There are tons of resources for the most effective “productivity hacks” or “life hacks” designed for nomads. These are great, but I wanted more. So I decided to do some experiments of my own during my travels in the past few months, in search of creating a sustainable and healthy nomadic lifestyle.
I studied the techniques detailed in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. His research explains 3 main components of habit loops:
Queue: a trigger for the habit. This could be a craving, event, or action.
Habit- the action that is performed.
Reward- an intrinsic or extrinsic benefit.
As a nomad, my location changes constantly. I may be in a place for a week or a few months, meaning my environmental queues shift periodically. This often makes building a habit difficult. I have been in search of ways to build habits independent of my location and I found the solution in automatic responses such as waking up, getting hungry, and walking.
Queue: Open my eyes to wake up
Habit: Turn on a podcast so I can slowly start to wake up while in bed, open my Evernote to check my goals that I outlined for the week, eat a healthy breakfast in my room, shower, take my multivitamins, do the mini workout, and then start my day.
Reward: I do a little happy dance in the morning to celebrate accomplishing this habit. Our brains can’t tell the different between big and small victories, so even just smiling and essentially patting yourself on the back will work to reward yourself.
2. Journal or logging my goals every week
I love having a weekly check-in with myself. I often even keep a list of specific moments where I am the most happy and least happy in my week to identify common trends. I have realized from these that I can be the happiest when I save one day a week for alone time and wandering.
Queue: Coming home from dinner on Sunday night.
Habit: I sit down and write a list of my goals for the week. I break them down by the day and assign each task to a specific day. For example, I knew I wanted to write this post today and I scheduled it for Thursday. As I mentioned above, my morning routine involves checking in on these goals to keep myself accountable.
Reward: Making the rest of my week more productive.
3. Download podcasts, audiobooks, or lectures to my phone
I find that I crave new knowledge and the most efficient way for me to consume it is when I am walking or waking up.
Queue(s): 1. My morning alarm goes off. 2. As soon as I close my apartment door, I put in headphones and press play.
Habit: Listening to stimulating educational content or fun material. Currently I am listening to 2 audiobooks, reading a physical book that I carry with me at all times, and have tons of podcasts downloaded.
Reward: Learning interesting information. I make sure I have one lighter or silly piece of content in the mix to reward myself with laughter.
4. Take afternoon breaks
I can’t focus forever. As a nomad, I have my own routines and schedule. It is important for productivity to break up the day and give my mind a rest.
Queue: Feeling mentally fatigued. This is one I have learned to be more aware of. I notice myself checking Facebook more or taking longer on a project than I should.
Habit: Ask someone to go for a walk, or get some fresh air.
Reward: Feeling more focused after a break.
5. Track my hours
I use Toggl to do this so that I can be aware of my most productive and least productive hours.
Queue: Starting a new assignment- whether this is opening a new document, tab, or text file. This one is tricky for me because sometimes I am in a flow and don’t notice I am switching tasks.
Habit: Pressing play on Togglr to track the exact amount of time the task takes. I even use this to track my workouts and how many hours a day I listen to podcasts, etc.
Reward: Understanding where I can be more efficient.
Habit forming takes time. Most studies show 30 days is a sufficient time to build a habit, but they can just as easily be broken. My intention is to develop life long habits, not to lose weight or becoming rich overnight. I am determined to set myself up with positive habits at a young age so that I can continue them and perfect them for many years to come.