If you Google productivity digital nomads, you will find tons of blog posts with tips about how to work while traveling. I have to laugh sometimes when reading those: they are soooo not useful for digital nomad families. For example, a popular tip is to work when on a plane or bus, or when you have to wait for a transfer. Make sure to use these moments, digital nomad! Well, as you can imagine, when you are on a plane or bus or waiting for a transfer with your little kids, you are probably busy with wiping butts, handing over sandwiches, cookies, and lemonade, and entertaining them with puzzles and games… Working is probably not on your mind. So, it’s time for some productivity tips for digital nomads with kids! Although I must admit, some of these tips are useful for regular digital nomads as well.
Discipline: find your passion
Work while traveling requires a lot of discipline. This is comparable to working from home. There is so much more distraction than at a regular office. But with some discipline, you will manage. Especially when you work on something you are passionate about, finding discipline will not be a problem. Even though I am not a fan of the word passion, it is important to really like your job. I know for sure I have lots of discipline when working on my own business because everything I put in gives me a reward (in terms of money, but also in terms of energy and motivation).
Danielle Morril describes it very good in her blog post about work-life balance. She doesn’t believe in this concept: ‘If you actually are trying to become great at something, it’s probably on your mind all the time. It’s very hard to love something and not be working on it or talking about it.’
When working on the road, while your family is nearby 24/7, you will inevitably experience a blur between work and life. For some, this can be a nightmare, but for a location independent lifestyle, it is almost unavoidable. Try to see it as an advantage: if you’re passionate about your job, you will find ways to get the most out of your day by working whenever and wherever you can. You just need to have some discipline to open your laptop when the rest of your family is enjoying the beach. But no worries: after you got the work done, you can join your family for a swim!
Stay motivated by choosing a role model
Especially in the beginning, it was sometimes hard for me to stay motivated. We were starting our own business from scratch and we didn’t know if it could provide us with enough income. At times, it was difficult to not give up, go back ‘home’ and act normal again. It is so much easier to just have a regular job with a steady paycheck. Less insecurity and risk. Although this is relative, since you can also get fired from a steady job. Besides, having a 9-to-5-job was not the thing for us, so we would be miserable either way.
To stay motivated, I selected some role models that inspire me. For example, Sharon from digitalnomadwannabe.com helped me through several rough times. When I was down, feeling like I was wasting my time on running a business that would never be profitable, I thought about her story. If she can do it, why not me? I know this is a cliché. When a teenager wants to be a rock star, most respond with a shy smile and let him or her believe. But I don’t want to be a rock star. I don’t want the impossible. I want to run a business – together with my husband – that provides us with a steady income from which we can travel, live and save a bit for the future. No more. I think this is possible because so many have done it. When you find someone who lives your dream, someone normal like you and me, keep this person in mind when you have a motivational breakdown. This will help you keep going!
Work your best hours (and only these hours)
When I still worked at the office I was very frustrated about one thing in particular: when I finished certain tasks of the day, I wasn’t allowed to leave. Although I was finished, had achieved my deadlines, and delivered high-quality work, I had to stay at the office to complete the required 8 hours. And when I said something about it, I wasn’t complimented for my hard work, I was given extra boring, repetitive tasks. Not very motivated. Now I have my own business and I plan my own working hours. I work 4 or 5 hours a day, on average 6 days a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It depends on our schedule, location, travel days, possible deadlines, special projects and potential laziness. Most importantly, I work these hours because I want to and not because some boss tells me it needs to be done.
Do certain task at the right moment or postpone
I can also plan certain tasks when I’m in the mood for it and postpone others. When I have a writing vibe I keep on writing pieces, even if I had planned to do other stuff (like administration). When I notice the words don’t come so easily, I do administrative or editing tasks. Like this, I’m way more productive than I was when working at a regular job. I also reward myself constantly: when we have plans to do some sightseeing in the afternoon, I work extra hard to finish an article in the morning. I’m motivated and focused and are driven to deliver the best results. Not within a 9-to-5-time frame, but in the hours that is necessary to complete it. When I need more, I take on extra hours in the evening, when I am finished earlier, I see if I can get some extra work done, or I reward myself with an hour relaxing time. This is how I stay productive. I hope you will experience the same because it is mind-blowing terrific!
Find a quiet working space or learn to tune out the noise
You and your husband will probably divide working and caring: when your partner is working, you are taking care of the kids, and vice versa. When it’s your time to work, you probably don’t have a convenient working space to go to. I sometimes went to the restaurant of the campsite we stayed, when their Wifi was decent. I can concentrate very well, even if there is a lot of noise. I just tune it out and stay in my bubble for hours. My husband lacks this ability. He prefers working in our awning. When he is working and I’m there with the kids, playing, nursing, cleaning, doing whatever needs to be done, he tries to tune out the noise by putting up a headphone.
Our kids are still very young, but we already try to teach them that at some points daddy/mommy is working, so don’t disturb him/her. They are kids, so they forget, and being disturbed is, therefore, unavoidable. But when you work at an office, you will be disturbed by colleagues and clients as well.
Keep a routine
Keeping a daily routine is not only essential for your productivity, but also necessary for a sense of stability for your kids (see also my paragraph about stability on the road). Single digital nomads need a routine to stay productive as well, and lots of blog posts ramble about morning routines with coffee, meditating and a walk around the block. Perfect if it works for you and your family, but a typical morning routine in our trailer looks a bit more chaotic. We keep a routine, of course, but our little kids dictate most of it. And that’s ok. We choose deliberately to let them take the lead. For example, we don’t set an alarm; we wake up when our youngest is hungry. And after that, there is absolutely no time for quite meditation sessions or other things single people do. Of course, we could prioritize and find time for this, but we choose not to. After breakfast, cleaning up, brushing teeth and cleaning up some more, one of us gets to work a few hours, while the other takes care of the kids and some household chores. This is routine, albeit not quite similar to the routine of digital nomad without kids.
Enough is enough
When you are passionate about your job or feel the heavy responsibility of earning an income, you can lose yourself in your working hours. It is tempting to work more and more. But isn’t this a pitfall you were trying to escape from? We experienced this tendency ourselves when we started traveling. We had no steady income and we saw our savings diminish gradually. We both felt the need to work more and more. But this is contra productive. And gives room for sadness, conflicts, unhappiness and other nasty consequences we tried to escape from.
As a start, make a realistic schedule. Try to be honest with yourself. Don’t set a target that you cannot meet, you will feel stressed and demotivated. Accept that you can only do so much in a day. And after working a few hours, just relax and enjoy your family and surroundings. This will make you more productive in the end!
Digital nomad Tools and apps
Digital nomads love tools and apps! We do as well and we use tons of them! Lots of digital nomads already wrote blog posts about their favorite tools and apps, so I will not repeat this with my own list. If you want to know more about tools, websites, and apps to increase your productivity, go to these websites:
Ytravelblog: 25 tools we use to run our online business
Ytravelblog: 16 must have apps and websites for digital nomads
LifeHack: 20 essential apps and websites for digital nomads
The Huffington Post: Top 10 apps for digital nomads
CloudPeeps: Four ways to find your rhythm and increase your productivity as a digital nomad