For me, working as a freelancer is my ideal lifestyle. Although I currently have a permanent home base, I love being able to change locations or travel whenever I want. I’ve always valued my personal freedom as one of the most important things in my life. And a working nomad lifestyle allows more control over that.
While I’m home, being productive isn’t so much of a problem. I have my routine and I stick to it pretty well. Sometimes I might sleep an extra hour in the mornings or have a bad day and put work off until tomorrow, but I’m only human.
When I’m traveling, it’s much more challenging to stick to a routine and schedule and, as a result, I sometimes see a decline in my productivity. With so many places to explore and so many people to meet, who wants to work? But we must motivate ourselves! We must pull through and remember that working allows us to be where we are right now. It allows us to travel.
With that being said, I’ve done my fair share of research on productivity tips and tricks, tried many, kept some, and tossed others in the trash. While some productivity tips might work perfectly for one person, they can be totally wrong for another. I suggest trying these tips out to see which ones work for you and which ones don’t!
Here are 29 ideas for increasing productivity as a working nomad:
1. Set a Schedule
When I first started freelancing, I was super excited that I could decide my own schedule and I just worked whenever I found time during the day. Some days I would start early and end around 5 P.M. while other days I started at noon and worked until 2 A.M. I quickly became overwhelmed. Now I always aim to start working by 8 A.M. I take a short break for lunch and finish when I complete my to-do list, which is usually around 5 P.M.
2. Get an Early Start
As I mentioned, I start working at 8 A.M. I’ve found that I’m much more productive in the mornings. By 8 A.M. I’ve already gone to the gym, gotten ready for the day, and eaten breakfast. With the whole day ahead of me, I feel inspired and ready to get started on my work. It’s not always easy to get up at 6 A.M., but the hardest part is actually getting out of bed. From there, it’s not so bad.
3. Get Ready for the Day
I used to love rolling out of bed and working in my PJs, or even just staying in bed and working from there. But was I productive? No. I felt super comfortable but I also had the constant urge to lounge around, take a nap, or watch “just one episode” of whatever series I happened to be binge-watching on Netflix at the time. Now, I do my hair, makeup, and get dressed before I even sit down to work. It sends a message to my brain that I need to be in work mode, and not relaxation mode.
4. Work in an Actual Workspace
It can be a little difficult to find a dedicated workspace while traveling, but it’s definitely possible! If you’re staying in a hostel, you could work in the common area instead of in the hostel bed. If you’re staying in a hotel or Airbnb, try to reserve a room or apartment that has a work desk or at least a kitchen table. Alternatively, many towns and cities have a variety of cafés with wifi, which offers a great workspace as well as a fantastic way to people watch and experience the culture a little bit.
5. Avoid Distractions
I get distracted super easily, between my phone, the noise outside, and thinking about everything I have to do that day. I try and train my mind to focus on one task at a time and I do my best to minimize possible distractions before I sit down to work. If there’s something small I need to do during the day, I’ll do it before so that it’s one less thing on my mind.
6. Take Breaks
When we’re overwhelmed with work, we can sometimes feel like taking a break will hinder our productivity, but that’s not true. Breaks give our mind a rest, which helps it function better and, in turn, making us more productive. A five or ten-minute break is perfect. During this time, I usually do some cleaning, read something, or go for a short walk.
7. Treat Yo’self & Envision it
Reward yourself for concentrating on work. It doesn’t have to be a huge reward; it can be something small and simple as long as it motivates you to focus. I usually reward myself with watching an episode of a show, buying a coffee, or hanging out with friends. It forces me to focus on what I’m doing and finish it as soon as possible so that I can claim my prize.
8. Put Your Phone on Do Not Disturb
Do Not Disturb is a great setting. It doesn’t light up or make any sounds when you get notifications and it allows you to work without being distracted. If I’m feeling especially distracted, I’ll even put my phone out of arm’s reach so I don’t feel tempted to check it. Phones can be super helpful but they can also be our worst enemy.
9. Create an Organized and Realistic To-Do List
Creating a to-do list is key to planning out your day and seeing what you should complete. It’s also important to prioritize from most important to least important. Make sure your list is realistic! Don’t write down absolutely everything that you could accomplish in the day or you’ll just be stressed out and overwhelmed. Instead, write down things you need to complete and that you can realistically accomplish within your work time.
10. Change it Up
If you can, change up the tasks your working on. When I write, I often change from writing to editing or I start to work on a different article for a little while. It makes the day more interesting and helps me press the restart button on my mind.
11. Prioritize Socializing
While it might seem strange to prioritize socializing over work, it’s key for someone who works from home or is traveling. If you’re working from home, chances are you’re alone for most of the day. Socializing helps you clear your mind and is excellent for your mental health. If you’re traveling and spend all the time working, you’re probably going to begin to feel uninspired and forget why you even began living a working nomad lifestyle in the first place. However, it’s important to keep a balance, maybe a go on a coffee date or spend a few hours out of the house instead of the whole day.
12. Plan for Tomorrow at the End of the Day
Nothing helps me feel more organized and ready in the morning than having a to-do list ready for me. That way, I can start right into the tasks that I need to do and start the day with a clear head.
13. Go to Twitter for Suggestions
If you’re traveling, you might not know which cafés are cool. While it often works just walking around and choosing a café, that’s not always the case. I found out this wasn’t the truth when I went to a trendy café in Boston only to find out it was trying to bring back the wifi-free café days. Tweeting can help you get awesome suggestions from locals and save you the time of wandering the streets!
14. Use the Pomodoro Cycle
The Pomodoro Cycle has literally saved me. Ever since I’ve started using it, my productivity has improved nearly 143% (a made-up number but a good estimate). Basically, you choose a specific amount of time (usually 30-45 minutes is good), set a timer, and focus on one specific task for that time. No distractions, no checking your email, no moving on to other tasks. Once the timer goes off, you take a break for 5-10 minutes and repeat the cycle. After four cycles, you take a longer break, about 15-20 minutes. Focusing on a task for 45 minutes seems so much more realistic and painless than focusing on it for hours.
15. Work During Travel Time
Try to work while on planes, in airports, or on buses in order to maximize the free time you have at your destination! Since you’re really not going to be doing much in these places anyway, it’s a great idea to take advantage and you’ll thank yourself later when you have more time to explore.
16. Natural Light
Working in a space with a lot of natural light can make a huge difference. I hate working under fluorescent or horrible artificial lights- they stress me out and give me a headache. Natural sunlight lifts my mood and makes me more productive as a result. My second choice is soft café lighting.
17. Make Time for Yourself
I cannot stress this point enough! Making time for yourself is incredibly important. Twice a week, I force myself to go to yoga class. Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga and I usually look forward to going. But if I’m feeling overwhelmed with work or just tired, I never allow myself to skip it. It forces me to take an hour out of my day to just focus on myself and my health and to relax my mind. It doesn’t have to be yoga for you- it could be something like going to a café and reading your favorite book or going for a walk.
18. Try a Co-working Space
While co-working spaces aren’t for everyone, they can definitely be a great option for increasing your productivity. Surrounding yourself with other motivated, working nomads can inspire you to be just as motivated. More and more cities are offering co-working spaces, with options for daily and monthly passes and a variety of option to fit your needs.
19. Social Accountability
A similar idea to going to a co-working space, creating or joining a group where other people hold you accountable for not being productive can be a great option. Just search online, there are tons of Facebook groups and you could even form your own group.
Personally, I work really well in cafés (like right now). But it’s not always possible to go to one and sometimes it’s just more convenient to work in my house. Coffitivity is one of my favorite sites. You can pay for a premium membership, but the free version is just fine. Basically, it’s just a playlist with café sounds- people chatting in the background, chill music, etc. It adds an upgrade to my workspace and increases my concentration.
Exercise is crucial to increasing your productivity, especially if you’re sitting all day. It keeps you healthy and your mind likes to be productive when it’s happy. If you’re traveling, try seeing if a local gym sells day passes, go for a walk or jog in the park, or join a yoga class.
22. Be Strict About Your Work Time
When you’re working, dedicate yourself to working and don’t let other people distract you. When you work from home or as a digital nomad, it’s hard for others to understand that you still have a schedule. Unless a really amazing opportunity presents itself, try to concentrate only on your work during your working hours.
23. Check Your Email Less
I’m the type of person that mindlessly checks my email once or twice an hour. In fact, I’m currently fighting the urge to stop mid-sentence and check it right now. However, checking it so often isn’t necessary. Try and limit yourself to 4 times a day (or less if you can!).
24. Travel Slow
As I’ve said in other posts, I’m a huge fan of slow travel. Taking your time in a new place is the best way to really experience it. Plus, when you stay longer in a place, working won’t prevent you from experiencing the culture and seeing everything you want to see. Instead of switching places on a weekly basis, try staying in a new place for 3-4 weeks.
Right along with regular exercise, regular meditation keeps your mind happy and your motivation up. Even just ten minutes a day can make a huge difference. Try challenging yourself to do it every morning. Admittedly, I’m super lazy about meditation. Forming a meditation habit is permanently on my to-do list but it hasn’t worked out so far. Social accountability group anyone?
26. Work in an organized environment
As a very disorganized person, I’ve learned that organization is really important for productivity. It sounds cliché but an organized space really does help organize your mind.
27. Start with the most difficult task
There’s always one task that I dread doing, so I start my day with that one. It motivates me to know that, once I’m done, my day will start getting easier and I can begin working on tasks that are more enjoyable.
28. Don’t overwork yourself
Even when I’m overwhelmed with work, I often find myself searching for more work. You know, just to see what’s out there. I also have a hard time saying no when I’m offered decent work. But we have to learn! If you’re overworked, you’re just going to feel stressed out and hopeless. Make sure to maintain a healthy balance between your personal life and your work life and think carefully about whether you can really handle more before saying yes.
29. Use Apps That Block Access to Social Media
If you mindlessly check Facebook or other websites for no reason, try an application like Offtime or FocusMe. I don’t personally use these apps, but I’ve heard that they can be a huge help for digital nomads who can’t help but click “New Tab” while they’re in the middle of a task.
What productivity tasks work for you? Which ones don’t? Let me know below!