Staying productive is a tough challenge for anyone, even if you work from the same space every day. But what if you’re jumping workspaces every week? Every day? Every couple hours? Digital nomads and remote workers have a very unique productivity puzzle to figure out.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be working remotely full time for nearly six months now, and my desk has sometimes changed every couple days—or even every couple hours! As I’ve gone from place to place, I’ve been jotting down specific things that help me adjust to every new place and space, and I reached out to a few other digital nomads to hear their suggestions as well.
These are the five productivity strategies I've used in order to stay on track, followed by some more techniques other remote workers I've spoken to say work well for them.
I started recently planning my calendar and to-do list for the next day the evening before and have been impressed with the results. When I wake up, I don’t need to scramble to check when my next meeting is or see if I have time to run out and grab tea, I already know and can plan accordingly.
The "tomorrow list" is a straightforward productivity technique used by some of the most successful people as part of their morning routine. It's basically a to-do list with an expiration date, and it works like this:
- At the end of your day, write down the tasks you need to complete tomorrow.
- Look at the list when you start the next day.
- End your day by creating another list for tomorrow.
I recently challenged myself to have only one browser tab open at a time. It was really difficult, but I ended up getting much more done because I was hyperfocused on the task at hand.
You can try this manually, just by being more mindful of which tabs you have open. Or you can use a browser extension like OneTab, which actually prohibits you from opening more than one tab.
Set all calls for either morning or afternoon to plan the day’s workspace accordingly. I like cafes for focused work and coworking spaces with reliable Wi-Fi for calls a bit more. This is somewhat akin to the idea of "workstation popcorn":
Belle Beth Cooper explains it this way:
The idea is that you set up at various cafes, workspaces to get chunks of work done throughout the day. Workstation popcorn starts with a clear, thought-out to-do list. At each venue, you know what you’re going to work on before you get set up, so that you can jump into it immediately.
One of the great benefits of remote work is that you can often set your own hours and get your work done when you’re most productive. This has proved really helpful for me when it comes to exploring a new location.
Something that’s worked really well for me has been exploring in a two-hour window over lunch and working a bit later in the evening.
When I’m landing in a new city and looking for a great spot to work from, with power, Wi-Fi, coffee, and great vibes, I usually send out a tweet or message local friends for suggestions.
I’ve also been using workfrom.co to find great spots if I don’t already know anyone around.
And now for a few more tips from other digital nomads and remote-work veterans:
I organize a "productivity club" with friends using the personal hackathon schedule. I get more done in 12 hours of focused work with high levels of social accountability than I do most weeks of "regular" hours.
Waiting at airports, flying to a new destination, or sitting on a train can all be used to work. This way you can get some work done and spend more time exploring once you arrive. I especially do this with less interesting tasks when flying somewhere. It helps a lot with flight anxiety since I have to focus, and I’m more productive as there is usually no or very bad Wi-Fi, which means no online distractions.
Putting a rough schedule in for the day/week helps me a lot. I have a tendency to work too much, so I schedule in a short walk in the afternoon.
I try to move my body in the morning before doing anything else for grounding and focus. It gives me a great space to launch from the rest of the day.
Before traveling, I created a Google My Maps layer with cafes and potential workspaces in different areas I’d like to explore so that I can quickly travel to an area knowing I know at least one place where I can work, rather than looking around when I get there.
Try and find cafes or coffee shops that are well-lit and easy to get up and walk around in. I find that working in a place with lots of light helps to keep me awake, alert, and creative. Also, spotting a cafe or coffee shop with room to walk around allows me to stretch out my legs and get the blood flowing.
A version of this story originally appeared on Buffer. It is adapted and reprinted with permission.