Work + Travel: 6 Tips for Being a Productive Digital Nomad

I’m self-employed because I love the flexibility.

I travel a lot. I’ll be in Australia for the month of December. And I have flights scheduled for most months of 2018. Needless to say, when I travel, I work.

Tips for being a digital nomad

A digital nomad is someone who works remotely and so is free to roam where they’d like. Some people are in it for the long-haul: constantly traveling across the world with no single place to call home. Many more of us are sometimes digital nomads: we have normal homes and lives, but we travel often and need to get work done while on the road.

Done well, it’s a life that can’t be beat. Tour around a beautiful city for a few hours a day and experience new things all while getting your work done efficiently. Done poorly, it’s an uber-stressful experience resulting in not much work getting done and not much touring enjoyment, either.

Prepare for Adventure

Expect some bumps. Life happens, especially when traveling. Adding work and deadlines to the mix only creates more opportunity for mishaps adventures.

I’ve done some pretty crazy things to get work done while roaming. I’ve:

  • paid for 30 minutes at a computer in a public library in Australia to check my email and then (from a flash disk!) emailed digital files to a customer.
  • tweeted from a computer in a hotel lobby in Vietnam.
  • brought physical products and a portable postage printer and printed shipping labels while in a hotel room between moves (I’ve moved 5 times to 5 states since becoming self-employed).
  • Woken up to attend a 5am meeting (time zones!).
  • Taught a major online class the morning after flying 18+ hours.

And visited countless coffee shops. In Finland. All across Europe. In Asia. Australia.

A lot has changed since 2008 when I needed to carry my files on a flash disk and buy computer time. Wi-fi is becoming ubiquitous. Most of us already store our files in the cloud instead of on hard drives. However, working fully and efficiently on-the-road still takes a bit of planning.

6 Tips for Maximum Efficiency

Here are 6 tips that will help you rock being a digital nomad (even if only temporarily):

1. Streamline your work day. What’s the point of traveling overseas if you’re clocking 12-hour days? To make the best use of your travel, turn your work schedule into a super-efficient and svelte one. I recommend my Creative Live class on outsourcing your workload and urge you to see if you can do a 4-hour workday.

2. Streamline and store your files. Today, a lot of us work on the cloud. No matter how you do it, you want to make sure you’re not stuck somewhere without a crucial file you need to move forward. You also want to remain organized… having a consistent back-up system/schedule will ensure that your projects are the most up-to-date.

3. Know what’s practical and what’s not. Are you always working on the road? Or simply planning work into a short-term vacation? Know your situation and what’s practical to accomplish. If you’re going to be in a remote location, perhaps committing to film & upload videos isn’t a wise idea for that timeframe. If you suffer terribly from jet lag, don’t assume you’ll clock an 8-hour work day immediately upon arriving.

4. Which brings me to… plan for the worst. Auto-responders are your friend. If you’re headed somewhere where your connection isn’t guaranteed, put up an auto-reply saying you’re planning on checking in occasionally. If a client hears from you sooner, they’ll be thrilled. That’s much better than disappointing someone when it turns out your access is limited.

5. Create a rhythm to your day. Even though you’re out of your house and normal routine, it helps to create a schedule. I’m a morning person, I like to get up and get my work out of the way and play the rest of the day. Know how you work most efficiently and plan accordingly. (I recommend reading The Power of When if you don’t already know your best times of day for working.)

6. Consider coworking memberships. A friend of mine swears by wework, where a membership allows you access to offices all around the world. Of course, this makes most financial sense if you’re using the coworking location in your home city, as well.


I would love to hear about your experiences with work + travel… tweet me!