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7 tips for working out of coffee shops

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I realize I don’t have a normal work schedule. My “typical” day consists of working out of a combination of my car, coffee shops, co-working spaces (I’m a member at CoCo in Minneapolis), my home and client offices. But, since I spend a decent amount of time (by choice–more on that in a different post) in coffee shops, I’ve noticed that more and more corporate and agency people are spending time there lately, too–working, not socializing.

As the workplace continues to “shift” (follow the #workshifting hash tag for more), we’ll most likely see more of this–not less–in the years ahead. In fact, some agencies (look at the Fast Horse model locally here in Minneapolis) are already there.

So, since more people are using coffee shops as workplaces, and I spend a bit of time there, I thought I’d share a few tips for what’s worked for me in the last few years and how you can make sure you’re as productive as possible when you’re “out of the office.”

Tip #1: Find the outlets

You know the guy who walks into the coffee shop and is immediately looking at spots along the floor boards, quietly roaming the room? Yeah, that’s me. Don’t be that guy. But, you need to be sure the coffee house you’re working in has ample outlets. So, make sure to note which coffee shops have more than one outlet. After all, no outlet means, no power cord. And no power cord means a dead laptop. Don’t get caught with a dead laptop. Quick productivity killer.

Tip #2: Make friends with the baristas

If you plan to spend a decent amount of time at one particular coffee house, start talking with the baristas. You can only benefit by befriending these folks. They can and will: 1) Offer you special deals from time to time, 2) Give you free coffee, if you’re remotely nice, 3) Help you with other ad-hoc questions and issues as they pop up. For advanced coffee shop workers: Reach out to and make friends with the manager. Make sure he/she knows you on a first-name basis.

Tip #3: Invest in some killer headphones

I used to think this was a age-specific tip. But recently, I’ve noticed more 40-plus-year-olds wearing phones in coffee shops. Which is good, because I turn 40 in August and I don’t want to be the only 40-year-old wearing Klipsch phones in my coffee shop. Good phones tune out all ambient noise around you. And believe me, there’s a lot of ambient noise in a coffee shop. You need good phones. Once you have those, make Pandora your new BFF.

Tip #4: Never leave your stuff unattended

Seems like an obvious tip, but believe me, I’ve seen a number of people leave Mac laptops unattended for 5-10 minutes at a time. Sure, you’d probably be fine. But, why risk it with employee/client data likely just a few keystrokes away? My rule: Take your bag with you EVERYWHERE. To the bathroom. To the car. To the other side of the store, in some cases. I take zero risks here. And I’m sure my clients like it that way.

Tip #5: Know where the bathrooms are located

If you’re going to spend an hour or two in a coffee house, chances are you may have to use the restroom. Make sure you know where they’re located. And, in some cases (Caribou Coffees in Lunds/Bylerly’s) they can be tough to find, so this isn’t as obvious as it might sound.

Tip #6: Don’t rely on the free wi-fi

Even though many coffee shops offer free wi-fi, I’ve learned (the hard way) not to count on it. For many reasons. They forget to “turn it on.” It goes in and out. Or, in some cases, some shops just don’t offer it (for free, at least). Not to mention, it’s not always safe. So, always go in having a “plan B.” My-Fi devices are a good idea–but, they’re spendy, and unnecessary for most folks who only work remotely a day or two a week. I’d recommend using your phone as a hot spot (that is, if you have an iPhone 4). I just upgraded my iPhone package to add a personal hotspot last year–problem solved! It’s an extra $20 a month, but SO worth the extra dough. It’s come in handy on MANY occasions to date.

Tip #7: Don’t take con calls at the coffee shop

Believe me, I’ve tried. But taking conference calls in the coffee shop just isn’t a good idea. Number one, it’s fairly rude to those around you (just my opinion). It’s also rude to those on the phone, as coffee shops are very loud and I know that comes through on the other end of the line. You can try bluetooth devices. Headphones. Whatever. It’s still loud. And you’ll always have a tough time hearing the folks on the line. And, worse yet, they’ll have a tough time hearing you. Don’t do it. Save your calls for the office (or, the car).

What about you? Do you work out of coffee shops from time to time? Any good insider tips to share?

Note: Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn via Flickr Creative Commons.

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7 tips for working out of coffee shops

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