Apparently it’s pretty hard to be creative in a quiet room. And yet too much noise around us is distracting.
Then throw in the household jobs to tempt us away from the stuff that you *should* be doing to find more customers.
It’s enough to send you to Facebook and waste an hour or two of your time, isn’t it?!
Whether you work from the kitchen table, in the spare bedroom or a purpose built garden office, when you work by yourself for yourself, it is tough to find enough motivation to keep at it day after day.
I know I find it tough.
Especially at this time of year … the dark mornings, the dark evenings, the lack of sunshine and vitamin D. When there’s lots on your to-do list, even the most motivated can find it difficult to focus time and energy on stuff that moves your business forward.
The stuff I’m talking about isn’t the stuff that is critical or customer focused such as posting out an order or emailing a proposal or even must-do-today-or-someone-is-going-to-get-pissed-with-me kind of stuff.
That stuff is easy to do … you have to do it, so you get on with it. Simple as that.
The stuff I’m talking about is the lead generation campaign you’ve meaning to set up; the postcards you’ve been meaning to get sorted and sent out for your next special offer; the research needed to find out where you can get 6 speaking events booked for next year; the squeeze pages that need re-editing as they aren’t converting enough leads for you.
You get the picture, don’t you?
It’s all the stuff that you know you *should* be doing, but frankly there’s so many emails to answer, paperwork to shuffle, Facebook notifications to check and tweets that need re-tweeting that you get the end of each day wondering it went.
Here’s a solution.
Go out to work.
Get away from the comfort of your own working space that keeps you chained to your to-do list and get in the car and drive to an office that you can work in.
There’s plenty of these offices available to you. No need to pre-book or pay a delegate rate. For the price of a cup of coffee (and maybe a piece of cake), there are plenty of coffee shops and tea rooms around today to choose a quiet corner to work from.
This is exactly what I’ve been up to recently and I love it.
And I’m even lucky enough to have a wonderful coffee shop (that also sells quite delicious cookies!) within a 3 minute walk of my house. No need for me to even get in to my car.
The background noise of people coming and going – which I thought was going to be distracting – was actually conducive to working. And because I know I have a limited time there (I can stretch a cup of coffee out for about 90 minutes) I can get my head down and focus on a specific task.
Here’s some tips to get it working right for you:
1. Check wifi first
Always a good idea to call first or check their website as not all coffee shops and team rooms have wifi yet. A brand new tea room has opened up in my local village which I got very excited about, but when I messaged them on Facebook they told me they haven’t got WiFi set up yet as they didn’t know how many people would use it. They obviously had internet access to respond to me via Facebook … so why not make it available to all customers?!
2. Power sockets
Find a table close to a power socket and without causing an ‘elf-n-safety hazard and you are set up in case of battery failure. Nothing worse choosing a table, getting set up and then having to move half way through your session when your red light appears on your laptop (although if you are a mac user, you know this never happens LOL)
3. Avoid the Mummy coffee shops
Nothing against you lot (I’m one myself for goodness sake) but if you find yourself in the middle of an NCT meeting, that background noise rapidly becomes too much to bear!
4. Get clear on what you are going to work on
There’s no point rocking up to your coffee shop, ordering a latte and cake and then drumming your fingers on the table, wondering what you are going to get done. No! You need to plan out what you want to get done, so you can get on with it.
If you really don’t know what you should be doing to get yourself more customers then you should be speaking to me! But seriously … why not make that your task on your first coffee shop outing: to brainstorm ideas on what you need to do to find more customers. Once you’ve got that done, you’ve then got a list of do-able projects to get working on during your next few visits.
5. Passwords and logins
Nothing worse than ordering your coffee, opening up your laptop and then realise you’ve left your password and logins list back in the office. If you have them saved online, great. You are sorted. But whatever you need – phone numbers, website addresses, logins – to get what you need to get done, make sure you bring it with you.
6. Meet up with a GID Partner
Getting It Done is often more fun with someone else is Getting It Done by your side. Meet up, have 15 minutes telling each other what you are going to do, agree a time to get your heads down and then at the end of the session, get another coffee and compare notes.
7. Get the app
If you really don’t have a coffee shop or tea room within a short drive away, then get the app Coffivity. Seriously … I couldn’t make this up! This app will play coffee shop noises to help speed up your productivity and lots of people swear by it.
All you need to do is find another room in the house to work from, make some fresh coffee (unfortunately the app won’t do that for you!) and away you go. OK … maybe not the same thing but at least try working in a different room. Different walls can help with you with creativity and coming up with new ideas.
So, over to you.
I would love to know if you do this. And if so, what are your tips to working productively in a coffee shop or tea room?
Or do you something else? Or go somewhere else? How do you break up your routine and make sure you make the time to get your stuff done?
Great post Karen!
The passwords point rings all too true. If anyone here can suggest an app I’d be really grateful.
90 minutes also works for me, so long as there’s a quick pause at the halfway point.
No coincidence that our workshops are all 90 minuts long – it’s a natural rhythm for most of us.
And as a non-Mum, I felt very relieved to read your point about places to avoid when you need to get your head down and focus. So it’s not just me? Phew! And at the other end of the age range, I’ve been deafened by my neighbours in a National Trust cafe! (this is what we have to look forward to 😉 )
I’m often in London and have found hotel cafes and lounges can be perfect. The coffee might cost a little more but it’s worth it.
Right, I’m off out…coffeeeeeeeeee
I use LastPass to store all my passwords, Dawn – it’s free to download, and you can also use it offline.
Yup … I avoid my local NT cafe for that very reason too Dawn ;o)
Karen – this is such a good idea! I so relate to the ‘wasting time’ on Fb scenario – I get annoyed with myself. We have a coffee shop in our village which is about half a mile away so if the weather is good I get to keep fit as well which is a good thing for someone as sedentary as me. Just need to find out if they have wifi, if they don’t I’ll have to show them your post!
Really good ideas
If you do not have a laptop ( strange as this may seem but true) I heard a tip about commuting to your own office. Get dressed ‘for work’ go out get cake and coffee come back to your home office, Put on the radio quietly and pretend as if you have just come into work.
It has worked for me. Jusat make sure you have left your desk really tidy before you do..
I do this all the time – like many I work from my home office (read spare bedroom) and it can get kind of boring being there all day. As you point out its also easy to ignore the important tasks and do the hum drum.
I too am lucky enough to have a few cafes and coffee shops on my doorstep and I pick up my laptop and head round the corner when I need some motivation to keep going. The interaction with real live people is important to me but then I find it much easier to think and to write and be creative in that environment – I think it is because you can focus on just one or two key tasks – it works for me every time! In fact I’m planning to around 3pm this afternoon – not too many cookies mind!
Yes!! I totally agree, Karen! I like to combine a bit of a walk with my out of office experience – I park about half a mile from the centre of town, and walk along by the river. to my favourite cafe That way, I get exercise and fresh air, as well as focusing on getting a particular task done (usually writing blogs).
Alternatively, if the weather’s bad or I’m running short on time, I commute to the living room. The only downside there is, I usually have a cake with my cuppa!! 😉
FYI I use LastPass to store all my passwords in one place – it’s free to download, and you can even use it offline.
that’s a great idea Julia … exercise whilst commuting to your office. Perhaps that means no cake … or maybe it means you can eat more LOL
Funnily enough, I don’t seem to succumb to cake so readily when I’m out, Karen! But you’ve made a good point – that I can eat more, because of the exercise!! 😉
Thanks Julia for LastPass – will check it out today!
I’m frankly a bit embarrassed to say – I’ve never thought of this! What a brilliant idea. AND I have no fewer than three coffee shops on my doorstep, each far enough away to include the fresh air and exercise elements too. How come I have never thought of this because I absolutely DO wrestle with all those distractions lurking in the home just like everyone else.
Marvellous! I’m inspired.
I do this ALL THE TIME, but have found that it can be too much of a good thing… planning is definitely the BIG essential, as well as the discipline to get on with it once you get to the coffee shop – otherwise it can (for me, at least!) become an extended pre-work break to have a coffee (or two). The determined mind can always find a way to avoid doing things it is uncomfortable with…
But having said that, I have done some of most productive work ever in coffee shops – I was working on a client profile only yesterday in a coffee shop, for example. Once I really got down to it, went like a dream.
And the walk/run/cycle to the coffee shop also helps with energising me to get started.
Have often done this too. Makes a very pleasant change. Now that I live in California, there’s plenty of coffee shops to choose from. However I do need to pick the right time of day, so as not to get too distracted! One doesn’t have particularly good Wi-Fi reception, but there’s plenty of work to be done offline!
I would actually recommend that people consider this for their own ‘admin’ time – maybe once a week or at the very least once a month. It’s very satisfying to declutter your computer and mind of tasks – sorting through emails, deleting where applicable, unsubscribing from all the newsletters they receive and don’t actually get around to reading, checking cash flow etc. The list is endless!
Thanks for the tips Karen.
I often end up working from coffee shops and usually get things done.
However, the idea of a GID partner is brilliant, so I will definitely be doing something with that.
Love this idea, my only problem is trying to find the time to go away from the desk. I try blocking time out in my diary but something seems to come in that needs doing. My task for 2014 is to be stricter with “my time”.
Great article, Karen. Living in Brisbane, Australia, it isn’t easy to find a cafe in which some “bottom 20” or low-brow talk-back show is not blaring at top volume. But I discovered that I do most of my creative thinking – training, business planning and paper writing – on the trains. I bought industrial strength ear-plugs for that 🙂