The beauty of the digital nomad lifestyle is the freedom it provides digital nomads to make their schedule and choose their work. It allows for more effortless movement and the ability to travel; however, it requires more behind-the-scenes work than it gets credit for these days. Sometimes, it feels as if there is no time for organizing your belongings, much less your schedule. To be a successful digital nomad, productivity levels need to be high. To be productive, effective time management and organizational skills are essential.
So how can the unorganized digital nomad stay productive? Some sound advice is to focus on these five things:
1. Find your passion, then make it your mission
2. Secure an appropriate working space
3. Purchase high-quality equipment
4. Implement a routine
5. Reduce distractions so you can focus
WHAT KIND OF PRODUCTIVITY DOES A DIGITAL NOMAD NEED?
Ultimately a digital nomad’s productivity all boils down to self-discipline, which requires a level of self-awareness. Not everyone has this quality, and it is not the most straightforward concept to teach someone, but there are a few surefire ways to move this process along. Self-discipline is what allows digital nomads to lead the lifestyle they desire. Most of them are already willing to take a leap of faith by creating a life for themselves that is not dependent on working for someone else or being forced into a confining work schedule. They take the road less traveled.
The next logical step for the digital nomad is being able to harness the freedom to create and make original creations, despite having an abundance of free time. Free time can be useful, but it can be dangerous if there isn’t a set plan in place for this new lifestyle.
Even if you feel you are super disorganized, being disciplined in just a few areas will make some significant improvements over time. It is worth it to get tough with yourself so that you can make some progress and have less stress. Let’s outline them.
THE FIVE BASICS TO GET INTO PLACE
Instead of giving you an overwhelming laundry list of “to-dos,” we’ve compiled a basic list of 5 things we think are absolutely essential to productive digital nomad success.
1. FIND YOUR PASSION, THEN MAKE IT YOUR MISSION
We know, it’s a little cliché, but passion is truly the foundation for a successful career. Typically, digital nomads already have this one in check because they chose a riskier lifestyle over safety to pursue their passions full time.
If you’re already sure of your passion and ready to live it, sleep it, breathe it, and eat it, then you are off to a great start! If you are a digital nomad just starting out or on the fence of this lifestyle, make sure you take some time to reflect on what you want out of the lifestyle. Is this something you want to do because you love it and want to devote your life to it?
Or do you want this lifestyle for the free time it can give you? Be very honest with yourself. The saying “if you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life” is correct. The rest of the details will ideally fall into place if your work stems from a place of excitement and inspiration!
2. SECURE AN APPROPRIATE WORKING SPACE
Once the foundation is laid, the next step is creating an environment that will cultivate success. Start with a great working space that encourages creativity and productivity. Digital nomads can tighten up their finances by nixing money spent on a commute to the office. I wrote an article The Best Workspaces (Office, Co-Working, Café) for the Digital Nomad Entrepreneur and this will help you to evaluate a proper workspace according to your needs.
Your workspace needs to be created that acts as a foundation or a home base. When you step into this space, it needs to be associated with work- it should help you compartmentalize your life.
It doesn’t mean you need to create a sterile office environment or build your cubicle. Going back to the idea of self-awareness and trial-and-error, creating the ideal space for you might take some introspection. What is your work ethic, and what makes the most sense for you based on your personality type? It is not going to look the same across the board. If you want to work from a cafe effectively, check out my article Tips for Finding the Perfect Cafe to Work From to give you some solid ideas.
Regardless, your workspace should be comfortable and inviting. Make sure you are sitting UP somewhere in this space, whether that be at a traditional desk, a treadmill desk, a yoga ball, whatever. Laying down generally does not work, as it convinces us we are in relaxation mode.
Good light is key. As much as it would be great to work at the beach every day in the sunlight, making sure you have a good light source. It is vital for long-term functionality. If working at Make sure your office space has a light source such as an overhead light or nearby lamp. For those of you who want to know if it really is possible to work on the beach, check out my article Can a Digital Nomad Really Work on the Beach? for the answer and some guidelines of how to do it so that you can really get some work done.
Silence is ideal. Most people cannot do their best work in loud areas. If you have to go to a crowded area to work, bring headphones to block sounds. If you create your own office space, consider a room with a door, you can shut if you are living with others.
3. PURCHASE HIGH-QUALITY EQUIPMENT
Your productive office space is not complete without some high-quality equipment to supplement it. It is crucial for your equipment, namely a laptop and a smartphone, are up-to-date in their software and processing systems. It seems like a no-brainer, but digital nomads should make sure their ducks are in a row when it comes to equipment because they might be traveling to different locations far away from home or convenient stores with technology products.
Your equipment should be built to last, so don’t cut corners on this one. Your laptop and smartphone should have long-lasting battery lives, or you should purchase portable batteries and chargers just in case you aren’t near an outlet. Headphones or headsets are fabulous for hopping on conference calls. Arguably the most critical piece of equipment is good, fast WIFI or a portable hotspot.
Again, you’re far less likely to use your time wisely if you’re wasting your time fiddling with the Internet connection. These components were made to make your life more convenient. They should be an easy, reliable part of your work.
4. IMPLEMENT A ROUTINE
We know, if you’re a digital nomad, chances are you chose this profession because you hate routines. However, some semblance of a routine, big or small, is necessary for good work. We are not saying you need to work 8 hours a day and clock in and out at a particular time, but rather, implement devoted periods that work for you at times of the day you have proven to be most productive.
Try to get up around the same time to start your day to activate your body clock. Find activities that stimulate you in the morning, such as starting your day watching the news, working out, or meditating. This part will look different for everyone. You don’t want to be sleeping at irregular hours or randomly deciding when you’ll get work done that day, it will not allow you to be productive and instead will cause more struggle in the long run as your work output decreases.
Make a list of things that must get done each day, and break up assignments into chunks. Work smarter, not harder! Spreading tedious work out over the week can help you tackle it more efficiently and saves you the stress of last-minute cramming.
The best part of routines is crossing tasks off when you finish them! We recommend keeping a planner, whether that be a physical calendar, a planning app on your phone, or a to-do list on your computer. Or a mix of all of these. You are your own boss, so you have to hold yourself accountable.
5. GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS
Create a clear-cut work mode and a play/relaxation mode for yourself. The best way to do this is to rid your workspace of any distractions. Again, self-discipline is critical here. As much as you want to play your favorite Netflix show in the background while you work, all this will do is set you further back in the production of work. Also, unless your work requires the management of social media accounts for your clients or yourself, turn your phone on silent or do not disturb to mute those annoying notifications.
CONCLUSION – SUCCESS A DAY AT A TIME
Every digital nomad has to start somewhere. The most successful are the ones who devote every day to their work. Consistency is vital in starting a business or becoming a freelancer. It can be hard work at times and might cost you a lot of time and money when just starting. However, these investments can make you or break you. That is why it is so important, no matter how unorganized you may be, to follow these steps to lay a rock-solid foundation for your new business. They are easy to apply with a little strategy and dedication. The harder and more efficiently work each day, the closer you can get to building your long-term work vision. And remember- it’s not always easy- if it were, everybody would be doing it!
I’m the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I’m location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.