep work between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. followed by emails and networking between 1 and 3 p.m. That offers an hour-long gap break that can be used to explore the new local neighborhood. Maybe take the time to visit a local eatery, check out the market, take in the architecture and enjoy the culture of your remote working destination.
The time between these manageable chunks is just as important as the time dedicated to working during them. The nomad lifestyle isn’t exactly about seeing the same four walls day in and day out. Remote working destinations are out there to be explored and experienced.
Whether it’s for a quick hour or an early Friday finish, time away from the computer and immersed in the local culture will not only do wonders for your mental health but will dramatically improve your productivity and creativity.
Make the Most of Your Days Off
It’s not just lunch breaks that remote workers should take seriously, days off during the week should be reserved for laptop-excluded activities. Remote working destinations, whether that’s Bali, Buenos Aires, or Berlin have plenty to offer outside of coworking spaces and affordable apartments. Whether it’s a hike in nature, a bicycle tour of the city, a wine tasting in the countryside or a visit to a museum or gallery, your time off is important and should be used to enjoy the things that you love. Weekends should be long, enjoyable, and shared with good people. Check out everything that your chosen destination has to offer, the good and the bad, and you’ll feel refreshed, motivated and productive when checking in for your next working shift.
It’s also highly recommended that digital nomads break up their work week with a half-day or full-day away from their computers during the week. Taking Wednesday away from the working week is not only a great way to beat the crowds, but to recharge, ready to tackle the second half of the week.
Summary: How Digital Nomads Stay Productive when Remote Working
Staying productive as a digital nomad when working remotely may be a difficult task, but it’s not an impossible one. There are countless tips and tricks that remote workers can use to keep focused on their work and keep burnout at bay when working on the road. From morning routines and dedicated workspaces to noise-cancelling headphones and regular break-taking, digital nomads around the world are masters of getting things done in sub-optimal conditions. Whether you’re a committed coworker, a hotel room typer or a cafe commuter, there’s a productivity tip to help you get the most out of your remote working gig.
Adam Mace is Nurall's Lead Contributing Writer and a full-time digital nomad in search of the best hikes, unique stays, and local delicacies. When he’s not exploring far-flung places he can..
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