Productivity Tips for Digital Nomads: How to Stay Motivated on the Move

Unless you won the lottery, chances are you will need to balance your desire to explore and have adventures with the practical matter of earning a living. There are a lot of awesome things about location independence and it can be great for your creativity. But a nomadic lifestyle might require you to overhaul the way you approach each workday.

Staying productive is a little easier if you work remotely for an employer and have regular responsibilities and commitments. Then everything you need to accomplish is pretty much outlined for you, either by assignment or through a routine. However, if you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, while your freedom is a huge bonus, you’ll have to motivate yourself every day and keep your hustle strong if you want that paycheck (and you do)!

If you’re having trouble staying motivated as a freelancer or solopreneur, you’re definitely not alone. Since Jacob and I are both working independent gigs, we’ve run into the motivation wall several times along our journey – especially in gorgeous weather. It’s so easy to get distracted when you could be out exploring new things. Here are some tips that help us refocus and stay motivated during the times when we struggle:

1. Stick to a schedule

Outline a schedule that mimics living life in a regular house with expected work hours. Set your alarm every morning, have your shot of caffeine if you need it, exercise/stretch, and get right to work once you’ve completed your routine. If you’re a night owl, find a routine that fits that preference. The time you carve out to work doesn’t matter, as long as you pick a routine and stick to your designated hours.

2. Designate workspace

It’s hard to get excited about work if you’re struggling to find enough room to do it. Even in a crowded RV, it’s essential to designate some workspace that’s easy to access. Find a comfortable place to sit, a good internet connection, a fully-charged phone, and whatever else you need to be productive. If you plan to spend a lot of time working in cafes, libraries, or other public spaces, be sure they have reliable wi-fi. If you have to struggle to access what you need during work hours, it’s going to be hard to be productive. The key here is to have everything you need within reach.

3. Prioritize tasks

It’s easier to stay motivated if you approach your freelance work with the same accountability you would when working for a boss. If you’re going to accomplish anything, you need to know where to start. Organize your priorities so you can get the most work done early in the day. Before you begin each morning (or even the night before), set your schedule for the coming day.

Make sure you write down your list, so you can check off each item as it’s completed. Checking off each item offers a feeling of accomplishment and helps to keep motivation at higher levels. There are even apps you can use to help keep the momentum up if good old-fashioned paper lists don’t work for you.

Tip: Remember to schedule in breaks! If you reach burnout status, it significantly reduces your productivity, so breaks should be a prioritized task, too. Set a timer for every couple of hours as a reminder to take 5-15 minutes or a lunch break, especially if you tend to lose track of time.

4. Minimize distractions

Life on the road definitely comes with distractions, and it’s especially hard to get work done when you’d rather be out exploring that hip neighborhood or hiking to that hidden waterfall you’ve heard so much about. While you might be able to resist doing these now and scheduling them for later, there are other real distractions to consider. Try these workarounds:

  • Make agreements. Make an agreement with yourself to stay focused on each task. If you have a partner or other fellow traveler(s) sharing your space, be sure you set agreements with them as well to allow time for work without interruption. Remember, to give the same courtesy to them.
  • Designate specific time for emails. Email is a huge distraction, even if you need it for work, set specified times of day to check it. If you change gears every time an email comes in, it’s a lot harder to get back on task.
  • Disable social media notifications. Don’t let each ding distract you.
  • Limit Facebook. If Facebook feeds are a distractor for you, use this web extension to remove it from your eyes so you don’t lose time if you check your account during a break or before you start your day.
  • Turn off the sound. Especially if your work entails web research, all those auto-videos and ads can disrupt your train of thought each time you open a new tab.

It doesn’t matter where you live: Distractions are a part of life. Being your own boss while traveling just means you need to make a little more effort to minimize them whenever possible.

5. Plan trips ahead of time

Ideally, living life out of your RV should come with complete spontaneity, but it doesn’t exactly work that way when you need to earn an income. Each week or month — whatever time frame works for you — set up a schedule of touring days vs. work days. If you can get by working some partial days, factor those in, too.

This way, you know you’ll get your work done while making sure your yearning-to-explore itch gets scratched at alternate times. Knowing you’ve got something fun or adventurous on the near horizon can be pretty motivating on its own.

Being your own boss means you don’t have the luxury of paid vacation days; vacation time comes directly from your own pocket. You have to account for it if you want to meet your income goals. Working on the road and loving the RV life is inspiring, but even the most dedicated digital nomads struggle with motivation sometimes. It just takes a little effort and willingness to try accomplishing things a little differently.

Think about it this way: You succeeded in downsizing and leaving your familiar life, so you can succeed just as well at balancing playtime with productivity!