Living in different parts of the world sounds like a dream for many people. But, compared to regular summer holidays, living the life of a perpetual traveler or digital nomad is an entirely different story - routine-wise.
When living in your own or rented apartment and working from the office, or nowadays from home, you have a specific routine that you follow. You are staying in a known environment that helps you to keep a particular schedule and rhythm. However, this routine and familiarity with the environment vanish once you start traveling and moving from one city to another, country to country.
You must set up specific rules and start developing habits that help you stay productive and find the motivation to reach your set goals. Being a digital nomad for a couple of months now, I can confirm that finding the proper routine is one of the hardest things to achieve.
The question that I get a lot from my circle is: How can you afford such a long holiday? We can because we are not on holiday. This is how we can afford it; we have to work to travel (unfortunately for me; Leo, on the other hand, loves to work 😃). So the temptation of just exploring the new city, trying the local cuisine, and enjoying the warm weather outside, is hard to handle.
I'm not 100% there yet, and I'm trying different things, and I found ways to keep myself under some control and focus on work when I need. So I'm happy to share some tips and tricks that I find essential for motivation and the little challenge I have with myself and Leo in this short article.
1. Give yourself a couple of days to a week to adjust to the new environment.
One of our mistakes when coming from Europe to Mexico was that we wanted to start with a working schedule the next day after arrival (we arrived in Mexico City in the late evening). Starting the next day was not the best idea, with being tired and jet-lagged in a new city, it just didn't work as it should. We were somehow working but also struggling the whole week.
My advice would be, give yourself time to accommodate and do only the most necessary things for the first couple of days after coming to an entirely new country. With the second week of being here, everything was way better, we were more productive, and it was easier to focus on all the tasks.
2. Set long-term and short-term goals to make it clear what you are trying to achieve.
We are using OKRs to set our goals, and until now, I think this worked for me the best. Combined with the daily to-do's and main goals to achieve, it works great. Having a structure is one of the most important things that help you move forward. If you are determined to improve this part of your life, you can, with persistence, come to the point where OKRs become part of your life. You don't need to overdo it. You can structure just the essential aspects of your life and professional career. After some time, you will feel more free and happy. Yes, planning your days can give you more freedom.
If you are interested in the topic of OKRs, you can learn more about how to get started in our Ultimate Guide to OKRs (with OKR examples).
I'm a person who likes to procrastinate, and being constantly in a new environment and eager to travel, the temptation of jumping out of the regular schedule is strong. There are also some techniques that you can use to help you focus and get through the day with the best outcome possible. I wrote a longer article on this topic; if you are a fellow procrastinator, you can read it here: The best ways to stop procrastinating and motivate yourself daily to achieve goals.
3. Establish a morning routine to start your day right.
This is my most significant pain point. After quitting the 9-5 job, it was hard to keep my mornings in order. I was mainly the morning person, but this changed a bit. Suppose there is no strict schedule that I need to maintain and start with. In that case, I can easily stay busy all the time with not doing anything. I tried many different morning routines, and some work more than others.
At the moment, I'm trying to build a routine that combines physical activity, learning, and producing content. Leo and I came up with a little challenge where we are trying to build a habit of writing - write at least 500 words before lunch. Lunch is our first meal of the day, around noon, so this is a great motivation to accomplish this milestone.
The reason behind it is that we are trying to produce as much quality content as possible, so it becomes a habit somehow. All this is way outside of our comfort zone and something I have never done before. So, creating a little challenge around it helps us stay accountable to each other and achieve the goals. I'll publish quick challenge and more details in the upcoming days.
4. Create your productive working environment.
When living and working means being in the same environment, you should make sure that you create a place that will inspire you and motivate you to work. In the beginning, I was many times working from bed, which is terrible on many different levels. Make sure you have a proper table and a chair that is comfortable enough for a couple of hours of work.
When choosing our Airbnb apartments, we make sure that we have enough space to work. We usually combine working from the apartment and going to a laptop-friendly coffee shop or coworking place to change the environment from time to time.
For that reason, we are also choosing more central locations in every city, so it doesn't get boring, and you have a better choice of places like that in the surroundings. We also include a couple of favorites in our city guides, so you can check our blog for more info if you are interested.
5. Treat and reward yourself when you achieve significant milestones.
It's always nice to reward yourself when you achieve something big. Be that a visit of a fancy restaurant, daily trip, buying yourself a small gadget that you always wanted, a cake; anything that excites you. We are trying to be productive as possible during the week and explore more during the weekends, travel around and try new restaurants. It's already a way better feeling to go out and enjoy when you know that you achieved your OKR goals or other important milestones in the week.
One thing that boosted my productivity was the challenge 500 words before lunchtime. I love my lunch on time, so if I set a rule that I can't eat before I have 500 words on the paper, I will make damn sure I will have them written, as I don't want to miss my precious food. Food is always my reward 😊
It also helps a lot to have a person doing the same to stay accountable and encourage each other to reach the goals.
These are just little tricks you can make to improve your day and bring more stability and productivity, especially if you are traveling a lot and working remotely. But not only that, this can help you even if you work 9-5 job and having a side hustle you are working on. The planning and structure will help you to bring more freedom to your everyday life. The whole pandemic gave some people more freedom to work from home and even work&travel, so it's essential to start right now and work on some habits that will bring more happiness and success into our lives.
Going out of your comfort zone and changing old patterns cannot happen from one day to another. Still, with the right amount of persistence and structure, it's possible.
I'm still on this journey, trying to discover what works for me best, and what I can say for sure is never give up.
If you feel teady to learn more about how to create a sustainable daily routine as a digital nomad? Check out my online course, "Digital Nomad 101: How to Work and Travel Anywhere," for in-depth guidance and strategies."