I love working from home. I don’t miss the commute or the distractions from coworkers. It’s a pretty good gig.
But at least once a week, I take this show on the road. I have a meeting in town and then need to find a place to set up shop nearby afterward to get some work done. While I considered renting some co-working space, I decided to go to public spaces instead. You could say I was too cheap to pay rent. But the numbers didn’t work for me.
What does work for me is free public wifi. I have some options around town that give me the ability to set up a mobile office. It’s not perfect, but it works well enough. Like other road warriors and telecommuters, I keep a few key productivity tools in my arsenal to get things done:
I need a place that understands people like me are going to spend more time than money. This place is comfortable and offers ample power outlets.
I have a Starbucks card that gives me access to two free hours of wifi daily. But come July, that won’t be necessary. They will offer free wireless Internet.
If food or socializing isn’t so important, I like the large desks and quiet of the public library. Finding a power outlet may be a challenge though.
You may prefer a netbook or very small laptop because of price and weight. I’m sticking with my 15-inch MacBook Pro. The screen and keyboard are big enough for me to work comfortably. The speed and memory don’t hold me back when I’m surfing the web, writing in Google Documents or watching videos. To be honest, I would prefer a 17-inch model but not enough to pay the extra money. What I have is the right tool for my work.
You may not need it. But assess what you’re going to do on the road. If you’re not going to do more than check e-mail or some lightweight websites, go with as little as you can get.
My laptop and browser are locked behind different passwords. If someone were to “find” it, they can’t have access to my information. I don’t do top secret work but clients should be able to trust me.
That’s also why my laptop is not my primary computer. Any sensitive work like banking or database maintenance is done at home. That data doesn’t move out of the house.
Also, there are some services that will help you recover your laptop if it’s stolen. Basically when someone uses your laptop to connect to the Internet, these services will find it and collect enough evidence to get the police involved.
I primarily use a desktop machine in the home office. Two computers means two browsers and sets of bookmarks. I use Xmarks – a Firefox extension – to sync my bookmarks and passwords between the two machines. It’s seamless and fast. Whatever passwords and bookmarks I save are accessible no matter where I am.
Foursquare is a social network that lets you check-in at various venues and let your friends in the network know where you are. Yes it’s a bit self-indulgent. But when I check-in at a coffee place, the message goes out to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. It’s the equivalent of hanging a sign that says “The Blogger Is In.” This way people can find me if they want to talk. It’s part of the strategy to keeping in touch with my networks.
I use Google Apps to handle e-mail and files. I can access my work from anywhere I can access the Internet. Otherwise I know I’m going to forget the thumb drive with the files I need some day. It’s all handy in the clouds.
- TIP: If you’re worried about security, then make your own cloud. I have my own domain, and installed a secret WordPress blog on the site. No one knows where it and it’s not linked from anywhere. I use it as a notebook. If Google Docs are down, I use my secret blog as a word processor.
The same goes for e-mail. Web-based email services store your messages where you can always get to them. You have a lot of information stored in those messages. Make sure they’re where you can find them.
Of course I’m always reachable by cell phone. It’s a must have for anyone who works out of the “office.” But a smartphone adds a new layer of connectivity. A lot of times it’s easier to check e-mails on a mobile device than firing up a laptop.
Productivity apps such as task managers, calendars and time trackers are handier on a mobile device.
It’s also nice to have some games for diversions.
Yes it’s handy to have your documents in the clouds. But sometimes someone wants to give you files directly from their computer. Having them use file sharing services (Or you may need to give them files and documents) may not work so well for them.
A password protected drive will accommodate most of your file transfer needs.
“No shirts, no shoes, no service” sets the baseline. But if you want people around you to treat you like a professional, you have to dress the part.
You’re an adult so show some consideration. Keep your work area neat. Lower your volume on your computer and your voice when talking on the phone. Don’t take up more room than you need. Or hog bandwidth. This isn’t the time to download movies with Bittorrent.
Even if you don’t care about etiquette and don’t see a problem with being self-centered, remember that you are very visible. Your boorish behavior can hurt your professional reputation.
We’ve got a lot listed here. But it’s physically not too much to fit into a professional computer tote or messenger bag. Be sure you have room for some a pens or pencil and a notebook. Sometimes you need to take notes old school.
And pick your bag like you would pick your wardrobe. It can round out the professional look and be very functional. Your mileage may vary.
This system works pretty well for me. The biggest downsize is that it’s hard to watch what I eat. Spending a few hours so close to tempting baked goods that are on most coffeehouse menus is tough. But I’m able to be reasonably productive and connect with people.
How productive are you when working with public wifi?
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