5 Ways to Stay Productive While Working Remotely or as a Digital Nomad

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve been dreaming of leaving your regular 9-5 and heading out into the world for a while. If you’ve finally taken the plunge to live a more flexible and fulfilling life, congratulations! It can be incredibly liberating to work remotely, whether for yourself or for a company. But with this new-found freedom can come some stress and uncertainty- at least it did for me. 

While I was able to quit my job and come to Europe to travel and work, the first few weeks were stressful. I felt a bit lost and aimless. I was sleeping in too late and there was absolutely no structure to my day. Some days I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, and some days I was doing way too much (like working for 10 or more hours). It took a little while but eventually, I got into the swing of things. I am now much happier working remotely and feel more stress-free. There is more structure to my day and I am feeling much more productive. The next thing to tackle will be scaling down my workday, but more on that later.

If you are new to working remotely, the infinite freedom can actually be detrimental. If you are feeling unmotivated and unproductive, this guide to staying productive while on the road will help you. With some small changes, you can ease into your new role as a digital nomad or remote worker.

Get Into A Routine

One thing my boyfriend and I always said to each other before we quit our jobs was how we couldn’t wait to never set an alarm for work ever again! When we settled into our flat in Berlin, we did just that – and ended up regretting it. We were rolling out of bed at ten or even eleven! This is so unlike us and made us feel really icky. In our defense, we were having a really hard time falling asleep every night which made it harder to wake up in the morning. But by the time we would actually get out of bed, we felt that half our day was already gone. 

Now, we aim to be out of bed by 9:00. We have our morning coffee, maybe watch one episode of a show, and get to work. We work for a few hours, and then go outside for a walk and sightseeing, or go grab lunch, or go to our nearby cafe to work for a change of scenery. Then we will make dinner, and do some more work. We sometimes work late into the evening, but only if we have taken a longer break during the day.  We have a daily routine that feels good now, and it helps us accomplish a lot more work.

So, make sure that just because you are working remotely, you aren’t becoming lazy! Try to have a set wake up time, and set working hours. Of course, the great thing about working for yourself is that your set working hours can be into the evenings if you are more productive at that time, or earlier in the morning. Or they can change as you need them to – you are in control now! Getting into a daily routine has without a doubt been the biggest challenge for me, but also the tip that has helped me the most in becoming more productive with my time.

Get Out of the House

This ties into forming a daily routine, but if your daily routine involves sitting inside all day, your brain will turn to mush! It is so important that you take breaks from not only your work but also your working environment. One perk of having an office job is you are forced to separate work from home. This isn’t the case for remote workers. When you work from home, it is especially difficult to separate work life from private life.

This is true even if you are working from a flat or hotel room abroad. Work and home life can become one big blur. So make sure that at some point in the day, you get outside. Go for a walk, have lunch with a friend, go to the market, go to a yoga class – anything! Getting out of the house will also get you interacting with other people. When you work remotely, oftentimes you are working only by yourself with the occasional virtual meeting or client call thrown in. We sometimes forget how valuable human interaction can be, so make a point of not only getting out of the house every day but also interacting with others.

Get Dressed

Ok, this may sound silly but hear me out. As remote workers, a lot of the time we are sitting at home while typing away on our laptops. Since we are home all day, what’s the point of getting changed out of our comfy clothes and into an actual outfit? I know how tempting it can be to stay in your pajamas or sweats all day long, but you need to get dressed. PJs are synonymous with being cozy and comfy and to be frank, lazy. PJs are great for lazy rainy Sundays spent watching Netflix – not for getting work done. 

Once you get dressed, you begin to feel more motivated. If you were feeling sluggish or lazy, being in a proper outfit can help lift you out of that mindset. You don’t need a button-up blouse and dress pants when you’re working from home. Even a simple t-shirt and jeans can help take you from relax mode to work mode. When you save the comfy clothes for relaxing and change into real clothes for your workday, you will start to feel more empowered and motivated to get stuff done. 

Have a Designated Work Zone

When you work remotely, odds are you are working from home (unless you have a co-working membership, in which case you already have your designated work zone!). Because of this, it can be so easy to get stuck in bed or flop onto the couch with your laptop. There are a couple of reasons why doing this is a bad idea, however. For one thing, your brain sees being in bed or lying on the couch as a form of relaxation. It will start to wander and wonder why you aren’t binging your latest Netflix obsession instead of getting actual work done. 

Working from bed or the couch is not just a mental deterrent, it is also a physical one. There’s a reason why office workers use ergonomic chairs and desks. It’s because sitting at a desk all day and typing can be very hard on your body. Now imagine how hard it is on your body to be laying in an awkward position for hours trying to get work done! Sitting on a soft bed or couch is in no way good for your back and your spine. You need a proper desk and chair to be as ergonomic as possible. Your body will thank you in the long run when your back and shoulders are pain-free. Make sure wherever you are working from (be it your home or a hotel room abroad) that you have a work station with a desk and a proper chair. 

Don’t Overdo Your Work Day

This tip is more relevant if you are working for yourself and not set hours for another company. Since we don’t have set working hours, it’s actually quite easy to overdo the workday. So many of my days here in Berlin have easily been over 10 hours of work per day. While there’s nothing wrong with working hard, you want to make sure you are avoiding burn out, which easily happens when you overwork yourself. Try to limit your workday so you are maximizing your working hours, and have more time to do the things you love.

This also means having set hours for which you respond to emails and clients. Just because a client sends you a message at 9 pm on a Friday night doesn’t mean you need to be available to them. It’s easy to let clients overstep boundaries if you have no boundaries in place. Just because you work for yourself or from home, doesn’t mean you need to be on call at all hours. Do what feels right for you, and try not to feel guilty for taking time to yourself. 

Putting It Into Practice

Working for yourself can be extremely rewarding, but quite challenging at the same time. In the beginning, especially, it can be hard to stay motivated and set boundaries for yourself. The biggest takeaways to keep in mind would be keeping work and home life as separate as possible. This sounds like an impossible task when you are literally working from your home, but it can be done! Simple things like having a designated work station, getting dressed, and getting out of the house will help in keeping your work and home life as separate as can be. Once you get into your routine of working for yourself, your productivity will soar and the stress of this new working environment will be gone!

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