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Authored by Kristen Youngs 

Getting distracted from work is easy. Getting distracted from work as a digital nomad is nearly impossible to avoid.

As a full-time traveler and remote worker, you need to keep your income flowing in order to maintain your lifestyle. Avoiding all the new places, people, and food, though (at least long enough to get some work done), is tough.

Staying productive as a digital nomad is one of the most important things to be mindful of while on the road. Even though you might rather be out exploring your new location, without spending quality time with your laptop, clients, or business, you’ll be on the next flight home before you know it.

Follow these steps to get productive — and stay that way — as a remote worker. Your long-term travel lifestyle depends on it!

Productivity Tips for Digital Nomads

(How to Keep Growing Your Income While Traveling Full Time)

Learning Japenses with Rosetta Stone-001

Start Your Morning Right

I used to set my alarm for 8 AM every morning, snooze a few times, and then finally get up once I could stand to pull my eyes open. Needless to say, it wasn’t a recipe for starting a productive day.

After realizing my faults, I decided to completely turn my mornings around. Now, I wake up at 5:30 AM (no matter what), make myself coffee, and immediately sit down to start my first stint of work. Since changing my routine, I’ve never looked back.

Now, that’s not to say you should wake up at 5:30 every morning (you might be most productive at another time), but you should aim to start your day at the same time, in the same way, each time you get up. That means setting your alarm clock and starting your morning routine the first time it goes off.

You’ll find countless people advocating for their own morning routines to make you outrageously productive, but in my experience, the exact steps to your routine don’t really matter. What does matter is that you stick to the same routine — the one that makes you feel good — everyday.

Take some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, for example. People like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg both have vastly different routines. The routines they do have, though, they stick to.

Organize Your Priorities

Diary RF

Once you’ve gone through your morning routine, start your official digital nomad work day by getting organized.

One of the most important things you can do to stay productive while working remotely is set your priorities — for both the day and week — every single morning. Put them somewhere visual, whether that’s a virtual sticky note on your desktop, or a real one on your wall.

Without knowing your biggest and smallest priorities while working, you’ll be doing just that — working. You won’t, however, be producing.

We all know you can work, work, and work without ever getting anything done. By setting priorities and accomplishing specific tasks, though, you’ll be able to actually produce results from that work.

As a remote worker, a great way to keep your priorities aligned is with Asana, a project management app that lets you create projects, subtasks, and goals in a clean, visual workspace. Try it out for tracking your priorities this week.

Enhance Your Workspace

fashion-legs-notebook-working

As a digital nomad, there’s often only so much you can do to enhance your workspace. It might depend entirely on your Airbnb or hotel setup. However, if you can choose an Airbnb or apartment conducive to remote work, you’ll be far better off.

Even if your workspace doesn’t have all the right gadgets, though (or if you’re working from a coffee shop), there are still a few ways you can enhance it.

Make sure you have:

➡ A comfortable, full-backed chair, so you can sit up straight and avoid the “hunchback-slouch.”

➡ Noise cancelling headphones to eliminate distracting noise.

➡ A phone and TV-free workspace, so you’re not inclined to veer away from work.

➡ Water and healthy snacks nearby so you’re not left feeling drained from poor nutrition.

And whatever you do, avoid working from your couch or bed. Sure, it’s tempting when you’re working remotely, but it’s the worst choice you can make while trying to be productive.

Work Efficiently

The best thing I ever did for my productivity levels was start using timers. It sounds simple…because it is.

By using a time-tracking app to visually show me what to do and when to do it, though, I was able to seriously enhance my productivity levels.

My favorite technique involves the Pomodoro timer, which helps you work in short sprints combined with quick breaks.

It looks like this:

➡ 25 minutes working

➡ 5 minute break

➡ 25 minutes working

➡ 5 minute break

➡ 25 minutes working

➡ 5 minute break

➡ 25 minutes working

➡ 15 minute break

Each “chunk” of work and breaks is 2 hours long, with a longer break after each 2 hour segment. You can then repeat the timer as many times as you need.

I used to work by getting as much done for as long as I could stay focused. Then, once I lost focus, I’d push myself to keep working, but inevitably produce really poor results.

With the Pomodoro technique, I make myself take each break throughout the day, which has led to a lot more work done, and a lot better results. You’ll be surprised how much more effective you can be when your brain isn’t fried.

Whatever timing technique you use, the most important thing to remember is not to multitask. Stick to a single project within each time segment, and continue with that specific project until it’s complete.

Use the Right Apps

Computer phone RF

What would a digital nomad be without their apps? I’m sure you have tons of your own favorites. When it comes to productivity, though, too many bells and whistles can weigh you down.

Try choosing a specific set of apps with a single goal for each, and streamline all your tasks, goals, and priorities within those few. Not only will it help you stay organized, it’ll declutter your phone and laptop (not to mention your brain), too.

Great apps for productivity are:

➡  co, which lets you combine a Pomodoro timer with a to-do list, giving you a set amount of time to complete each of your tasks.

➡  Noisli, an app for creating soothing background noise designed to help you work, even in non-work-conducive places.

➡ RescueTime, an app designed to track how you spend your time online, then report back with the findings. (You might think you only spend a few minutes on Facebook each day, but when your time tracker shows you lost 5 hours to it in a single week, you might be inclined to change your habits…)

Staying Productive as a Digital Nomad

Productivity won’t happen overnight; it’s something you need to work toward. By making small changes along the way, though, these tips will become habits.

Start by focusing on your morning routine. Wake up at the same time everyday, and then do what makes you feel best. Once you feel you’ve mastered that step, move onto the next.

Within a month or so of consistently focusing on each of these productivity steps, you’ll see your work efforts soar. And the more productive you can be with your work, the more time you’ll have to travel.

TOOLS EVERY DIGITAL NOMAD NEEDS. CLICK TO AMAZON ↓

Apple 13.3″ MacBook Air Laptop

SONY ICD PX333 Digital Voice Recorder

Moleskine Classic Notebook

INSPIRED? PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS ↓

Kristen Youngs co-operates two online businesses while traveling the world full-time. Her website, One Bag Nomad, teaches other remote workers and travelers how to build their own businesses, completely location free.

    42 Comments

  1. Ya gotta start the morning right for sure Kristen. This is why I begin every day with 40 minutes of deep yin yoga. Opens my body and mind. Toss in 20 minutes of deep yin later in the day plus 1 hour of cardio and I keep my energy levels and productivity super high.

    • Impressive Ryan! I’ve started doing Yoga once a week recently, but might try and get into a daily routine since it’s helped you so much. Thanks for the insight 🙂

  2. Productivity is such a challenge for me! Thanks for these tips 🙂

    • Glad the post was helpful Lyndsay 🙂

  3. I realized pretty quickly that being able to balance work and travel is about really slowing down – there’s no way I’m able to stay productive or ever get any work done when I was whirlwinding from place to place every 3 days, I know we like to think we travel to escape the monotony of routine, but routine really is essential to getting shit done. I now try to spend at least 3-4 weeks in one place. It’s much more relaxing, lets you really set up a work space, and also means you can aim for a more immersive experience too.

    • Totally agree with you Willer, it’s really not productive to be constantly on the move when you’re also juggling remote work. The constant travel is exhausting and really catches up with you. 3-4 weeks is a pretty good balance I think 🙂

  4. I always plan for tomorrow at the end of my day to get into the right headspace. That way when I wake up I’m not scrambling and already know what’s on the agenda for the day 🙂

    • I do the same, really does help waking up with a clear idea of what’s on for the day 🙂

  5. These are really great insights, thanks for sharing! Going to try the Pomodoro timer 🙂

    • Glad Kristens tips were helpful for you Casey, I hope you have luck with the Pomodoro timer too 🙂

  6. It’s also about choosing the right work space or accommodation – so many hotels have been proven to be crazy noisy and it’s impossible to get work done if you have those type of distractions. It’s also really important to look for a place with lots of light, and of course, make sure there’s actually power! You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ve gone to set up shop and there are no outlets 🙁 It’s a learning curve!

    • Absolutely Suhanna, establishing a work space that is conducive to work is essential. Good tips on setting yourself up with a lot of light, and yes, power always helps … WiFi too! 🙂

  7. Well written. Thankyou.

    • Glad it was helpful for you 🙂

  8. Traveling full time seems like the dream on all these instagram feeds but people don’t realize the hard work behind the scenes.

    • There’s definitely a lot of hard work that goes into maintaining an online income – not everyday is spent at the beach 🙂

  9. There are few things that can waste time more than slow internet (or no internet at all). I try and get all of my tasks done that require internet first, because you really never know if it’s going to go out when you’re relying on someone elses connection. And you’re at their mercy for how quick it is to fix it. So everything like photo editing, or planning out an editorial calendar for my blog, anything that can be done without a connection I try and leave that for the end of the day … just in case 😀 … can you tell I travel through rural regions often!

    • Totally agree – I often think that slow internet is actually worse than no internet, because at least with no internet you make your peace with it and move onto other things. Lol slow internet on the other hand you waste so much time willing it to work!

      There are definitely parts of our day though that can be done without a connection, so great tip on getting the internet portion of your day out of the way when you know you have it.

  10. The struggle is real …

    • Hope these tips help to ease that struggle a bit!

  11. I keep hearing really good things about Asana – will have to check it out 🙂

    • Me too, I haven’t jumped on it yet either but every digital nomad I talk to seems to be using it!

  12. This is my ideal life.

    • Definitely achievable Lou, there are so many opportunities out there these days for anyone to be successful in creating a sustainable online income. Feel free to shoot us an email if you’re looking for tips on where to start out 🙂

  13. The biggest thing for me has been turning off Facebook push notifications haha I get distracted WAY too easily!!

    • Ah great advice. I really need to do this too!!

  14. The Pomodoro Cycle has literally saved me. Love this post, really great practical tips. Appreciate your insights!!

    • Glad to hear you’ve had success with the Pomodoro Cycle too Florencio. Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  15. Also, a really good thing is to maximize your down time. If you can try to work while on planes, in airports, in transit etc where you basically have free time and you’re not doing anything productive anyway, take advantage of that and you’ll have more time to explore or sleep off jetlag when you land.

    • I always go into my flights telling myself I’m going to get so much work out of the way, lol but then end up having a couple of glasses of wine at the airport lounge, and it never seems to go that way!! But great tip, I have huge respect to those who can manage to do it!

  16. Thanks for the Tips. It certainly takes discipline to stay focused while on the road. I find the early morning is most productive so agree with setting a routine of early rising.

    • Absolutely Alan, I’m not really a morning person myself, so when Kristen said 5.30am I did cringe lol, but I do find that morning is the most productive for me as well, my version of morning is around 9am though 😀

    • Good point, people are always different!

  17. Organization is definitely my weak point. I’m going to try the apps you mentioned. Some great tops overall, thanks!

    • Glad the post was helpful Carrie, hopefully the app recommendations do help 🙂

  18. I totally agree that the right tools are super important, especially when you’re a working nomad. You don’t want to use thousands of pieces of paper when you’re constantly on the road, you want to have everything online and be able to go back to it every time you need it. During my remote career, I’ve learned that it’s crucial to have a good to-do list. If you want to make sure you won’t lose it, I’d suggest having an online app for it. It’s even better when the app can serve more than just one purpose – for example, has a time tracking feature (another very important thing when you work remotely and travel a lot – you want to be able to easily measure the time you spend on work). The tool that has all of that and, in my opinion, can be a major help for anyone who works remotely, is Kanban Tool ( https://kanbantool.com/ ). You test it for free, so you can check yourself whether you like it or not.

    • Thanks for the tip on the Kanban Tool Karina, it does sound like a really fabulous resource, appreciate the recommendation. I really like to try and simplify everything as much as possible, so if I can use one app as opposed to 3, that’s the app I’ll choose 🙂

  19. Great tips. You have any pointers for getting clients/gigs/freelance work?

    • Glad the post was helpful Steve … Re getting clients, it’s important to define your industry and the types of opportunities you’re interested in, and then network hard within those areas. Ie Facebook forums, attend conferences and events, cold pitch, phone people etc. I’ve found the most difficult part is getting your foot in the door, but once you do that, if you prove you’re reliable, easy to work with and produce good work, your contacts then recommend you to their contacts, and you position yourself for repeat work. That’s how we’ve built a sustainable income 🙂

  20. Sooooo good! I’ve just started the journey as a digital nomad and loving it! You’ve just to stay motivated to actually get your head down and do the work!

    I’m a online marketing consultant 🙂 http://danjetelson.com

    • Congrats Dan! It’s an exciting journey for sure! Wishing you all the best 🙂

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