6 Tips for Staying Productive while Abroad

When trying to build your websites or write that next book, staying focused and productive can be a challenge.

1. Learn to say “No!”
So a local girl keeps sending you flirty WeChat messages. So a nearby Kindergarten keeps begging you to teach English over the weekend for some extra cash. Expat friends keep sending you invites for an opening of a new restaurant or some other kind of distraction! Stop the madness. Turn off the phone. People will wait. Opportunity won’t.

Staying Productive Abroad
2. Keep a checklist
of things you need to get done and revise it at the end of each day. I like to use OneNote to make my daily lists and then check items off as I progress; it is very similar to a pad of digital scratch paper. Checking boxes on your list will provide a small charge of dopamine to keep you motivated. Remember that a lot of people think they require outside encouragement to keep them going. It is taking action that keeps us motivated to continue taking action. So, get going!

If you ever find yourself sitting around with no clue as to what you should be doing, open up your checklist and hammer out a few tasks.

3. Highlight at least one activity you want to complete for each day and stay focused on it. If you have too many items on your list, you’re just going to end up overwhelmed, and you might not end up accomplishing anything meaningful.

Remember the Pareto Principle that gets quoted in so many productivity guides, 20% of the effort gives you 80% of the results. Make sure you’re putting effort into the tasks that provide real value.

4. When you’re far away from home, it’s always a good idea to always be prepared for the unexpected. What if the building you live unexpectedly loses power or a laptop you took with you to a restaurant runs out of juice. What if your journey on the bus ends up taking longer than usual? Find a way always to be using that time to make progress on your goals.

5. More than a few entrepreneurial-minded people will suggest that you abandon your hobbies altogether as you set your nose to the grindstone. It’s important to realize that if you do nothing but work all the time, you’re eventually going to burn out. When you’re too exhausted or weary of a particular activity, you’ll get nothing accomplished at all.

Hobbies like gaming can eat a huge chunk of your time. Instead of not doing anything else that you enjoy, I recommend budgeting your time on outside interests. That doesn’t mean you should avoid socializing or playing your games, but you should remain watchful of the amount of time you spend doing these things.

Keep in mind that if none of your friends come from an entrepreneurial mindset, they may not seem so interested in your business-building activities and may even attempt to sabotage your progress.

6. The sooner you become accustomed to your life abroad, the sooner you can dedicate yourself to the different goals you want to achieve. This is why I recommend staying for more than a year in your target location. If you’re too busy trying to get basic life amenities in order or looking for food that you like, you’re never going to have time for anything else.

These are just a few items that I’ve found helpful over the years. Got any other tips or strategies for keeping productive while traveling? Please comment below.

One thought on “6 Tips for Staying Productive while Abroad

  1. Lots of good points, they started out a bit simple but then that is good because its very easy to get distracted or lazy when overseas and resort to that *vacation* mode. Snapping out of that lazy streak with the simpler principles often works.

    I had never heard of the Pareto Principle but it is interesting as it was something that I had noticed, though I had named it *taking easy victories* and have had it since back when working retail. For example refilling stock you start with the big, bulky items that you know will fit the shelves thereby working more stock by volume for the minimal amount of time. I found that it applies elsewhere – studies, finance, etc. much like the 80/20 rule you informed me about.

    Being prepared for the unexpected is the last point I wanted to take the time to comment on because like myself I know a lot of people get thrown off when things dont go to plan and motivation takes a big hit. When you had an efficient and effective plan in your head any delay can give you the feeling that you are working inefficiently, so flexibility is a useful skill to implement.

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