Lifehacker has a great article on their site about how to be productive in a coffee shop, or any where away from the office. It’s a great read, albeit a bit on the ‘technical’ side. (they talk about things like batching your Internet connectivity needs to minimize the wi-fi drain on your battery). I’m a fan of creative office spaces and having been a nomadic worker on and off for the last decade, there are a few things that have made me more productive and that I feel will make your experience at The Docking Station (or any coworking center/third place) a very productive one.
- Bring work and resources for tasks that you can complete in the time you’ve allotted for your visit. There’s nothing more annoying than bringing a backpack worth of stuff
- Time your visit. Productivity gurus have long recommended that we find our most productive time of day. For me, it’s either early morning (530 – 830am) or in the late afternoon (4-6pm). However, timing your visit means coinciding with the flow of the third place that you’re visiting. You may have a favorite weekday coffee house that turns into the hottest breakfast joint or evening concert hangout on the weekends or during the summer months. Coworking centers also have events and cyclical patterns that you should pay attention to.
- Headphones. Good_noise_cancelling_headphones. This is less of an issue at a proper co-working center and an absolute must at a coffee house. I often work from my favorite library, so it’s really a non issue there, but nonetheless, headphones are a must and they almost never leave my bag.
- Phone optional. I often leave my phone in the car. The whole reason for going to an off-site space it to crank out something of value. There’s no sense in bringing a bunch of distractions with you if that’s what you’re trying to leave behind. That’s what voicemail is for.
- Socialize with caution. My inner introvert is showing here, but I’ve made it a habit to go out of my way to make friends carefully during my out-of-office experiences. Less disciplined folks can really drag your productivity down past the point where any networking value should long be extracted from the conversation.
- Sync your files. I use SugarSync to make sure that no matter what device (laptop, iPad, hotel lobby computer, kiosk,whatever) I use, I have access to critical files.
- Work off-line as much as possible. To increase your productivity, disconnect your Internet connection. Have scheduled times when you’re going to check your email, and only let yourself check your blogs or surf the web when you’ve gotten a certain amount done. It’s for this very reason that I always, always, always use offline email clients. I can queue up things to send as I complete tasks without having the distraction of things constantly flowing into my inbox as you would with online tools.
- Organization can unlock your creativity. I find that being organized and taking only what I need (see tip #1) with me, I can be creative and free-thinking on the topic or task at hand. If I have a backpack full of work, guilt and analysis paralysis set in and you can’t decide what to do… Organization also makes it easy to transition from first place to second place to third place (work > home > coworking) with relative ease. You can grab your laptop and a few files at a moments notice
- Keep key work tools in one travel bag. My laptop bag always has several pens, highlighters, a pencil, bookmarks, cell phone connector, travel mouse and a few other key items that go with me wherever I go. Again, it’s organized, stocked up and ready to go when I am. It makes it easy to justify heading off to the library or coworking space or any third place knowing that I’ll lose little in productive time getting ready to leave and unpacking when I return.
I know, there’s nothing here that’s absolute rocket science. However, sometimes it’s the simple things that make the most profound difference. Go forth and be productive!