How to Work More Efficiently from Home and Stay Sane. Number 1 – The Coffee Shop Shuffle

On and off I’ve been working from home for around 10 years now, which doesn’t include the year that I spent in a hotel room.  In that time I’ve learned a thing or two about working productively and efficiently and, more importantly, how to stay sane in the process. If you’re thinking of taking the wild ride from office to home then, to save your sanity, I’ve put together a series of posts with my top tips explaining how to work more efficiently from home and stay sane – I’m just nice like that :)

Number One – The Coffee Shop Shuffle

Your reaction to this first tip may very well be, “Jeez, she’s completely lost the plot!” But stick with me and give it a go. I increased my work output threefold over the course of one month just by doing exactly what it says on the tin; shuffling from one coffee shop to another.

A cup of coffee representing a coffee shop, as coffee shop shuffling is one way to Work More Efficiently from Home and Stay Sane
I came up with this slightly off-the-wall way of working out of necessity. For family reasons I was stuck in Kent for a month with no internet and no office space. I was forced to score WiFi wherever I could. After a few days of shlepping endlessly around, I decided to make a plan and stick to it. So I sat down and formulated The Coffee Shop Shuffle.

So what is the Coffee Shop Shuffle and how can it help you and your business?

We’ve all been there and we’ve all done it, “I’ll just check out my Facebook page, oh look there’s a message from Ann/John/Aunt Fanny. I’ll just take a look, oh new pics I’ll just take five mins………” And on it continues, until you find yourself two hours later staring at some weird Facebook page which extols the virtues of celery.

I exaggerate to make a point, but deep down you know I’m right. You’re secretly wasting time doing things that will never move your business forward and you end each day staring at a sickeningly long to-do list that makes you dread tomorrow. You’re stuck in a rut and need a fresh approach to work.A to do list to help you work more efficiently from home and stay sane.
Q: How do you move forward? How do you become more productive?

A: One answer could be ‘The Coffee Shop Shuffle‘.

Here’s how it works:

Every evening create a to-do list for the following day.

Make a list of everything that you want to achieve the following day, at this point you can make it as general as you like. Next you need to hone your list; it’s time to get really specific. Anything that is just a vague intention needs to be morphed into a clear action:

  • I need to write a blog post
  • I want to help readers who are working within the wedding industry
  • I need to sort out that new Real Wedding feature

Should be:

You must be able to look at your list at the end of the day and be able to tick off all the tasks you have completed – always a satisfying experience.

Next break your list up into three sections.

Take each task and break it into three sections, each section should be roughly the same time period.  Not sure how long a task will take? Guess, if you do try this method of working you will soon be able to adjust your time periods to suit your tasks.

Below is an example of a list of tasks for A Very Curious Wedding. Notice how I’ve split one task over the three sections. This works for me, I prefer to mix things up a little. I find that if I work continuously on one task I lose concentration.

Section 1

  • Task 1 = 1 hour. Research relevant articles about the history of stripes within the world of fashion, take notes and put together write-up.
  • Task 2 = 30 mins. Brainstorming session to choose a name for new business area for wedding specialists.
  • Task 3 = 30 mins. Sort through real life wedding images and upload to post.

Section 2

  • Task 1 = 45 mins. Make a mood board of black and white stripes on Polyvore.
  • Task 2 = 1 hour. Make a start on researching what advice is on offer for wedding industry specialists.
  • Task 3 = 45 mins. Finish write-up on real life wedding.

Section 3

  • Task 1 = 30 mins. Decide on Black & White Stripes post layout. Preview post. Make any changes. Schedule post.
  • Task 2 = 45 mins. Take a look at the ‘back end’ of the Curious Wedding WordPress site and figure out how to layout the intended new area for wedding specialists.
  • Task 3 = 30 mins. Decide on Real Wedding post layout. Preview post. Make any changes. Schedule post.

Total time spent working = 6 hours and 15 mins.

Find three good coffee shops/tearooms/cafes/pubs in your area to work from.

Take a look on Google maps, walk around your nearest town, keep your eyes peeled for coffee shops tucked away down alleys – the whole idea is to find three good locations that are outside your home.

You will probably have your own criteria, but these are the three ‘must haves’ for any out-of-home work areas I use:

1) Decent tea at a reasonable price
2) WiFi
3) Space to work

Now it’s time to give The Coffee Shop Shuffle a try.

Step 1) Pack yourself a good work bag and a timer then go to you first location

Step 2) Order yourself a beverage of your choice – might I suggest that you keep off alcohol, unless you want to end up slightly sozzled at the end of the day *hic*

Step 3) Set your timer for the time you have allocated for Task 1 in Section 1 of your to-to list

Step 4) Get to work. Only work on the tasks in Section 1 – no wandering over to Facebook, etc.

Step 5) When the timer goes off move on to your next task. Don’t forget to reset your timer.

Step 6) When your time is up for Section 1, get up and move to your next location. Walk or cycle if you can, it really helps if you can introduce some physical activity into you day. Ideally it should take you 20 to 30 minutes to get to your next location, this will give you a break from your computer screen.

Step 7) Rinse and repeat.

I know that a lot of you will now be shouting, “That’s all very well, but I make wedding dresses. Am I supposed to cart a sewing machine around with me?!” Good point, but calm down and stop shouting at the computer screen – I can’t hear you and it makes you look a bit mental 😉

No matter what business you have there will always be admin to do. Why not try out ‘the coffee shop shuffle’ and see if you can get your admin done in a more efficient way?

Make the coffee shop shuffle your own – do it your way!

Frank Sinatra

  • Cut the sections down to two or increase them to four – work it around you. Aim to stick to four sections or less, you don’t want to feel overwhelmed before you’ve even started.
  • If you have a task that will take a much longer period of time to complete, split your task down into chunks of smaller achievable tasks. Then split those tasks into sections.
  • Play around with The Coffee Shop Shuffle to make it your own. You may find that just spending a couple of hours a week doing one task in one coffee shop works for you, or you may want to give it a try for a whole week. Do what feels right!

And that’s basically it. I thoroughly enjoyed my month of Coffee Shop Shuffling.  It was a brilliant experience and I would jump at the chance of doing it again. However, my bank balance and the British weather can be somewhat prohibitive!

I still do The Coffee Shop Shuffle about twice a month. If gives me a fresh perspective and I really look forward to it, as they say (whoever they are) a change is as good as a rest!

So get planning and get productive. Try it and let me know how it goes in the comments section below. Catch you in the coffee shop.

Caricature of Michelle Lyndon-Dykes


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