If you’re starting a startup or working remotely for one, you probably don’t have an office. And that’s a good thing.

Offices are expensive. You might as well be paying rent twice. And in the early stages of your business, you just don’t need one.

In the past year we’ve grown our startup to be ramen profitable and hired our first remote teammates. We’re still growing. We still don’t have an office. And we still have no plans to change that.

We’re also traveling the world. We’ve visited and worked full-time from 20 cities in 14 countries and 3 continents. We work from work-friendly cafes or whichever Airbnb we’re staying in at the moment. Before that, we lived in San Francisco, also working from cafes.

5 tips for being productive from anywhere

The variety of our workspaces have proven to us that, whether you’re living in a big city, traveling, or something in between, you don’t need an office to be productive. You just need a few tips for remote work up your sleeve. Check out some of the tips that our team follows to stay productive no matter our workspace.

1. Tell your brain it’s work time

Telling yourself, “Hey Brain, it’s work time, so let’s get some work done!” works about as well as, “Hey Brain, it’s exercise time, so let’s go to the gym!”

Sometimes your internal motivational coach works, but sometimes your brain says, “I’m tired,” and decides staying on the couch is a better idea.

Outsmarting your brain is a hefty task—you’re pretty intelligent, after all. But there’s one helpful piece of knowledge you can use to get yourself into work mode: your brain associates places with activities.

This fact is why working from bed is a terrible idea. It’ll tell your brain that your bed is for working and sleeping. This mental confusion leads to sleepy work sessions and stressful sleep sessions. Nobody wants that.

To help your brain associate a place with productivity, find a specific room or desk at home and only use it for working. If you get distracted, leave your productive space. This way, you don’t let your brain associate that location with unproductiveness.

You might eventually find that leaving an unproductive workspace sometimes means leaving your home entirely, and that’s okay.

2. Feel free to get out of the house, even if you’re working “from home”

If you don’t have a space you can dedicate to productivity or home doesn’t work for you, get out of the house. There are tons of work-friendly cafes out there waiting to inspire your productivity.

It’s totally normal and appropriate to spend several hours working at a cafe. Many of them specifically have WiFi and outlets to encourage workers to visit.

But be warned that there’s definitely an unwritten etiquette for working in cafes. Most of it is straightforward (if you aren’t a jerk). For starters:

  • You must purchase something for every two to three hours you stay there. Otherwise, they’re losing money on you. A cafe is a business, just like yours.
  • Only take up one seat to save space for others, especially if it’s crowded.
  • If a cafe specifically says it’s not laptop-friendly, don’t work there.

Here are some criteria that we find make a cafe a good place to work:

  • Good WiFi—Without fast Wi-Fi, you probably can’t do your job. Some cafes have a 30-minute limit for how long you can use the Wi-Fi. Avoid these cafes.
  • Power outlets—Imagine you’re in the middle of some hard work when that “3% battery remaining” window pops up. Nothing is worse!
  • Seating—The best cafes can get quite crowded because, well, they’re awesome to visit and work from. Make sure a cafe has plenty of seating or that you get there early.
  • Hours that work with your schedule—Is the cafe open every day of the week? Early mornings? Evenings? Late nights?
  • Good food—It’s hard to work for more than three to four hours without at least eating a snack. Food means you can stay even longer and not feel bad about it because you’ve ordered a drink and a meal.
  • Good coffee or tea (or your beverage of choice)—Technically, this one isn’t a must-have, but it’s definitely a nice-to-have. A delicious beverage can make you look forward to going to work.

If you can find a cafe that checks all these boxes, it’s a keeper. Make it your go-to spot, and head there a few times a week while you explore and find other great places.

It’s actually mind-blowing how much impact going to a cafe can have. Just today, I was sitting at home thinking about what to write, and I didn’t feel like working. My mind was cloudy, and it felt like I was pushing a boulder up a hill.

To get out of my funk, I hopped in the shower, got dressed, and biked to a cafe. I ordered an iced mango green tea (in Chinese, because we’re in Taiwan). Then I sat down at a big table with a bunch of other people working away.

The difference was night and day. Getting out of the house and being around productive people made working so much easier. I brainstormed 15 blog post topics and wrote this post in a few hours.

If you ever feel like you’re having a bad day, it’s not too late to turn it around. Giving yourself a change of scene—and a good cup of coffee—can make all the difference.

3. Get ready to “go to work”

Changing your location isn’t the only way to trick your brain. You can also carry out simple routines to get your brain into working gear.

While working from home is a luxury, it’s important not to get too comfortable. For instance, don’t just roll out of bed and hop on your laptop.

What I mean by this is, mentally, you still have to “go to work.” Take a shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast. Whatever your morning routine is for going into the office, do that before you work from home, too. If you don’t, your sleepy morning and productive work session can meld together. This makes for an unproductive, stressful mess.

Create that separation. Go through your morning routine. Mentally go to work even if you’re really just showering to work from the couch in your living room.

4. Try some of these awesome tools

You can brush your teeth and create the best possible workspace, but sometimes you still need a helpful nudge to stay productive. Our team uses these tools to stay focused:

  • Noise canceling headphones—At a noisy cafe? Trying to tell your roommates you’re busy? Block out sound to disconnect from distractions.
  • Spotify—Listen to music without lyrics. The “Focus” mood in Spotify is your new best friend.
  • Qbserve—The metrics you track are the ones that go up. If you keep track of how much time you spend working, you’ll work more. Simple as that.
  • Do Not Disturb mode—I had an iPhone for two years before I knew this feature existed. It’s super useful to unplug from constant notifications.
  • Twist—We use Twist as our team communication app. They have a nifty “snooze” feature that ignores all notifications for a set amount of time.
  • Forest—Avoid visiting distracting websites and apps for a certain amount of time to plant trees. It’s a cute, fun way to game productivity.
  • Healthier—Don’t forget to take breaks, too! We take two-minute breaks every half hour.

5. Keep the momentum going

It can be demotivating to work hard without seeing any results. Regardless of your environment, you need to know that you’re working hard for a reason.

That’s why momentum is so important. It creates a positive loop: work hard, ship, get results, celebrate, repeat.

Without results, work can feel like a drag. So break your work into smaller projects, ship often, and celebrate your results!

Productivity has nothing to do with an office

Creating an effective workspace, getting into a routine, finding the helpful productivity tools, and celebrating results have nothing to do with working from an office. In fact, being productive has nothing to do with where you work, in general—unless we’re talking about not working from the comfort of your bed.

You’re not shortchanging your employees—or yourself—by refusing to pay rent for a physical office space. To stay productive and produce quality work, it’s more important to focus on your mindset and workflow. So save your money, make life a little more interesting, and go explore some cool cafes! 😎

We post about our daily work and travel adventures on our Instagram stories @carryoncode. To read more about our journey as digital nomads, check out this post.