Time Management Secrets for Digital Nomads

The perks of being a digital nomad are pretty incredible — Vinyasa Yoga classes in the afternoon, long, leisurely lunches, getting to a bar just as happy hour starts to finish out the work day with a margarita..

The downside is — you never feel like the work day is done. It’s easy to keep putting off work until later, right up until you find yourself staying up until 2am, waking up later and later each morning, or not feeling like the progress you are making is enough.

In short, being a digital nomad can be both heaven and hell.

I’m lucky to be able to take my work anywhere I travel. In 2018 I spent almost five months on the road — in Japan, Israel, Russia, China, Korea, and back in the US — here are the best tips I learned to organize my time and use it effectively:

Find a space to work in that brings you joy

1. Start your day off with a routine that makes YOU happy.

A routine is essential. But this doesn’t mean that need to wake up at 6am, drink a turmeric latte, meditate, and achieve inner peace by 6:30am.

A good morning routine is simply one that you can keep.

For me, this is a way to transition between being in rest-mode, to being in work mode. Most morning, before I head over to WeWork, or wherever else I am starting my day, I do three things:

  • Make a cup of coffee in my french press.
  • Meditate for two minutes (I want to do more, but I’m human so I keep it short, with a variation on this meditation)
  • Make a to-do list on Notion.

It doesn’t matter if the routine is large, or small, if it takes 5 minutes or an hour. It’s much easier to get started if your day has a clear start (as opposed to halfway through that YouTube video you’ve been watching all morning).

Keep a constant supply of coffee ☕

2. Sort you priorities with Kanban

Kanban is a freaking fantastic time-management technique that allows you to sort your work into just three categories — To Do, Doing, and Done.

It’s the only way I manage my daily tasks, because I live and die by my to-do list. In general, I have an extended backlog of things on To Do — ideas for future articles, daily errands like going to the post office, frameworks I want to check out (such Gatsby.js), emails, cake baking ideas, and pretty much everything else.

The Doing list is everything I want to accomplish that day — nothing else can be added until I am through all of the tasks. In addition, I can’t finish my workday until everything has been checked off. This isn’t always a perfect system — but it’s forced me to break down my work into manageable chunks and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.

In short, Kanban is a simple way of making something very abstract into something much more concrete.

3. If you really hate doing something, do it with Pomodoro

The way Pomodoro works is this: You set a timer, either on your phone or an app (I use Be Focused). Then for each interval — or pomodoro — you commit yourself to finishing a task without interruption. After the interval is over, you have a mandatory five-minute rest to check your email, read a BuzzFeed listicle, or watch a YouTube video.

I use Pomodoro to keep make sure that I don’t go down the rabbit hole of Googling with any project, as well as to feel like I am making progress.

Last year, I committed to doing 30 minutes of JavaScript each day (through Wes Bos’s Javascript30 course) and by the second month, I felt I could finally wrap my mind around arrow functions. I got better because I forced myself to do just 25 minutes a day.

For larger projects that I can’t finish in one sprint (or things like writing a post on Medium), I make myself do one pomodoro. The break in the middle is mandatory. And even if I hate doing something, I can at least push myself through it, 25 minutes at a time.

4. Embrace your surroundings.

This basically means, make sure you leave the house at least once a day. I’ve spent hours on the same window ledge at WeWork day after day and then by the end of the week, all the days begin to blend into one. Go get a coffee, take a walk, do a Barre class, swim if you’re near a beach, shuffle quietly on the street if you’re in Japan. Do one thing each day that’s not work — add it to your Kanban list if you need to (I almost always do!)

Do you have any tips about working remotely to share? Let me know below!