Stay Productive While Traveling: 10 Tips for Digital Nomads in 2021
When I first decided I wanted to travel the world and become a digital nomad, I felt excited. I had found a lifestyle choice to give me the freedom to travel while being able to build my freelance career. Yet I wasn’t prepared for the reality of how difficult it was to stay productive.
With so many exciting things to do and interesting people to meet, it’s easy to get distracted. Rather than focusing on work, you may find yourself wanting to spend all your time exploring. Then there are the practical elements. When traveling, it can be hard to find suitable places to work, where you have online access.
It took me a few months (and a lot of trial and error!) to get the balance right and stay productive. It’s worth spending the time to find out what works best for you. When you do have it figured out, being a digital nomad is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.
Here are my Top 10 Tips for Staying Productive while traveling that I discovered along the way.
Plan ahead to stay connected
While internet connectivity has got much better, it can still be slow or none available in some places. If you are traveling to remote places, this issue can be particularly troublesome. Buying the right SIM cards and internet dongles will help you stay better connected. My internet USB was a lifesaver for long train journeys!
This is another practical consideration, but an important one. Ensure that comfort is a top priority and only carry essentials in your rucksack. This is especially useful if you will be carrying your rucksack with you for most of the time. Also, think about what equipment will help you when working. While only a small thing, I couldn’t have done without a wireless mouse. This helped prevent getting wrist strain when working on my laptop.
Create a Work Schedule
To help stay productive, I found that creating a work schedule was a great way to help me stay on track. Every couple of weeks, I would look ahead to see what deadlines I had. Not forgetting to factor in time for emails and last-minute tasks that inevitably crop up. I then worked out how many hours per day or week I needed to commit to work. By setting a schedule, and sticking to it, you will be more focused on getting things done. It’s also important to think about time zones and the location of your clients. This will mean you can reach them at appropriate times, and vice versa.
Plan your Leisure Activities
Once you have a schedule, organize your traveling and sightseeing around this plan. This will prevent distractions and give you something to look forward to. You may find that you have quieter work periods and you can spend a few days or even longer enjoying your free time. Or there may be times when work will be busy and you have less time for traveling. I found that once I had appreciated that this balance is fluid, I was happy to go with the flow.
Find a Suitable Place to Work
As a new digital nomad, I assumed as long as I had my laptop and connectivity, I would be able to work anywhere. I soon found out this wasn’t the case. During the early days, I once spent a whole afternoon in a busy café and managed to get very little work done. It was too easy to become distracted. I ended up watching people coming and going and hearing the buzz of other conversations. The constant noise and activity were disrupting my productivity and creativity. The best place to work is in a quiet café away from popular tourist areas. If you are staying in one place for a longer period of time, another good option is to rent a dedicated office space.
Create targets and deadlines to keep focused
I find that I’m always more productive when I set myself a target. If a client has a deadline for a piece of work, I aim to get it in early by a day or two. It makes me feel more relaxed knowing I’m ahead of my schedule and have extra time for fun activities. Your client will also appreciate the timeliness, which is a bonus! Give yourself rewards for when you have achieved a target. It could be anything from a food treat to watching a film - whatever will keep you motivated.
Spend a few weeks in each new place
Staying in a particular area for longer means you will have more time to explore and at a relaxed pace. You will also end up being more productive as you can create a work schedule to avoid feeling stressed. When you only have a short amount of time in a certain place, it is tempting to spend all your time exploring. Work will seem inconvenient and may take a back seat. This is understandable as you want to see everything there is to see, while you have the chance. Beware that deadlines may start to creep up and your work schedule might become harder to manage.
Focus on the here and now
One thing I wasn’t expecting when working and traveling was the feeling of guilt. When I was spending time exploring, I felt guilty that I wasn’t writing an article or responding to a client email. When I was working, I felt guilty that I wasn’t making the most of my traveling experience. Also, thinking about all the things I still wanted to do before I moved on to the next place. Once I had mastered how to balance the two, the guilt disappeared. More importantly, I started to enjoy both work and travel a lot more and became more productive as a result.
Keep a diary/notebook for ideas
Following on from the above, it’s not always easy to stay in the moment! This is when a notebook comes in handy. Whenever a creative idea or thought comes to mind, write it down to revisit later. I found this a great way to stop my mind from wandering or losing focus on the task at hand. And it meant I was never frustrated, as I never forgot any ideas I had.
Enjoy the whole experience!
When you have the balance right, you will become more productive without realizing. This is because you’ll be able to enjoy work as much as traveling, and your freelance career will benefit. Having independence and freedom while working is what being a digital nomad is all about.
Being a digital nomad is an unforgettable, exhilarating experience. It’s hard to put into words how it feels to travel the world while earning at the same time. Knowing how to stay productive while traveling means you will be able to manage your time better. This will mean less stress and more time to spend on exploring. And, of course, more time to make the most of the unique opportunities being a digital nomad brings.
Written By Kate Mark
Kate is a mid-lifer who quit a growing corporate career to reawaken her passions and her lifelong dream of traveling the world.