7 tips for staying productive while working on the go
Freelance pros give their tips for living the digital nomad lifestyle
This post originally appeared on the CloudPeeps blog.
One of the beautiful things about working remotely is that it means working from absolutely anywhere, at any time. I think it’s safe to assume that’s one of the many reasons why there is 18 million independent and self-employed workers (according to MBO Partners) in the United States alone — because they have chosen the freedom of a flexible schedule, traveling as they please and living the life of a digital nomad. However, it can be a challenge to remain productive and meet deadlines while always on the go.
Having just started working remotely for the first time in years, I’ve already set plans that allow me to take full advantage of the flexibility that remote work allows, and will be travel-working quite a bit over the next couple of months.
As excited as I am to take this new digital nomad lifestyle for a spin, I’m also nervous that I’ll struggle to keep all my projects afloat outside the comfort of my normal routine. I’m sure I’m not the first to feel this way, so I did some research and found tips for traveling while working remotely. Hope you find them as helpful as I have!
1) Make a detailed plan and prep your files
“Be extra diligent about planning your “to do” list to ensure you have access to all files and information you need to complete any projects that need to be done, then share said plan with stakeholders/co-workers ahead of leaving.”
In addition to planning your work responsibilities, you should also plan your leisure activities, at least in terms of time. Not everyone likes to be on a set schedule when traveling (I don’t!). However, it’s good to ensure you don’t find yourself working all day, putting off that hike you planned, then all of the sudden it’s dark and you have no plans for that evening. Make a list of what you want to accomplish for each location, then schedule your time and activities accordingly.
2) Set push reminders for work tasks during working hours
Amrit Judge says:
“Set push notifications for work email and Slack or your chosen communication tools so that you’re constantly reminded that you’re supposed to be working.”
It’s easy to get distracted when you’re traveling, especially somewhere you’ve never been before. We suggest doing what you need to do to remind yourself that although you’re in an exciting foreign country (or Portland Airbnb or an airport), you’re still working and should be focused on fulfilling your responsibilities.
With that said, just as if you were at your home base, you need to schedule offline time too. If you’re working from 8am — 6pm and exploring during the rest of the time, turn off notifications and make sure your team knows how to contact you only if it’s urgent.
3) Master time management
Your approach to time management might look the same when traveling as it does when on your normal routine, but often times we find that whatever works at home, doesn’t work when on the go.
Kellie Barnes, freelance community manager, suggest using a set playlist to manage your time. She says:
“I have found using a set playlist helps. Mine goes for just over two hours. I find that I can focus while the music is on then take a break once it’s over and repeat or move on to side projects. It also helps keep track of my work hours if I have squeezed it in around some sightseeing.”
If you’re more into ambient sounds and can’t make it to a coffee shop, Louise Potter ofContagious suggests checking out Coffitivity to stream sounds of coffeeshops tailored to what you’re working on. Our own CEO, Kate Kendall loves listening to the sound of a fireplace combined with wind and rain with Noisli.
Personally, I’m with Kellie on the power of music when needing to focus. Check out this list I put together of bands to listen to while getting shit done.
Another way to master time management as suggested by someone on reddit is to trick yourself into focusing by leaving your computer charger at home so you have to get all of your work done within a certain timeframe.
4) Queue up emails and articles for the plane
Have an overloaded inbox or overflowing Pocket? Take your plane time to knock these out. You’ll feel accomplished before you even land at your destination. An added bonus is that this is uninterrupted think time! Take advantage of it by doing any planning or offline projects that have been sitting on your plate for way too long.
5) Take advantage of every networking opportunity
Even the most extreme introverts meet new people when traveling. Although I don’t condone immediately asking someone what they do (ever), I do suggest taking this opportunity to get to know new people who cross your path. You never know who could be a potential client or partner.
Check out local coworking spaces, visit coffee shops, ask your Airbnb hosts, baristas, and bartenders where the creatives (or whatever industry you’re in) hang out. You have the ultimate conversation starter: Ask locals what’s the one thing you need to do while visiting…they love that question!
6) Group tasks by context to reduce cognitive overhead
Jason Lengstorf suggests grouping tasks by context, meaning that rather than having one giant list of to-dos, batch them into buckets based on goals. This way, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed and more likely to focus on your most important responsibilities first.
“Rather than having one giant list of to-dos, batch them into buckets based on goals”
This approach mirrors the concept of scheduling your energy rather than your time, as proposed by Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project.
The idea, according to this Harvard Business Review article, is that “energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals — behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible.” “To recharge themselves, individuals need to recognize the costs of energy-depleting behaviors and then take responsibility for changing them, regardless of the circumstances they’re facing.”
As you can see, Jeremy’s days are broken out by how he needs to be exerting his energy, not by what he needs to get done.
7) Work like you’re going on vacation the next day
Imagine how much you’d get done if you spent every day as if you’re going to be offline tomorrow. Give this a try, especially when travel-working. You’ll get the most important tasks done earlier in the day, then be able to take time to explore and enjoy yourself.
Blurring the lines of work and play
I’ve been fortunate enough to grow in a career that I love. For that reason, work and play have always meshed into one big glob of time for me. This has become an even more prominent way of life now that I am working remotely and have a side project. I never think “oh man, I have to go work now.” I just float through life getting whatever it is that needs to be done accomplished — whether that’s actual work tasks, things that move my side project forward, time with friends, phone time with my family in Florida, etc.
I believe that our culture will move further in this direction, allowing people to pursue revenue-generating careers that they love while traveling, spending time with family, raising children, taking care of parents, and living life to the fullest. Without blurring the lines and making the most of all that way do, what’s the point?