- Working in #NoOffice means working anywhere you want!
- Meet the enemy of productivity: procrastination
- Why work from one place if you can work from multiple places?
- Examples of different “offices” for different tasks
- Balcony of my home office for longer writing
- Cafeteria or car for weekly review
- Crashing other people’s offices for social interactions and light work
- Co-working space for more human interaction
- Silos with a colleague or working together with a co-worker one day a week
- Enjoying a virtual meeting while taking a walk
- Nomadic working because why not?
- Practical tips for working from anywhere
- The one thing: shake things up and work from anywhere!
Working in #NoOffice means working anywhere you want!
What I love about the No Office lifestyle is the freedom to work from anywhere and at anytime.
In Chapter 21 I explained the importance of setting up a great home office to help you work productively from the comfort of your house. In Chapter 22 I highlighted the importance of a correct work-from-home balance. Thanks to flexible hours and communicating expectations with your house members, you can easily adjust your work time to the family life. That’s the flexibility of time when you work.
In this chapter let’s focus on the other kind of flexibility that you have as a No Office person. You can have multiple offices!
Paraphrasing Apple’s slogan for the App Store: there’s an app for that! I’d say that:
If there is a specific task, there is an office for that!
Meet the enemy of productivity: procrastination
As you might have noticed reading this book, being the CEO of Nozbe for more than a decade now has made me something of a productivity zealot. As I’ve been working on our app, I’ve been studying my own personal productivity as well as interviewing users, customers and other productivity fanatics. The one enemy that we all have in common is procrastination.
Between notifications, interruptions, mood swings and other factors, we’re constantly being tempted not to do what we should be working on. We are all just fallible human beings whose lizard brain1 tries to make us sabotage our meaningful work and wants us to do the easy thing.
The struggle is real.
I should know. I procrastinated writing this chapter for more than three months! Yes, I had most of the book written by the end of February 20212 and today is June 2, 2021. Yes, I can come up with all the excuses of being busy running Nozbe, but the fact of the matter is that I procrastinated. Enough said.
While there are many tricks to fight off procrastination and boost productivity, one of the most under appreciated one for many people is to change the context of their work. To simply perform specific tasks in different places.
Why work from one place if you can work from multiple places?
I’m most productive in my home office which I designed specifically in such a way that fits the way I work. However, I learned that even with such a great setup I still like to shake things up a bit and sometimes just work from somewhere else!
I discovered this years ago, when there was a major remodeling work in my home and I couldn’t use my usual home office3. I had to switch places for different tasks and as annoying as it was, I realized that I was very productive and focused when a specific place inspired me to focus on a specific task. Later while sharing this story with other people I realized that I wasn’t alone and other people also were practicing a similar trick.
Examples of different “offices” for different tasks
Why can we use such a trick to help us work better? It’s because of the associations that our brain is making between a task and a place. Our mind automatically thinks that OK, here is where this is done, whereas there is where this other thing is being performed. It’s that simple.
Our brain associates a task with a place and this helps us to beat procrastination and perform that one specific kind of task.
The examples below are by no means exhaustive but I hope they will inspire you to also to shake things up a bit in your No Office work and search for your specific offices for specific tasks.
Balcony of my home office for longer writing
Just outside of my home office I have a balcony which I haven’t been using much for years. However, right before the pandemic I decided to accommodate it for work. I installed a retractable canopy that can cover the balcony and provide a much-needed shade there. I also bought a small table with two chairs. Nothing fancy.
It turns out, that with the canopy open, the balcony became a nice place to sit down, enjoy the view and just write. In fact, I’m writing these words sitting on this balcony right now. And guess what, over the last three months as I was procrastinating, I wasn’t using this office much. Now I am. And apparently I’m writing!
Cafeteria or car for weekly review
In Chapter 16 about regular reviews and Chapter 17 about Fridays I wrote about the importance of a regular Weekly Review of work. Turns out, we have no problem scheduling meetings with other people, but to schedule a meeting with ourselves for a thorough review of a week feels like a chore and is very often avoided. Even though I’m a strong believer in this concept, I’m as guilty as anyone for trying to skip my review for several weeks. That’s why in order to really perform this review, I’ve created a process that goes like this:
- Before 9am on Friday I take my daughters to school.
- After that I’m NOT coming home, but I go to a cafeteria and order a cup of coffee and a bottle of sparkling water.
- I sit there for 1-2 hours straight to perform my review and I don’t leave the place until the review is done. If necessary I order another cup of coffee and bottle of water.
- For additional focus, I put on my headphones and listen to the piano album of Ludovico Einaudi4
I can promise you that whenever Friday came and I didn’t change my office this way for a weekly review, most of the times I’d just skip it. Seriously.5
When the pandemic hit and the cafeterias were closed or I simply wouldn’t feel comfortable going to them, I’d so something different. I’d simply drop off the kids at school and drive to a nice spot with an inspiring view and do the review in the car. Having my iPad with me with strong cellular connection was enough to go through all of my Nozbe projects and tasks.6
Crashing other people’s offices for social interactions and light work
Many of my close friends still work from traditional offices. My wife goes to a very beautiful office. That’s why sometimes when I want to shake things up a little and also have additional social interaction, I crash other people’s offices. We meet up for a lunch or coffee and very often they have a spare desk I can use for an hour or two of light work before or after. It’s a good excuse to get out of my home office, see something different and also talk to people outside of my team.
I don’t do it very often so my friends are really happy when we can spend some time together during our workdays and I can do some light work in a new environment that might inspire me to get some new ideas.
Co-working space for more human interaction
Speaking of other humans, some people just don’t want to spend all workdays in their home office and need to be around people more. One of the solution for this is signing up for a co-working space. There are increasingly more places like this in most cities and the cool thing is that you don’t have to rent an office for a whole month, but you can just buy certain hour or day blocks and just use them as you see fit.
With a co-working space you get the benefits of being around people, having random social interactions, an office-style coffee or lunch break and simply having a place that someone else takes care of. The drawback of course is that you probably won’t be as focused as in the home office, but that’s OK if human connection is what you need.
Silos with a colleague or working together with a co-worker one day a week
In my company we have people from all over the place. Most are in Poland but some live in other countries in Europe and sometimes other continents. However, there are cities where we have two or more colleagues living relatively close to each other.
Take Magda, the editor of this book, who lives in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland. Before the pandemic for many many months she used to meet up with another colleague of her every Thursday in a cafeteria to work together. They’d just show up in the morning, chat about personal things while having a coffee and later get back to work on their laptops sitting by the same desk. Later they’d have a lunch together, and they’d work some more. As she explained it to me, it’s not like they’d talk much when they worked, but just being around a person they know, like and trust every week was just a nice experience. And as they both worked in our marketing department, they’d very often just go over some campaigns together or help each other plan work.
Enjoying a virtual meeting while taking a walk
This is something I discovered during the pandemic. After the lockdown when we were allowed to leave home for a few hours, I’d sometimes take meetings outside while having a walk. Especially when a meeting didn’t require having a computer in front of me. Like the individual quarterly meetings I described in Chapter 24. I’d just put my headphones on, take the iPhone and connect using Zoom or FaceTime with the other person and have a virtual walk together. I had my notes for the meeting handy on my phone and I could get back to them at anytime. We’d talk, we’d show each the sights we were seeing while walking together virtually.
This was a nice combination of an excuse to leave home for just a bit, having a light exercise and a breath of fresh air, while doing something productive like having a good meeting with a colleague. I intend to keep this habit and take my meetings while walking whenever I can.
Nomadic working because why not?
Radek, VP of engineering at Nozbe and my co-host of “The Podcast” in 2017 and 2018 was living a nomadic lifestyle where he’d very rarely be in his home office. At that time his girlfriend was living in a different city than him so he’d just jump on a train and visit her for a few days and work from her place. He’d also visit some of his colleagues this way. Few days here, few days there, while also working form the train itself.
This way he could really take advantage of our No Office way of working. He didn’t have to take vacation time, he could just work form different places. As he explained to me, the key to making such a lifestyle sustainable was having a great packing list with a set of clothes and all of the necessary cables for his laptop. Also, in the places that he’d frequently visit he’d map out good places to eat and work, so that hunting for food or good Wifi hot spots wouldn’t be a recurring problem.7
As I’m writing this chapter, in our company we have a fairly new colleague Mijam, who works with us while living in a car. He adapted his minivan truck to a sort of a caravan and he travels Europe, hunting for good rock-climbing opportunities, while working for Nozbe. When I hired him he was in France, later he traveled to Poland and now he’s on the island of Mallorca. I wonder where he’ll be next. He’s got everything he needs inside his car, including batteries, solar panels and a bed. He works in the mornings and nights, while rock climbing during the day. He usually stays for a week in a place, using weekends as the time to relocate his home on wheels to a new spot. What a lifestyle, right?
Practical tips for working from anywhere
As with everything concerning productivity, the key to really taking advantage of many offices is to reduce the barrier of entry to work. To be able to start working in an instant. Here are a few tips that worked for me and my colleagues:
- Have your laptop or iPad charged when leaving home. These days laptops can work many hours on a single charge so you’ll be productive for hours before you start worrying about charging. As an #iPadOnly user, my main computer is my iPad Pro and I truly recommend using an iPad as the computer you’d work when not working in your home office. It’s light, very portable, can be always connected to mobile network and has a long battery life8.
- Have an additional charging cable in your backpack ready at all times. That’s right. You need two charging cables ready - one in your home office and the other for your other offices.
- Use a backpack with comfortable straps. Messenger bags, suitcases and other types of bags that you have to carry in one hand can be cool and fancy, but they can get heavy and require that one of your hands be occupied at all times. With a quality backpack you can move faster, travel lighter and have both hands free at all times.9
- Maintain a checklist of things to take when leaving your home office. I’m a big fan of checklists. That’s why we maintain public Nozbe.how templates. Before leaving your home office take a look at your checklist and make sure you’ve got everything with you. This is was the key to helping Radek maintain sanity while working from different cities throughout a year.
- Find regular places to work, eat and drink. When using co-working spaces, cafeterias or restaurants, take your time to find the ones that really work for you and then just become a regular there. This way you’ll always enjoy the same standard of service and you’ll be able to focus on work and just being productive in that particular space. One of my close friends, Steve, who very often travels to London to meet with prospective clients, always stays in the same hotel, goes to the same pubs and uses the same co-working space.
The one thing: shake things up and work from anywhere!
The No Office lifestyle gives you amazing flexibility about where you work from. Your home office doesn’t have to be the only place where you get stuff done. Sometimes the easiest way to fight procrastination is to change the context or your environment for just a few hours. Use the examples from this chapter as your inspiration to go out more, find your favorite places for your favorite tasks and socialize with friends or colleagues. For additional inspiration check out the reference links mentioned in this chapter.
The whole weekly-review-in-cafeteria idea came from my interview with my friend Augusto Pinaud, who explained how he’d always go to the same Starbucks, order the same coffee, etc. You can watch my entire interview with him here: NoOffice.Link/augusto ↩
Being #iPadOnly helps a lot as my iPad has a cellular modem and an unlimited data plan so I don’t need to search for Wifi hot spots when I’m out and about. I just use the mobile connection which these days is really good. Very often it’s faster than local Wifi in cafeterias or bars. Most laptops don’t have a cellular modem, so if you’re a laptop user you need to find places that do have a good Wifi that you can use. ↩
I’m a heavy iPad user and I’ve been working like this for almost a decade now. Years ago I co-wrote a book about it with my friend Augusto Pinaud. You can read it free at iPadOnly.com/book and you can find my latest articles on the subject at Michael.team/ipadonly ↩
Again, it was the same nomadic Radek who convinced me to go all-in on backpack-only lifestyle. I even travel for up to a week only with a backpack and nothing else. We recorded a very thorough video episode of The Podcast FM where we show exactly what’s in our backpacks: ThePodcast.fm/162 and I recently changed my backpack and wrote it up here: Michael.team/backpack ↩