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8 Productivity Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know

8 Productivity Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know

I tend to work a lot. I also tend to travel a lot. Not many people get the chance to work remotely so when you do—make sure to embrace it. I’ve worked remotely on and off for the last three years and traveled to twenty countries along the way.

Friends will ask how I have the money or the time; no one gets that much vacation, do they? Well, no, of course not. I’m a working traveler, a travelling worker, or a digital nomad, if you’d like.

People complain about working while traveling; no one wants to work on their vacation, do they? But I don’t see traveling as a vacation. I find travel to be a mind-broadener, a productivity booster and a constant flow of ideas and inspiration. For me, being in the same place for a while would be considered a vacation.

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So, if you’d like to start traveling while working, here are few tips I picked up along the way.

1. Learn to love flight mode.

Frequent flyers love the comfort of isle/window seats, free booze, complimentary upgrades and of course, in-flight wifi—the blessing of blessings, the world’s way of saying you will never miss a Candy crush notification again. However, people who travel on business and spend a lot of time flying have learned to appreciate the perks of setting their phone to flight mode. When you’re unlikely to be interrupted, your brain will start to work on its own. Free of distractions, you can dedicate this time to reading (thanks Pocket), planning, or just thinking about your future plans, making a to-do list, or reflecting on a recent success or failure.

2. Make airport wifi bearable again.

Of course, as soon as you land, you’ll want to connect—to sync your notes, refresh your apps, check your email or just, humblebrag on Facebook about coming to a new city. And in case you’re one of the people who really likes their wifi like they like their coffee—immediately—you’ll need Flio, the app that will check into every major airport wifi in the world, using the data you gave it before, no more signup forms or weird passwords sent via email. In plain text, Flio is here to end your troubles.

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3. Find inspiring places to work from.

If you’re in a new city for only a few days and you really need to finish that quarterly report, at least, give yourself a break—don’t stay in one of those hotel meeting rooms / conference dungeons, find a cool rooftop or viewpoint with solid wifi and get some work done while enjoying the cityscape. You can use Foursquare to find coffeeshops with trusted reviews and Workfrom for great handpicked places to work from in a few major cities. Work doesn’t have to feel like work all the time, and your environment actually influences your productivity a lot, so make sure to find the most inspiring place to go.

4. Be the work-anywhere pro.

There’s only a few things you’ll need to work from anywhere in the world (assuming you already have a job that lets you do just that): a laptop, solid wifi or local sim card for ad hoc hotspots, a few productivity apps and a good pair of headphones to block out the distracting noises and maybe enables a few distracting noises of your own. Try Coffitivity as it recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better.

5. Save your eyes.

Changing time zones can be tricky; you’re tired and feel exhausted no matter how long you sleep. Most people change their routines with every new place they visit, which usually feels like a fresh start and gives that additional productivity boost. However, once you’re there, with all these apps, spending 8+ hours a day on your laptop, please mind your eyes—f.lux helps with just that.

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6. Take a nap.

Oh, you deserve it. There’s something about airplanes and reading, and food mixed with free booze that just makes you wanna sleep. And that’s totally okay. If you’re a morning person, you know the hidden value of naps—they make it morning again: you’re fresh, your brain is hard-wired for work and you’re in a great mood for getting things done. Every productive traveler has their own napping style—power naps, 20-minutes tops for a great refresh, coffee naps—the weird technique that seems to work.  Definitely try it next time you’re flying and let me know if it worked for you. Find your perfect nap and make use of it; just don’t forget to get some work done afterwards too.

7. Be strategic about sleep to avoid jet lag.

Some of my greatest work came from being jet lagged as hell in a tropical island and sleeping through the day while working through the night and missing out on all the fun said—you got it—no one ever. So if you want to avoid crying yourself to non-sleep once arriving to some remote place in the world, do follow a few tips to minimize the jet lag. Before your trip, keep in mind the time difference and try adjusting your sleep hour by hour—whether you wake up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later, this will help once you’ve arrived to your destination. If the onward flight is a daily flight (at the destination), do your best not to sleep through it and vice versa; if it’s considered an overnight flight at the destination, do your best to sleep during.

8. Embrace your new productivity.

Discovering new places, trying out different cuisines and being exposed to a new culture will fire up your productivity. It’s true, travel actually makes your brain grow. After just a few days in a new environment, you’ll feel more eager to work and drunk with new ideas and solutions.

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Research shows people are also more creative while traveling, and thanks to the combination of productivity and creativity, this lifestyle seems perfect for entrepreneurs. Ever wondered how those digital nomads get anything done? Now you know, they’ve found the perfect productivity recipe. If you want to be even more productive on the go, check out the productivity tools every digital nomad needs.

Featured photo credit: Work / Unsplash via images.unsplash.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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