When most people daydream about working from anywhere *heavenly harp strum,* they linger on the mental images of beaches and sunsets, and glaze of the actual working part. I was guilty of the same thing when I began my digital nomad journey, and I was only able to sustain the lifestyle by developing good remote work habits.

The challenges of working remotely naturally vary from situation to situation, but there are some good remote work habits that will behoove you to adopt, no matter the specifics.

What is your remote work situation? Are you working from home during the covid-19 crisis, or are you self employed and this is your norm?

Maybe you work remotely from home but are dreaming of tapping away on your laptop from anywhere else. Traveling full-time while working is a very different tango than just working from home. I share more about the peculiarities of the lifestyle here: 6 Things No One Tells You About The Digital Nomad Lifestyle

You can still make your dreams of the digital nomad lifestyle come a little closer now by creating good remote work habits now.

remote work habits Pinterest image

5 Good Remote Work Habits Learned as A Digital Nomad

1. Create Structure In Your Days

The #1 work from home tip you see offered is always to get dressed before you start working in the morning. It’s a cliche, but it speaks to a larger truth: the importance of creating structure. People work best when they have a clearly defined work day.

You can develop good remote work habits that will create structure in your life in a number of ways:

  • get dressed (obvious, but necessary)
  • have a morning routine
  • pick a home office or at least a designated workspace
  • create office hours, and stick to them
  • don’t make social appointments during said working hours

It’s important to develop structure for yourself and enforce it when people try to infringe. Many people will come to call, asking to have coffee, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to say yes.

Open hotel window with a view of Brussels Belgium and a travel backpack propped up again the glass
When you can work from home in your underwear or work from literally any place in the world, structure will be your friend. But structure doesn’t mean boring: I took this photo from my hotel bed in Brussels while I did my work for the day. Brussels, 2020

If you are truly working, then you should treat it as such. Don’t feel obligated to say yes to social engagements or have a sparkling clean home just because you’re home.

The skill of materializing a productive work environment is one of the most powerful habits remote workers can develop.


2. Pack it up when you’re done

Don’t linger in a state of half-work and half-leisure. It’s not more productive, even if it feels like it. Tasks will take progressively longer and longer, because of the endless amount of time you dedicate to them.

It’s Parkinson’s Law, my friend: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” (source)

When you hang out on the couch with a movie while secretly checking social media on your laptop, the space for your task expands and likewise so does the time that your task takes.

I’ll be honest, I’m still working on this remote work habit myself, but it’s vital to have a healthy work life balance and boundaries will do a lot for your productivity and mental health.

Street in Paris with green plants and a bike in the foreground
When you’re at home, good time management skills means more time to enjoy hobbies and spend time with people. And when you’re traveling full-time, time management means more time to e-x-p-l-o-r-e. Paris, 2020

If you’re like me and you live in a small space, this may look simply putting your laptop into your backpack at the end of the night, even if you’re not going anywhere. Try it for a week and see if this remote work habit increases your productivity.


3. Be minimalist with your work supplies

The right gear can make or break your work-from-anywhere experience, but in two different ways.

When you’re working and traveling, the right gear will keep your career going. Research and packing before you go is extremely important because once you’re abroad, you might not have access to buying new things where you’re going.

Personally, I’ve had computer problems on an island in the Mexican Caribbean and backpacking in Colombia, and I’m not exaggerating: it was a nightmare.

When you’re a remote worker and you have tech problems, your entire sense of security (your income) is threatened. But I won’t drone on proper tech gear here.. I have an entire blog post specifically about having the right gear to keep your career going: 14 Pieces Of Digital Nomad Gear To Make The Lifestyle Easier.

But simultaneously, you can’t take every single office accessory that you’re used to with you. And when you’re working from home, you shouldn’t go overboard either.

Flat lay of workspace with a laptop, planner and food
During the covid-19 lockdown, I started tagging along with my husband to work. He’s a teacher and his students were attending classes remotely, so we co-worked in his abandoned school. Having minimal office supplies allows for spontaneity and easy transitions. Groningen, Netherlands 2020

Gear is always an important part of travel, but it’s also an important part of developing good remote work habits. You will lose things, have stuff break and need to replace supplies less often when you keep your supplies minimal.

Plus, it will make the transition between your home workspace, a co-working space, a cafe, etc. smooth.


4. Don’t eat; dine

When you’re traveling full-time, eating delicious local food is something that you look forward to and cherish. Street churros, late-night gelato runs, the “I’m not sure exactly what this is” kebab purchased out of a bucket on the side of the center square – when you travel, food is life.

Homemade vegetarian tacos with salsa, cheese and tequila
Veggie tacos, homemade tortillas, tequila, lime, salt-rimmed glasses: this is dining, my friends

But when you’re working from home, at one point or another, cooking 3 meals a day becomes a drag. Or, dare I utter the unspeakable: meals can become a thing that you consume mindlessly over your keyboard.

I genuinely believe that this is as important as any of the other good remote work habits. If you slowly let the joy be drained from your day-to-day life, you won’t be able to sustain working remotely.

You’ll become under-stimulated, lonely and think that going back to the office is the answer. But it’s not – freedom is the answer. And conquering your boredom is one of the most valuable remote work habits that you can hone.

Pancakes with fresh fruit and coffee
Have you ever seen a 20 cent meal look so divine? Groningen, Netherlands 2018

A small and easy way to do that is to create your own vibrance with amazing meals. Even pancakes can be turned into a moment.


5. The crown jewel: finish everything ahead of time

There is one common denominator that unites all remote workers everywhere: relying on internet.

After all, what’s a digital nomad without the digital? Can you be a successful remote worker without a remote connection?

If the internet stops, your income stops.

View from an airplane window of clear blue waters and white fluffy clouds
Isolated destinations mean unreliable internet, but then again no internet is completely reliable. Mexico, 2017

And, the internet will stop at times. I’ve worked from Caribbean islands during hurricane season and my apartment in the Netherlands during the pandemic, and I can honestly tell you the internet drop-rate was about the same in both locations.

Learn from my mistakes: I’ve been bitten in the behind (or the achterwerk as they say in Dutch) by this more times than I’m proud to say.

I know the risks here seem clear, but let me outline a few to really hammer this point home. Missing deadlines….

  • Jeopardizes your income
  • Risks injuring your client relationships
  • Ruins your day

In a nutshell, it gambles your freedom.

No matter where you’re working from and how reliable the power grid is, you will be better off by honing in this remote work habit and finishing all of your work ahead of deadlines. Even though it’s abstract, time management is one of the best online business tools you can wield.

Good Remote Work Habits Conclusion

What is your remote work style? Do you have any good remote work habits to add to this list? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram at @kayla_ih!