On some days, working from home feels like such a luxury. On others—when Skyler is having a sweet conversation with the babysitter, or Hudson has come in to show me something for a fifth time, or I can’t stop lingering by the pantry to seek out a snack—it feels impossible. I’m constantly trying to figure out the right balance between having an established office set-up and working remotely.
There was an article in Fast Company a while back that touted the benefits of setting up shop at a cafe—like the creativity stimulated by a change of environment, and the end to co-worker interruptions that comes with anonymity. (Swap “co-worker” for “pre-schooler” in my case.)
And it’s been suggested in studies that the hum of a cafe—a certain decibel level of constant noise from conversation and espresso machines—can boost productivity. Some noise (around 70 decibels) is better than none. There are even apps that will recreate the ambient noise for you, like Noisli, Ambiance, of Coffitivity—from which you can select “morning murmur” at a cafe as your soundtrack.
Funny fact: I’ve actually used a coffee shop soundtrack at a coffee shop when the conversation happening beside me was too interesting to tune out.
What I’ve learned is that it pays to be prepared.
Here’s my set-up:
The right bag. I love this Midi tote that Daame (“laptop bags for women”) sent me to try. It has a pocket for everything, so I can quickly see if I’ve forgotten to put anything back in its place. And they designed it for women who travel or commute with their tech often—the result of people’s wishlists and solved pain-points.
Laptop. I have a 13″ MacBook Air.
Wireless mouse and mousepad. Sometimes I look a little crazy when I pull this out, but I’m so much faster (and my wrist feels so much better) if I use a mouse.
Paper and pen. I’m still an analog notetaker at heart. (Though I’d love it if someone would really school me in Evernote one day.)
Noise-canceling earbuds. These Bose earbuds are my pick because they’re amazing on an airplane. But they’re great in a cafe, too, and they have a mic for making phone calls. (For which I promise I always step outside.)
Wallet, keys, sunglasses, and a bottle of water.
IPhone—that can act as a HotSpot. I’ve been foiled by slow Wifi or 2-hr time limits. If you want to be certain your productivity won’t be shot when someone starts downloading a movie at the table next to you, this can be a backup. (That said, one day when the connection was lagging, I just opened a document offline and started writing and I got so much more done! It removed the temptation to check Instagram.)
I’m curious: Do you work remotely? (It seems like so many offices are going to open cubicle plans these days, how can you not?) What’s your setup when you do? Do you make rules for yourself—like only checking email or social media at certain times or intervals? How do you stay productive?