Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Making Yourself Productive Anywhere

Tips and Tricks for Creating a Work Space Anywhere

Today's Office Space:

Window (natch). End stool (double natch). Far from door (triple natch).

I have become very good at creating a mobile office for myself wherever I have to...I have a nice space at home, however it is too close in proximity to a nocturnally scheduled spouse, and sometimes I have to interface with clients by phone. So I typically work in the large overstuffed chair under a large bay window in our living room. The broad armrests serve as a perfect desk and lunch tray.

Today, our housekeeper Helena is working so I have been ousted from my normal place. This means an earlier start to the day, and wearing actual clothes. Not workout/pj hybrids. It also usually means heightened productivity. (I think it's because people are watching.)

It also means packing up all the things I need to serve four different clients into one bag (there is no guarantee that I'll have more than the room under my chair to stow it once I'm settled in). Luckily, most of the information I need for them is online somewhere or in email trails and other project notes.

Some advice on working mobiley:

1) You want to go somewhere with a clean bathroom. (Your own house is #1 - hopefully, if not I can give you Helena's number - but coffeehouses aren't all created equally when it comes to cleanliness and usage. Read: Homeless people.) This is a necessity because in order to justify four+ hours of loitering, you must nurse at least two coffees, or a huge coffee and a breakfast item, or breakfast and an overpriced juice.

2) Go ahead and pay for the secure wi-fi. Stealing, or hooking into a free one is a security faux pas and also provides shotty performance. Unlike at home where a brief interruption can give you a few seconds to throw clothes in the dryer or unload the dishwasher...at a mobile location it's just lost time.

3) You want a view that is better than one you have at home. The sky is the limit. There are countless lunch counters in the city located far above ground with panoramic views of the gorgeous skyline and the lake. But for me, my local coffee house suffices. This is too easy for me as we live in a garden unit, and although we look out to a pretty yard, my chair is actually under the window, and I have more of a Laverne & Shirley view from there.
Better View.

4) Bring only what you need, but make a list to make sure you have everything. Once you're settled in and have nabbed a good spot - you really can't leave and come back. Also, once you've paid your $3.99 for wi-fi, you don't want to disconnect.

5) Be overly nice to the employees. You are in their house. Don't spread out too much, don't hog too many outlets or chairs. Don't inconvenience other customers...because this inconveniences the folks that are turning their heads to your loitering.

6) Don't go anywhere too child friendly. Kids that are not in school are not usually very well-behaved yet. They are disruptive, don't care that you are trying to earn a living, and in general, noisy and sticky. Don't let them anywhere near your space.

7) Don't go where all the other "writers" go. It's like being a living Mad Lib. Writers write about their environment and what they see in front of them. Unless you want to be the subject of an ugly blog about people who write nasty things about children, go somewhere with more neutral clientele.

8) Avoid any place too close to train tracks. Obviously, trains are noisy, however I find them quite romantic and inspiring. You really do get use to the noise. I'm referring to the constant flow of traffic into the shop every time the train stops. New people entering coffee shops and restaurants tend to be loud until they assimilate to the vibe that has been so carefully crafted by the current patrons.

9) Go somewhere that changes up the music a lot. I love the barista here because he has great music taste and an uncanny ability to get a feel for the vibe of the customer taste and very subtly conducts the morning to a great soundtrack. It flows from songs that snap you right out of your work and give you that 2 minute respite which reinvigorates your creativity, to soothing but bland white noise. Today I've heard Train in Vain, some Duffy, some Van and a little Tragically Hip. I still listen to my Pandora real low, just to help drown out the loudest customers of all...Chicago's Finest. The police.

10) Which brings me to my final tip. Go to shops with lots of cops. It's safer. If you do have to go to the bathroom, go when the shop is full of cops. Your laptop is much less likely to get swiped then - you may even be able to leave it where it is with a sweet nod to them, your space, the bathroom door. Usually they are happy to assist with a lookout.

Have a great work day - whether you're in Cubeland or beyond...

QUICK UPDATE: There is nothing more awkward then coming home and your cleaning lady is not done yet and you can't go anywhere because you're waiting for a business call and she is grunting and huffing and puffing and you can't go into the back bedroom because your husband is asleep and you can't go back to the coffee shop because you already spent 5 hours there...


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