Right now I’m sitting in a lovely outdoor vegan café in Ubud, Bali. So it seems totally appropriate that I am writing this blog article all about working productively from cafés.
Over the last three years as a Digital Nomad, working from my laptop around the world has become an exciting lifestyle choice. I might also add, not one I would have envisioned ever, so if you are reading this thinking it’s not something you fancy… I recommend trying it before you decide.
I love a beautiful café full stop. The smells, the sights (so long as it’s a more arty/creative sort of place) and the atmosphere. However actually working productively from cafes only came more recently. At first I would simply get distracted with everything going on around me. I’d look up and watch people coming and going. Buy another coffee or something sweet to nibble etc.
Eventually I noticed the switch when one day I was so absorbed in what I was writing that over 2 hours passed and quite honestly a bomb could have dropped next to me. This was it. This was how working productively from cafes was done. Now I just had to get some sort of routine and so I started talking to other digital nomads and soon it became clear that cafés are the perfect place to get certain tasks done.
Cafes are great for writing, researching, Social Media, photo-editing, emails, admin, design, and all the jobs that just require your laptop and nothing much else.
As an artist (yes I’ve picked up my Art Career) of course I can really only get my marketing, design, and admin done from cafes. The creative stuff must be done in a suitable space. Although I have often done sketching and watercolour painting in cafés in Chiang Mai.
Working productively from cafes is a powerful lifestyle choice.
So Let’s Get Stuck Into My 12 Tips For Working Productively From Cafes.
Here I will add that these are MY tips and other people certainly do it differently. I’ve seen people hold Skype calls, online meetings and stay in one place all day…
1. Get 100% Clear On Your Main Task To Accomplish.
This for me was crucial to get started, and is the easiest way to get focussed from the get-go. Work from your task list or diary. Make sure you know exactly what you are going to work on when you leave for your chosen café.
This avoids all the things I first spoke about. Looking around, fiddling on Social Media, procrastinating etc. Ideally just have the one task, break it down into bite-sized chunks and decide how long it will take you. This will best inform you where to go.
2. Limit Your Stay In One Café To 3 Hours.
As both my daughters currently work in Hospitality (both in fact café managers), I am only too clear how much they hate people like me! The café’s worst customer is one who comes in sits at a large table, buys a cheap coffee and stays for hours. When all they want to do is have a high turnover of people who are spending good money. After all they have a business to run as well.
Now this also does depend on which country you are in as in Asia for example, there are a lot of cafes where you being there is a bonus. They are not so busy, and are set up for Digital Nomads to stay all day. In Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia they are only too happy to have you there.
Try this is a busy London café in the middle of the day and you may well be politely asked to leave.
Mostly it’s a case of common sense. Here in Bali, and recently in Perth, Australia, I use the 3-hour rule. Then move on somewhere else.
3. Go In The Quiet Times Only.
This might sound logical, but sometimes we are just caught up in wanting to get a coffee and some work done. We forget about the cafés we are frequenting.
Check out the places you want to use and head in just after the main breakfast crowd, lunch crowd or around mid-afternoon where things can optimal. I discovered that where I am in the Soma Café in Bali, which was quiet at opening time and didn’t start filling up till late morning.
4. Make It A Working Breakfast, Brunch or Lunch.
Find a café with fabulous food and make it a ‘working breakfast’, brunch or lunch. I also find if you are prepared to do some Social Media for them (so take pictures of the food, surrounds etc…post where you are and Tag them in it), they won’t mind you being there at all.
Basically be prepared to buy the food, after all that’s what they are there for.
5. Have At Least One Form Of Back-up Wifi.
So my favourite topic of course is the Wifi situation. I often will check for Blogs on the city I am in first and any recommendations before heading out.
If you absolutely must have Wifi for your task, then it’s relatively cheap to buy a mobile wifi box and therefore have your own with you. Alternatively make sure your phone is topped up with enough data and you can always create a ‘Hotspot’ and work from there.
Lastly, consider doing some ‘offline’ tasks and pick somewhere that doesn’t have wifi in it to get these done.
6. Get Good At Spotting The Best Places To Sit.
This can make the difference that makes the difference. Look for tables that really only hold one person, are in a corner, away from the window (where most people might want to sit if out for lunch). Or up-stairs if the café has more than one floor.
This just means you are less likely to become the café nuisance and they might love having you back.
7. Make Sure You Have All The Equipment You Need.
I have a sort of Tick List of things I take with me, not least the charging leads for everything. Think through the task in hand and mentally work through what you might need.
I very often keep a bag within my bag, which holds all this stuff. Just be very careful when you are out and about (and this really does very with country), as I had that bag stolen in broad daylight in Australia. I lost everything apart from my laptop…
8. Make A Date With Other Digital Nomads And Work Together.
OK so I admin, sometimes this works very well and other times it really doesn’t. Be very clear with the person you are meeting that you have set tasks to get done and are there to work.
This works really well for making trips to the toilet, or going out to get anything you may have forgotten. You can also hold each other accountable and check in at the end of your time there.
9. Build In Breaks To Relocate To Different Venues.
I do this no matter where I am working, and this works really well when working productively from cafés. Choose your next café based on how far away it is and use this as a chance to get in some fresh air and exercise.
10. Take A Good Headset With You All The Time.
It’s strange that after a while you’ll find that not matter how much noise there is around you, you can just block it all out. But most people who develop a lifestyle like this use a good headset.
I find that the simple Iphone ones work really well, but have been known to take my Logitech set-set with me too. Of course if you are going to make calls, then you’ll need one with a noise-cancelling mic too.
11. Create Play-lists To Enhance The Tasks You Are Doing.
This was a tip I learned some time ago, and really love using now. I have created a variety of Play-Lists both on ITunes and YouTube. In there I have classical music, stirring ‘movie soundtrack type’ of music, and full-on dance tracks.
Then I choose one that complements what I am doing. This means that every time I play the music I have ‘anchored’ it to the task type and just get straight into work mode. Love it. ☺
12. Work Out What You Would Be Prepared To Pay For A Good Office And Budget Accordingly.
Lastly, I think it’s important to mention that whatever you are doing, you are building a business. So set aside a monthly or weekly budget to spend in the cafes. When I had a physical coaching business my office was my largest monthly expense, but I didn’t think twice paying it.
Now you might have to check with your accountant or bookkeeper whether it’s possible to claim these receipts. If you use a proper ‘Co-Working Space’ then this becomes your office. Often you have a weekly or monthly membership system anyway and you should be able to make this a valid business expense.
I hope I have inspired you to just start working from a café. Even if you currently work from home, just see how focused and productive you can be with no distractions… I intend to continue working productively from cafés wherever I am. Here’s to ‘remote working’ and creating the lifestyle of your dreams.