We’ve had lots of experience working remotely — from that time we vacationed in Hawaii for six months, to the time we spent seven months driving cross country to visit every National Park, to the quiet times in between when we’ve settled into our home office. Now, since permanently stepping away from full-time work, the projects we do spend a few hours a week on are done from wherever we happen to be.
If you’ve also got yourself a job that can be done from anywhere — congrats, you’re livin’ the dream right along with us! But after the initial excitement of workplace freedom wears off, you might find out that it can be tough to have a good job experience without the office setting. Some days, you may find yourself constantly distracted and getting nothing done. Other days, you may start to feel like you can’t really “leave your work behind” any more, since it’s always within reach.
I want to help you solve both of those problems and have a better remote working experience. But once your productivity improves, I also want to challenge you to completely rethink what your job could be like in the future. You may be on the verge of something you never thought possible, without even realizing it.
Tips for Working from Home: Check Off the Basics
- Get ready as usual: It’s cool to roll out of bed just a few minutes before you have to clock in for the day, but I’ve found it really helps me to start the day strong when I begin as I normally would. And that means getting ready to face the day (complete with coffee). Even if you’re changing from “sleep” sweatpants to “outdoor” sweatpants, getting ready just sorta sets your brain up for productivity.
- Keep regular working hours: Routines help us stay on track and give us a sense of familiarity. Sticking to a routine — whether that’s starting your day as you usually would or sleeping in until a certain time each day — can give some much-needed structure to working from home.
- Focus on crossing off goals, not hours: If you don’t have specific hours you’re required to work, shift your thinking to what you need to get done each day rather than how long until you can “clock out.” I start each week by making a list of goals, some of which have specific deadlines that week and others that are more fluid. When you look at what you need to get done, instead of focusing on the time you “have to” put in, you’ll have an incentive to be more productive and spend less time working overall.
- Give yourself a dedicated workspace: When you work from home, it’s good to have a specific place you go to get stuff done. Rather than setting up a second desk beside Steven’s in our home office, I prefer the natural light and large area our kitchen table offers (we eat most meals in the living room to catch up on TV anyway). I always have water within reach, and I put on instrumental music, like lo-fi hip-hop beats (lyrics tend to distract me). Sometimes, I’ll light a candle if the mood strikes.
- Remove distracting clutter: Because I work near our living room and kitchen, any stray pair of shoes or dirty dish can feel like a distraction. I’m at my most productive when my work area is tidy. This applies to your digital workspace too — just thinking about having too many disorganized downloads on my desktop stresses me out.
- Plan around your stomach: You will stop working if you get hungry. It’s an easy interruption to give into (you gotta eat, right?), but it also has a simple solution: always start your work on a full stomach. Planning your working hours around meals will help you make the most of your time.
- Reclaim non-work hours: If you don’t take enough breaks from your screen, it’ll break you. It’s easy to let yourself work on and off 24/7 without really ever stepping away from the “office.” You need to create healthy routines that DO NOT include working. Find some time during the week to do things that help you be more productive in the long run, like factoring in fun time for hobbies, exercise, catching up with friends, and even sleep. (It may sound corny, but have you ever taken a guilt-free nap? When you give yourself permission to do what you want, you unlock even more blissful experiences than that.)
Work From Home Today; Work From Anywhere Tomorrow?
You may be working from home right now, but what could that flexibility mean for your future self? Rather than staying cooped up in your home office, what if you could travel more and work from a new city every week?
Most of the jobs we’ve done from the road weren’t ever intended to be remote positions when we were hired. Working from out of town might not be an established practice for your job, but if your boss is willing to let you work from home, why couldn’t you work from anywhere? There’s really not much of a difference, so bring it up and make your case if it’s something you’d like to try. You might be surprised how open to it your company might be if you’re a reliable employee with a good track record.
Taking this a step further…If you were ultra productive during work hours, could you end up working less altogether? And if your living expenses were low enough that you only needed to work a couple of days a week instead of five, what would you do with the free time?
When we were on the road during our most recent trip to every National park, we found that inverting the traditional work week — by spending two days working and five days having fun, instead of the other way around — was actually doable long-term. And spending less time working overall actually turned our jobs into something novel and enjoyable each week, rather than just daily drudgery. We looked forward to the “break” from fun to be productive adults again.
You’re probably thinking that working two days a week couldn’t possibly pay for all our bills, but one thing we’ve tried to focus on over the years is cutting our expenses down to a point where we’re still living it up without throwing money away. We know this works because we’ve done it — twice.
In Hawaii, we lived across the street from the beach and each worked about 10 hours a week to cover our costs. Every other hour was spent literally doing whatever we wanted in a tropical paradise, which actually costs a lot less than you’d think. While we were on the road visiting every National Park, we did a few things to pay for our seven-month road trip, including renting out our condo and living the van life to keep our expenses low.
When we discovered this “inverted work week” idea while traveling last year, it changed our lives. I encourage you to think about what a work-from-home job could mean for you long-term, whether you make the switch from your house to a sandy beach, or cut your expenses and your hours to make room for more adventure.
@tripofalifestyle There’s no rule that you NEED to have a job all the time. Don’t let yours keep you from living the life you want. The less you spend, the less you have to work. #career #money #work #worksucksiknow ♬ original sound – Trip Of A Lifestyle
Digital Nomads Face Productivity Issues, Too
Living out of a van definitely posed a few challenges unique to a digital nomad lifestyle (versus just working from home). One issue was driving through dead zones, where there wouldn’t be a place to stop (or even cell service) for miles. As long as you’re properly planned for this, it’s no biggie.
While we tend to keep our plans pretty loose, we typically have a route figured out at least a couple of days in advance. This lets us organize our work lives around when we’ll be in a city with options for wifi connectivity.
But probably the biggest workspace issue for digital nomads is simply not having a place to work. There are obvious fixes for this, mainly coffee houses and book shops with wifi. We’ve even stayed at hotels after checking out to use the tables, chairs, outlets, and internet in the lobby. Our number one hack for finding a workplace while traveling is to seek out places like Fred Meyer, Safeway, Ingles, and even Target because they usually have cafe space with seating and free wifi — and they’re typically open later than coffee shops.
Of course, if we need to do some computing on the go, we’ll turn our phone into a hotspot for a few hours (check your data plan before doing this, and keep your online activities minimal so you don’t burn through your plan’s allowance).
Almost all of the basic work-from-home tips from before still apply when you’re working abroad too, but remember to enjoy your life outside your working hours. If you’re gonna go remote and work somewhere different every day, be sure to make the most of it. Set larger (fun) goals for yourself that keep you moving — and spend the majority of your time fulfilling them. Work can then become a minor task you do a few times a week, rather than swallowing up your whole life. Embracing the digital nomad lifestyle means designing your life around what works for you, not what you need to do for work.