I will fully admit I am a creature of habit. I need structure and routine to thrive. When I’m on the road and everyday looks a little different it can be hard to stick to those routines. But, I have found that when everything else is changing and different, by sticking to my routines and creating a structure for myself I can stay grounded and productive.
A few years ago when I was starting out on my digital nomad journey I had a really hard time staying focused and productive. I honestly felt all over the place and a little bit adrift. I’d create huge long to-do lists that would completely overwhelm me and every day was a daunting task of not knowing where to start. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but it honestly felt that dramatic at the time.
I ended up talking to a therapist because when the overwhelm gets to be too much, there’s no reason to go it alone. She gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten, create your own structure. I’d spent my whole life working within other people and institutions structures like school, sports, internships, and jobs. I had never considered that working for myself would require creating a schedule and a structure to keep things sane.
Below are all the things I do to keep a little bit of structure and routine even during the craziest of travel days. These things keep me grounded and allow me to keep my priorities in sight. They also boost my productivity and creativity by listing by keeping tasks in order and doing things to stay healthy, which makes working from the road much easier.
How I keep routine and structure on the road
If you know me or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m obsessed with my morning routine. I do it in some form every single day. It helps me to start out the day calm and collected and it lets me get my priorities laid out so I know exactly what needs to get done that day.
Here is what my ideal morning routine is like.
- Drink coffee in bed while I read, usually fiction because fiction just makes me happy. I’ve also found that if I read the news or social media first thing it just puts me in a bad mood.
- Then I journal for a couple of minutes. Just a couple little notes about how I’m feeling, what’s going on in the world, and my life. I also include some affirmations and gratitude because you know, good vibes.
- Lastly, I plan my day. I use an old school paper planner, in the past I’ve used the Panda Planner, but I’m trying out the Clever Fox Planner right now. Whatever planner I’ve got I give myself three priorities for the day. I only do three because if I give myself more my to-do list will get out of control and become overwhelming. So I stick to three priorities to keep myself sane, and honestly in the off chance that I get through all three of those things I either let myself relax the rest of the day or I work on something else off my weekly to-do list.
- From there I get up and start my day, but no matter where I am in the world, doing those things first thing in the morning starts me out on stable footing for the day.
Staying hydrated is so important for both your physical and mental health. I always have a water bottle with me and my goal is to drink 2-3 of them a day. Staying hydrated helps with my mental clarity and function. Also when you are on the road it’s really easy to get dehydrated which leads to headaches, fatigue, and all-around cranky-ness which is a bummer when you are somewhere cool and a bummer when you are trying to work. So drink your water!
I use exercise to deal with stress and anxiety, and you know, to be able to fit into my jeans. I also honestly just like to exercise, I enjoy moving my body and pushing it just a little bit farther than I did the day before. It is one of those things that is a constant in my life and I can do just about anywhere. It helps keep me grounded because I know if I’m feeling stressed out I can go for a run or if I’m feeling distracted and blocked I can do some yoga.
Keep My Planner & Journal With Me Always
This might seem a little silly but I do keep my planner and journal with me at all times. I like to have my journal to be able to write down any notes projects I’m working on, or notes on a destination I’m visiting. It’s also just nice to have to be able to journal at any point if I get upset or overwhelmed or if something really awesome happens. I like to have my planner with me so I always have those priorities I set for myself that day handy. Do you ever get to the end of a project or big task and think, oh man what next? I never do (anymore).
Schedule Work Days/Times
Scheduling work days and times has been a critical part of getting my freelancing life on track. When I’m at home I generally work a Monday to Friday work week, when I start and end the day varies depending on the priorities for the day. When I’m on the road it is incredibly important because I can get so stoked about checking out a new place that I don’t get any leave time to work. Or I think I’ll work at night and I’m too tired. So when I travel now I’ll schedule extra days in so that I can get full and/or half workdays in and still have enough time to experience a destination.
Schedule Fun Days
Scheduling fun days goes along with scheduling work days. Once you’ve been in a place for a while you can get into a routine of working all the time so making sure to schedule weekends and days to go out and have fun are important. If you are working for yourself it’s really easy to get caught in the seven day a week schedule so make sure to take some time off.
I also have an evening routine. Much like how my morning routine sets me up for the day my evening routine winds me down. I’m still working on making this one a better habit but I do notice when I go through my evening routine I sleep better and wake up more refreshed. I’m trying to be better about having less screen time at night so that is a work in progress.
Here is what my evening routine looks like.
- Have caffeine-free tea, my favorite is the Yogi Ginger Tea.
- Ideally, I would read, but more often than not I’ll watch Netflix and/or play Animal Crossing. I just like some kind of activity that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to start winding down.
- Brush my teeth, wash my face (I love Ursa Major skincare), and take my vitamins (Ritual multivitamins).
- Snuggle into bed.
These are the things that keep me grounded and create a productive schedule and routine for me both at home and when I’m on the road.
They are all habits I’ve worked on over the years and have taken time to put into place. Having these habits that create structure for my day are the only way I can function and stay productive both at home and on the road.
The thing about habits though, is you can get really good at them when everything is going well and you’re at home, but it gets hard when you are on the road and all over the place. But that’s the time that those habits are most important. You want those good habits to be the ones you fall back on when life seems crazy.
Dealing with Burnout on the Road
How to Work From Home or Anywhere
5 Digital Nomad Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
The Best Digital Nomad Job (by category)
Where to Find Remote Work
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