5 Essential Tips to Help You Succeed as a Digital Nomad
Having the freedom to see new cities and experience new cultures while being in control of their work hours is a life that many people can only dream of. For digital nomads, being able to travel the world is part of their lifestyle and is made possible by working remotely from their destination.
Living and working around the globe isn’t without its own set of challenges, however. Digital nomads can sometimes find it difficult to dedicate enough time in the day to focus on work when there is a whole city to explore and new experiences to be found. It can be hard to concentrate on your work and accomplish your tasks efficiently if you are new to being a digital nomad. When you are struggling to stay focused and maintain your work productivity, it can potentially put your entire digital nomad lifestyle at risk. If you are unable to work well remotely, you may not be able to fund your travels for long.
The secret to maintaining your digital nomad life is all about how you work. Working efficiently gives you the time to enjoy your destinations and the money to continue to support your travels. Here are five essential tips to help you succeed as a digital nomad by staying productive in your work.
1. Set up the right working environment
No matter where in the world you choose to work, your work space should be able to cue your brain that it is time for you to focus and get to work. If you typically sit in the same place to watch tv or play games as you do when you try to work, you will want to relax instead of work. Many digital nomads stay in long-term hotels, airbnbs, or rent a local apartment, and if they do not have a desk or office space it can be easy to fall into the habit of sitting down on the couch to work, relax, watch tv, and everything else. Instead of doing everything from the same space, create a work space for yourself that is dedicated to focused work and not entertainment or relaxation.
Creating an environment in which you can actually work is essential to your success as a digital nomad. This can mean very different things for different people, depending on how you work best. Some may prefer the ambient noise of a coffee shop as they work, while others might enjoy the silence of a library cubicle. Think about what environment you are most productive in, and try to work from similar locations. You don’t always have to work from the same coffee shop, but if you make a routine out of drinking a latte and hearing the chatter of other customers, it can help get you into work mode. Doing this will also help to signal your brain that it’s time to focus when you are in this work setting, making it easier for you to get down to work faster.
Many digital nomads work from coworking spaces, which can be found in most major cities around the world. Cowork offices typically offer a collaborative workspace in a common area and a quiet space with individual desks or tables, so you have the option of working near others or on your own. If you are unable to work from your living space or simply can’t focus there, you might want to check out some of the coworking spaces in your area. Often they have coffee available, so if you can’t work without a caffeine rush, you don’t have to head to a cafe to get your fix.
If you find that you work best in a certain type of location, such as coffee shops for example, feel free to explore the city by working from a variety of coffee shops. You don’t need to always work from the exact same space, it’s your optimal work environment that you want to identify. For digital nomads who move between cities often, getting into the habit of experiencing the city this way can make it easier for you to acclimate when you move to a new location. Figure out what your best work environment is, and try out a variety of locations that suit your needs.
2. Eliminate your distractions and resist your bad habits
Digital nomads may struggle more with creating the right working environment because they move around more and change locations often compared to people who are stationary. You might not be able to set up a home office or an at-home workspace in every location you visit, but you can solve this issue and help your brain shift into focused work by eliminating distractions.
Identify the potential distractions in your workspace and do what you can to remove them. If you can't focus with background noise, pack noise-canceling headphones to use whenever you sit down to work. Putting them on will help you turn off distractions no matter where you are, whether that is a crowded flat in Colombia or a busy Vietnam airport coffee shop.
If you can’t help checking your phone every time you hear it go off, set it to silent. If you absolutely must respond when messages come in, dedicate time to responding to messages and then set it to silent for twenty minutes so you can focus on other tasks.
Some distractions may be your own bad habits that you need to consciously work on minimizing. Perhaps you stop work often to have a snack or to scroll through social media. Whatever habits you have that are interfering with your productivity, identify them and make a real effort to focus on your work. Get yourself organized before starting work by getting everything you might possibly need, whether that’s a glass of water, a snack, or your laptop’s power cable. Having everything within reach takes away all of the potential excuses you could come up with to distract yourself.
3. Work from somewhere new
Even when you create a workspace without distractions and resist the temptation of your bad habits, you can experience times when you just can’t seem to pay attention to your work. In these cases, try working from somewhere new. A change of scenery might be just what you need to get out of your unproductive slump.
If you commonly work from home, or wherever home may be for you right now, try going out to a local cowork space for a few days and being around other people. This gets you out of the house, meeting other digital nomads and giving you a chance to network with people who have a similar lifestyle or perhaps a similar line of work. Being around others who are working can help you get back into work mode.
Even coffee shops can get boring after a while, so spend some time outside working from a park instead. Sometimes a change of environment can help inspire you to focus on your tasks.
When you always work from the same space, or from a similar type of space such as coffee shops, it signals your brain that it’s time to get to work. After a while, if you’re feeling overworked or unmotivated, being in that setting can cause you to lose focus and put off work tasks. Jolt your brain out of that habit by switching up your work environment. This works best if you try to choose a space that is opposite from your routine. If you are always in a quiet space by yourself, opt for a space around other people who are chatting or working. If you are always inside, work out on a patio or live the laptop lifestyle and work poolside.
4. Create your optimal work day
Not only do you need to make an important decision about where you work, but you also need to decide when you will work. For some digital nomads, they must be available during office hours for the company that employs them. For others who freelance, work hours are their own to choose.
If you have the option of setting your own hours, learn what time of day you are able to focus best. If you are most productive in the morning, plan on heading to a cafe after you wake up for some coffee and a few hours of work.
If you must be working during set hours, this isn’t something that you can easily change. For these digital nomads, it can be helpful to be online when required, during meetings and phone calls for example, and any additional work hours spent on individual tasks can be scheduled during the hours when you do your best work.
The important thing with creating your optimal work day is to create a schedule around when you do your best work, and then create a routine that leaves time for breaks. There are many different techniques on working in time chunks; the pomodoro technique is a popular method that involves working for twenty-five minutes, then taking a short five minute break. After four work periods, you take a longer break, up to half an hour. These regular short breaks give you the opportunity to get more water, stretch your legs, return a personal call, or whatever else might normally be something that takes you away from your work. Knowing you have a break coming up also allows you to put off distractions until your twenty-five minute work period has ended. This keeps you focused and productive on the task at hand, and helps you to get more work done.
5. Maintain a healthy work life balance
Taking breaks is important to maintain your productivity, even though that may seem counterintuitive. Having a good work life balance allows you to enjoy your time off and focus when you are at work. The more efficient you can be while at work, the more time you will have to explore the various cities you find yourself in. Make a real effort toward taking regular breaks, or your work quality can suffer and so will your motivation.
Look for events you can attend when you reach a new city. Many cowork spaces host networking events for digital nomads, and there are often Facebook groups for digital nomads in large cities to connect and meet up. Having people and local events nearby can help you step away from your laptop for a little while and enjoy the digital nomad life, giving you a much-needed break and helping to keep you motivated when you return to work.
Digital nomads may inspire envy from others due to their exciting life of travel and remote work, but they also face their own challenges. Achieving success as a digital nomad hinges on being able to provide quality work as efficiently as possible, so you can enjoy your surroundings and your travels. Choosing an appropriate workspace and working to eliminate your distractions, whatever they may be, can help you focus on the tasks at hand. Knowing when you work best is just as important as where you work best, so make sure you design a work schedule that allows you to get your most focused, quality work done. Creating a routine with adequate breaks and searching for local events to attend will make it easier for you to maintain a good work life balance.
The digital nomad lifestyle comes with many freedoms, including the freedom to set your own schedule and the freedom to decide where you will work from. If you can design a work day for yourself that takes advantage of the time of day you are most focused and the environment in which you work best, you will find that you are much more efficient with getting your work finished. Follow these five essential tips to help you succeed as a digital nomad and you will have more time to explore and enjoy the destinations you visit.