Digital Nomad Tools That Have Boosted My Remote Work Productivity
I’ve been working online for the last 7 years as a freelance writer. During that time, I’ve traveled to over 50 different countries and had countless amazing experiences. One of the biggest challenges I have struggled with is managing my time and increasing my productivity — but I’ve found some digital nomad tools that help.
I’ve found it particularly challenging, as I’m not naturally an organised or methodical person. My brain tends to leap around like an excited 5 year old, flitting from idea to idea. I am deadline driven, which means that my natural instinct is to mess around until right before the deadline, then freak out and go into hyper-drive to get things done. That’s not only the most stressful way to work, it’s also not the most suited to creating work of high quality.
Plus, it’s really hard to be your own boss. You have to be the only source of discipline in your life. Even when you really want to hit the snooze button or watch some videos of cats getting frightened by cucumbers you have to be the one to tell yourself to get back to work.
In this post I will share some of the tools, apps and resources that I use on a daily basis to make myself more productive and help me get more done. Some may be helpful only for writers, but others can be applied to any remote career where you need to manage your own time.
These are all apps and tools that I actually use every day. Most of them help me to either keep all of my 37,849 tasks organised or keep my hyperactive brain focused on one thing at a time, which are my biggest struggles. I’ve tried many more, but these are the digital nomad tools that have stuck and have really helped me.
Whether you are a writer, marketer, graphic designer, content manager, translator, blogger, online teacher, or even a website developer — these tools will help you do what you do more productively.
I absolutely love the way Trello is laid out. It is an organisational tool and project management system and it just clicks with my visually-oriented brain. It allows you to create a “card” for each task, then organise them into columns. You can add checklists to each card, assign the card a due date and move around your cards freely. It’s so versatile and it’s a fantastic way to see everything that needs to be done at a glance when you are working on a large project.
I have a Trello board for Global Goose that contains everything I am currently working on for the blog. I have columns for “Blog Post Ideas”, “Blog Posts Currently in Progress” etc. I have the Trello app on my phone so that whenever I come up with a blog post idea, I can just add it to the board so that I don’t forget.
I also use it for collaboration with clients, as it is really easy to add multiple people to a board and make comments and assign tasks. Best of all, it’s free!
Do you ever tell yourself, “I’ll just take a look at this one article real quick…” then find yourself 3 hours later lost down a rabbit hole of interesting wikipedia pages or intriguing Youtube videos?
The truth is that it is extremely easy to waste time online. Social media websites and the most addictive sites such as Buzzfeed are specifically designed by very smart people to keep you clicking, reading and watching for as long as possible.
So, sometimes you need a little bit of extra help to close down the distractions and get focusing. That’s what Rescuetime does — it’s a program that will allow you to block distracting websites.
It also tracks everything you do on your computer and presents your day’s activity to you in a beautiful and detailed series of graphs. Have you ever heard the saying, “the things we measure are the things we improve?” It really is true. When you look at your day and you realize that you actually spent 1.6 hours messing around on Facebook out of a 6 hour workday, you start to be much more conscious of that time and think about how you could use it more effectively.
I absolutely bloody adore Google Docs. I’m writing this post in a Google Doc right now. It’s one of my favourite digital nomad tools and it’s what I use for all of my freelance writing work as well as my personal writing projects. Here are some of the things I love about it:
- Everything is saved in the cloud so I can switch to working on another computer seamlessly.
- If my computer were to be lost or stolen, I wouldn’t lose any work.
- It saves automatically — no need to compulsively press Crtl-S like I used to when I worked on Microsoft Word.
- It has beautiful templates that you can use to create professional looking documents.
- Clients or collaborators can leave feedback right in the document itself, which makes it so much easier when going back and forth with several rounds of edits.
- If you are collaborating with someone, you can both work on the document at the same time and all of your changes will be saved automatically in real time.
Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Method? It’s pretty simple. When you want to get something done, you:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- When the timer starts, focus on that one task and only that task until the timer stops.
- Take a 5 minute break.
It really works for me, because the amount I can get done in a 25 minute burst of focused work is often more than I can get done in an hour of distracted work. Plus, saying that you will focus on a task without getting distracted for 25 minutes is much more manageable than telling yourself you will focus for the entire day. It’s like running short sprints for your mind. If you get the urge to check your email, you can just tell yourself, “I’ve only got 11 minutes left, I’ll check my email then.”
This is another fantastic app that I use every day. It’s pretty simple, it’s just a note-taking app that syncs between your phone and your desktop. But it’s one of the more powerful digital nomad tools and there are many little ways that I use it to make my life and my work easier. For example:
- When I see an interesting blog or article I want to keep and reference later, I can “clip” it to my Evernote account.
- When pitching for freelance work I keep a basic template cover letter than I tweak and customise for each client saved in my Evernote.
- I have a list of “Books I Want to Read” and every time someone recommends a book to me that sounds interesting, I can quickly whip out my phone and add it to the list before I forget.
- I also keep a list of “Books I Have Read” so that I can track my reading progress and refer back to them later.
- When I’m on the road or on a travel adventure, I quickly jot down point form notes on my phone in Evernote. When I’m writing the blog post later I can get the notes up easily on my computer.
- I also use it to keep track of my savings and save monthly financial snapshots of how I am doing.
The cool thing about Evernote is that it is really versatile, so you can use it in the way that suits you.
I have found Google Forms to be a very useful tool for collecting guest post submissions for my blog.
You can see it in action here. (click the link on that page to the form to view it, under “How to Submit a Guest Post”)
Feel free to look through the form to see how I laid it out. The advantages are:
Google forms is free to use and super easy and intuitive. I customized it with my own layout and questions.
- I get an email notification every time someone submits a post.
- The form looks professional and is easy for guest posters to fill out.
- I make sure that each guest post submission has the info I need to know in order to decide right away whether to publish it- no emailing back and forth.
- I can view all of my guest post submissions at once in a Google Sheet. So, I can see guest post title, word count, the guest poster’s blog, etc all at a glance. This saves time when accepting or rejecting them.
Since I implemented this the volume of guest post submissions I have gotten has increased. (Probably because the form is so appealing and easy to fill out.) I’ve been able to accept the ones that are a good fit faster and get them published on the blog, adding a greater variety of quality content to my publishing calendar.
It doesn’t have to be just used for guest posts. You could use it to do surveys, collect information about your readers, obtain information from clients who want to hire you — it’s one of the best totally versatile (and free!) digital nomad tools.
I find that one of the things that boosts my productivity the most is to put on some huge headphones and drown the world out with concentration music. I like atmospheric, instrumental music that does not contain any lyrics, so that I don’t get distracted by them. When I am listening to the right music, I can get into a “concentration zone” where time just flows by and I don’t think about anything else. When I am in the zone, I can write between 800–1000 words in less than an hour — everything just flows out of my brain onto the screen.
My monthly Spotify subscription pays for itself many times over because the music really does help me concentrate and get more done. However, I fell in love with Spotify even more when they started offering me my “Daily Mix.”
I used to listen to “Focus” and Concentration” playlists (Productive Morning and Deep Focus are my favourites). However, since I was listening to them every day it started to get repetitive. The Daily Mix is so much better — it’s an endless playlist filled with your favourite tracks as well as songs that Spotify thinks you will like based on your listening history. The more you listen to Spotify, the more it gets to know your tastes.
Plus, it’s different every day! So I don’t have to listen to the same playlist again and again. And, I don’t get distracted by putting together my own playlists when I am supposed to be working!
If you were to go to Facebook on my browser right now, you wouldn’t see a news feed. Instead, you would just see a blank space and an inspiring quote about getting stuff done.
That’s because I use a Google Chrome extension called Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator to get rid of my feed. Because I know that if it was there, I would scroll through it mindlessly. It’s the distraction equivalent of not keeping junk food in your cupboard because if it is there, you will eat it.
Which Digital Nomad Tools Do You Use?
Deciding to work remotely was one of the best decisions I have ever made and it has given me the freedom to travel the word and have some truly incredible experiences. However, in order to be productive and successful, I’ve had to learn how to stay organised and disciplined. I have found these digital nomad tools very helpful over the years — I hope they will also help you to get more work done and achieve success.
Do you have any other digital nomad tools that you use to get work done? Let me know in the comments below!
Originally published at global-goose.com on October 21, 2017.