View From Today’s Office: Smith’s Coffee Company

View from Today’s Office is a blog series detailing all of the fun and interesting places where I am able to work. As full-time remote worker AND a full-time live aboard on the canals of London, I am always cruising to new areas and finding cool places to spend a few hours on my computer. Follow along for all the fun!

Today’s office is Smith’s Coffee Company, located in Hemel Hempstead, England. My wife and I stumbled upon this location while jogging along the canal a few days ago. We were both struck by the delicious smell of roasting coffee, so we diverted our workout to investigate. When we located the front of the building, the window had a sign that read “Cafe Open,” so we went right in. Despite being rather unattractive in our appearance, the folks at Smith’s couldn’t have been nicer, so we agreed to come back later and spend some time at their facility.

View From Today's Office: Smith's Coffee Company

And return we did. Lee, the office boss man, told us all about the company, their facility, and some of their cool side projects. He was even kind enough to give us some pointers on coffee preparation using our new french press. Of course, we also talked coffee brews and his team helped us decide between a couple of fresh bags to take with us. They ground the beans to our specification right there while we waited.

View From Today's Office: Smith's Coffee Company

My wife and I spent a few hours chatting and working from their on-site cafe. Before we left, however, we had to check out the museum adjacent to the cafe. This small room is packed with hundreds of historical coffee pieces, from beautiful authentic Turkish coffee sets to antithetical stove-top peculators from the 70s. And they had plenty of funny coffee signage as well.

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Overall, Smith’s Coffee Company was a great place to work for a few hours. The hosts were amazing, the coffee was delicious, and the setting was relaxing. I definitely recommend stopping in for a cuppa if you’re in the Hemel Hempstead area. Check out their website at: https://www.smithscoffee.co.uk/.

Where are your favorite places to work outside of the office? Any tips, tricks, or suggestions for staying productive while enjoying your workday? Leave a comment below or reach out via the Contact section on The Telework Guru. Thanks!

Weekly Intentive Personal Scheduling (WIPS) & Why You Should Be Doing It

Getting the right things done at the right time is a challenge for everyone. And balancing the demands of work (projects, meetings, deadlines) and home (cleaning, kids, errands) is especially difficult for the teleworkers of the world. There are countless tools and endless advice out there to help, so I’ll throw in my strategy as well; everyone working outside an office should be using WIPS.

What is WIPS? Weekly Intentive Personal Scheduling. As the name suggests, this is a personal scheduling strategy done at the weekly level and, most importantly, done with intent. That means that those practicing this strategy need to commit to the schedule they keep; after all, a huge part of remote work is holding yourself accountable. Now, that’s not to say WIPS isn’t flexible, it absolutely is, but there is a framework to work within. But we are getting ahead of ourselves; first, we need to discuss how to properly use this strategy.

Part 1: Schedule Your Week

WIPS starts at the beginning of the workweek; Monday morning for most of us, Sunday evening if you’re really proactive. The first task is to set your high-level goals for the week. As I wrote in part two of my series Critical Tips to Help You Succeed While Working Remotely, this should be no more than three objectives that, once complete, will signify a successful week.

Once those goals are set, schedule the time required to accomplish those goals. I recommend using a digital scheduling tool, like the Outlook or Google calendars, but any old fashioned planner will do. Work around your previously-scheduled meetings and reserve this time in one-hour blocks. And be generous with this time; after all, these are the goals that will determine your success for the week. At the same time, be realistic; these goals are your most important commitments for the week, but not the only commitments. Lastly, choose the time slots where you’re most productive to work on these goals. For most people, that will be the early portion of your day, before any fires flare up that require your attention.

Weekly Intentive Personal Scheduling (WIPS) & Why You Should Be Doing It
Part 1: Schedule Your Week.

Once you’ve scheduled time to accomplish your main goals for the week, pencil in time for those secondary objectives, like preparing for meetings and more routine to-do items. Stick to one-hour blocks to ensure that you have enough time to do quality work, but feel free to lump similar smaller tasks together, like “respond to queued emails.” Also, feel free to reserve “open time,” especially toward the end of the week. Workweeks rarely go as planned, so anticipating and scheduling time to fight fires and high-priority action items will reduce time swapping and the associated headaches down the line. In the rare cases where these timely action items don’t pop up, you’ll have some extra time to work on important future objectives or focus on your personal development.

Part 2: Regularly Review, Re-Prioritize, and Reschedule

So you’ve dedicated the 30-60 minutes needed to set your goals and schedule your week; that means you’re done scheduling until next Monday, right? No way. In Part 1, you’ve built your ideal week based on the inputs available on day one. During the week, new inputs are constantly streaming in, which means that you need to review your weekly plan and make the necessary adjustments. We do this by weighing the priority (‘importance’ x ‘time criticality’) of incoming items against those that you’ve already scheduled.

Say that you’re in the middle of a two-hour block of time reserved to accomplish one of your three weekly goals; a critical time for the success of your week. Zooming in on your email comes an ALL CAPS email from your boss requesting that an excel sheet be put together and sent over immediately. In the WIPS system, you don’t blindly redirect your attention to this new shiny object, however important it may be. Since this system is based on commitment, you must first determine the new item’s priority, evaluate its impact on your weekly schedule, insert it where appropriate, and adjust the remainder of your schedule around it. WIPS allows for adjustment, but you must still commit to the schedule you keep, before and after adjustments take place.

In a situation like this, I would probably redirect my attention to this timely task and reschedule the work I had been doing for later in the day or the next morning, reshuffling any other tasks that may be affected as appropriate.

Weekly Intentive Personal Scheduling (WIPS) & Why You Should Be Doing It
Part 2: Regularly Review, Re-Prioritize, and Reschedule

That’s the beauty of the WIPS system; it’s a balance between setting rigid goals for the week and flexibly responding to new requirements as they come. The value of this system is that it’s built on informed decisions. While building your schedule in Part 1, you’re setting objectives with the full context of your competing priorities at the time. You’re doing the same thing in Part 2 as new items emerge to challenge those established priorities. Without this system or something like it, most people will chase the newest, shiniest item that comes across their screen. This diverts attention to fighting fires, while also distracting people from the truly important items.

When done right, the WIPS system will help remote workers:

  1. Focus on the right things
  2. Dedicate the appropriate time to each goal
  3. Effectively gauge capacity and commitments
  4. Stay focused on professional development
  5. Appropriately accommodate personal time

 

What do you think of the WIPS system? Ever tried anything similar? How did it work out? Drop a comment below or reach out via the Contact section.

Thanks for reading!

 

View From Today’s Office: Cassiobury Park

View from Today’s Office is a blog series detailing all of the fun and interesting places where I am able to work. As full-time remote worker AND a full-time live aboard on the canals of London, I am always cruising to new areas and finding cool places to spend a few hours on my computer. Follow along for all the fun!

Today’s office is Cassiobury Park, a 200-acre park located in Watford, England. The Grand Union Canal cuts along the western edge of the park, so I moored my boat here for several days. Add in a couple of folding chairs, a WiFi hotspot, and a fully-charged laptop, and I was productive for several hours while staying nice and relaxed.

View From Today's Office: Cassiobury Park
View From Today’s Office: Cassiobury Park’s lavender plants.

During my breaks, I took a couple of walks through the park and the nearby golf course. The UK is great for hikers/walkers in that much of the land, including most golf courses, is open for people to explore. A farmer’s field near the park had a lovely trail running through.

View From Today's Office: Cassiobury Park
View From Today’s Office: A field near Cassiobury Park

Within the park, there’s plenty to explore as well. There are loads of walking trails, picnic areas, and open space for the dog to run. The main pavilion, which is surrounded by a small water park for the kids, includes a quaint cafe called Daisy’s. The snacks aren’t anything mind-blowing, but it serves coffee, has plenty of outlets, and isn’t overcrowded; a winner in my book!

View From Today's Office: Cassiobury Park
View From Today’s Office: Cassiobury Park pavilion.

Although it can be crowded, especially on the weekends, there’s enough space in Cassiobury Park to be plenty peaceful for a day’s work on the laptop. Check out the park’s website here. If you’re going to make it out, I recommend also walking through some of the surrounding land. That means packing your comfortable shoes and setting aside a few hours.

Where are your favorite places to work outside of the office? Any tips, tricks, or suggestions for staying productive while enjoying your workday? Leave a comment below or reach out via the Contact section on The Telework Guru. Thanks!

View from Today’s Office: Camden Market, London

View from Today’s Office is a new blog series detailing all of the fun and interesting places where I am able to work. As full-time remote worker AND a full-time live aboard on the canals of London, I am always cruising to new areas and finding cool places to spend a few hours on my computer. Follow along for all the fun!

The view from today’s office is Camden Market, one of London’s most popular areas for visitors. The area has over 1,000 separate shops, stalls, and eateries and is a hub for the city’s eclectic and hipster crowds.

I spent most of the day dog-sitting in my friend’s flat located directly above Regent’s Canal, which runs through the area. Yet another benefit of working remote: I get to help out a friend and see some new sites while still fulfilling all of my professional obligations!

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On my breaks, I took the dogs for a walk through nearby Primrose Hill and grabbed lunch from one of the market’s many food stalls; it was a burrito and it was delicious.

Overall, I enjoy Camden Market in regular but measured doses. It wouldn’t be my first choice to live permanently, but it’s a great place to explore and pick up a bite, a beer, and a souvenir. For more information or to plan a trip to the area, check out the official Camden Market website.

Where are your favorite places to work outside of the office? Any tips, tricks, or suggestions for staying productive while enjoying your workday? Leave a comment below or reach out via the Contact section on The Telework Guru. Thanks!

 

 

Critical Tips to Help You Succeed While Working Remotely (Part 3: Having Fun)

This article is the last in a three-part series highlighting the best ways to work remotely. Part One focused on “the basics” (create a dedicated workspace, commit to a schedule, and empower yourself to sign off), Part Two detailed ways to excel (develop a morning routine, set two goals for the week, and make yourself visible); this third part will highlight ways to truly enjoy the experience of working without an office.

1.      Work from a café. Cabin fever is a real thing, and it doesn’t just affect those who are snowed in in the woods. Working and living in the same place on a regular basis means you’re staying put a lot more than those who commute into an office every day. True, this is a blessing in many ways, but it can slowly eat at you over time. Take it from me, it’s very easy to look out the window on a Thursday and realize that you haven’t ventured off your property in five days. While this may seem like nothing more than a silly anecdote, working from home can lead to some negative side effects. The most prominent and innocent is feeling claustrophobic or antsy, but this can lead to more profound irritability and general discomfort. To prevent this, I recommend that all remote workers proactively plan to work from a nearby café, restaurant, or pub. The frequency and duration of these days can and should differ from person to person, but one should be proactive about it; don’t wait until you are feeling penned in to make it out. As an added bonus, I often notice a boost of productivity when working from these locations. There’s something about the change of pace, the background music, the less comfortable setting that actually helps me work better. Try it out and see what works for you!

2.      Make it a point to socialize/network. For many, the biggest downside to remote work is the absence of face-to-face interaction with people outside of your immediate circle. This downside is exacerbated if you’re working remotely from a new city, where you don’t have the network of friends and family that you might in other places. In any of these situations, it’s important to get out and meet new people to expand your network. Join a book club at the local library, play some drop-in basketball, join a local alumni club, meet your neighbors; but most importantly, put yourself out there. This can be uncomfortable for some, but the payoffs are extremely valuable. Being an avid ice hockey player, I make it a point to participate in local drop-in games a few times per week to meet new people when I moved to new areas. This quickly leads to finding teams in need of additional players, which leads to closer connections with larger groups in weekly games and occasional tournaments. I’ve made dozens of lasting personal bonds via sports in this way.

3.      Travel. This may sound simple, but teleworking means you can work from anywhere. Most read that to mean “work from home,” but I advocate that everyone take it more literally. You’ve been given a tremendous opportunity to work without an office, take advantage of it! Now this comes with some caveats; make sure that you have an adequate internet connection, can stay connected (via telephone and IM) with those you must, and remain productive. But with some basic research and minimal discipline, you should be able to comply with these from just about anywhere. So travel! Go upstate with the family, visit friends across the border, or find that picturesque beach and work a few hours from a hammock. Mobile internet is so fast these days that there are relatively few places you can’t work. To do this seamlessly and successfully, however, requires planning. Call ahead to the hotel to check the Wi-Fi speed, schedule a quiet place from which to take your calls, and plan connection redundancies. It takes some up-front planning, but the rewards can be tremendous. Imagine working the rest of your day normally, but instead of signing off to prep dinner or walk the dog, you take the elevator down to the hotel pool or take the family for a mountain hike or explore a new city that you’ve never visited. For many remote workers, this is a possibility, just one we never seize.

I sincerely hope that this series of articles has been enjoyable and valuable for those teleworking and working from home. As always, I welcome any questions, feedback, etc. Just drop a comment in the section below or reach out to me directly. Thanks!

Michael Collar is an American expat working remotely in the tech space from his houseboat in London. He writes on a variety of topics, including travel, professional best practices, and what it’s like to live on a narrowboat.

You can follow his travel/lifestyle blog, Andiamo Bambino!, at andiamobambino.wordpress.com and his professional blog, The Telework Guru, at theteleworkguru.wordpress.com