Monday morning, I woke up, took a nice walk to wake myself up like I usually do, sat down to work, and went to check my email for the morning. No dice. I can usually fix my own tech problems just fine, but I can’t fix an internet connection when the problem is on my provider’s end. I packed my stuff up and headed straight for my local coffee shop.

Now, hopefully your internet access is more reliable than mine. If you do business from your computer and business-critical tech breaks or suffers an outage, or you just need a change of pace for your workday, you shouldn’t feel like you’re tethered to your primary work computer all the time. I love getting out and working in coffee shops and other interesting places, and today I’m going to share with you seven tips for working effectively out of the office.

Go Somewhere You Know You Enjoy

Your office is part of your daily routine, whether you like it or not: being used to that routine is what helps you focus on work instead of everything else. Deciding to break your normal routine is a delicate balancing act: you don’t want to disrupt your normal habits too much, or your productivity might suffer.

Know your local shops and work spots ahead of time. Consider whether or not you can stand the in-store muzak for an extended period of time, and whether or not you’ll be working during a rush hour that could be potentially distracting. Don’t waste time trying to decide where to go: make a beeline straight for a spot you know you can rely on. If it’s a reading nook in a local coffee house or a back booth at McDonalds, know which spots you can count on.

Have A Reliable Laptop

Computers are a vital part of just about any business—if you’re reading this, you should be well aware of that. Your primary computer may have important documents and emails you need to get things done, but that doesn’t mean you’re useless without it. A laptop you can depend on can go a long way.

When buying a laptop for work, you don’t have to spend way too much, but you might want to spend a little more than you normally would. Making sure your laptop has reliable features and performance hardware will ensure that your laptop works exactly how you need it to every time.

A reliable, long-lasting laptop battery is also a major necessity, and you might consider a secondary battery if you’re highly mobile.

Headphones Help Your Concentration

Even if you’ve scoped out a perfect coffee shop spot you can be productive in, you never know when customers will show up. Distractions can be costly, and anything you can do to reduce them in a high-traffic environment is a must. I keep a set of earbuds with my laptop at all times, not because I want to listen to my own music, but because they’re the noise-cancelling in-ear kind.

Playing “white noise” through headphones can boost your concentration as well. Just as white light is a combination of all the various frequencies of light, “white noise” is a combination of all the different frequencies of sound. White noise generators like SimplyNoise can generate tones that help your brain block potentially distracting noise. I personally like RainyMood for pleasant work noise.

Set Up Shop With Laptop Accessories

For the coffee shop power-worker, there are all sorts of useful accessories that can help you work better. Raised laptop fans can keep your laptop running cool and elevated off the table, positioning the keyboard at a more comfortable position for you. If you don’t like hunching over your laptop and straining your neck and back by looking down at the screen, there are special laptop stands designed to elevate your laptop to a healthy, more natural position.

External Hard Drives Help You Move Documents

All of your digital “work stuff” is more portable than you might realize. I keep all of my work backed up on a Western Digital 80GB Passport drive. I’ve had this for a few years, and 80GB holds more than enough stuff for work. Plus, the drive is small enough to run off of nothing but a single USB cable—no bulky power supplies or extra cables, just one USB connection.
Backing up important files keeps them safe if your primary computer goes bad, and you can use them on a laptop or another computer for when you’re out of the office. If you’re working with a partner in the same place or need to move files between physical locations, don’t even bother with email. Just pop them on an external drive and carry them with you.

Cloud Storage: A Step Above External Drives

If you’re worried about losing external drives (I know how you feel, I lose track of USB thumb drives too), you can store files online in a secure, convenient environment with cloud storage systems. Google Drive and Dropbox are popular cloud services that offer a bunch of private storage absolutely free.

You never have to worry about losing anything in the cloud, and you can collaborate with coworkers and clients easily by keeping one version of your work documents in the same place. Google Drive even allows you to view and edit basic documents with others in real-time—a feature I’ve used in the past to breeze through group work.

…Or Just Take The Whole Computer With You

If you use hardware-intensive programs at work that you can’t use on a laptop or anywhere else, you can’t risk moving files around, or you just prefer working on your primary computer, you can still get work done anywhere you go. All it takes is an internet connection and a remote desktop program.

Remote desktop programs like GoToMyPC (which I have personally used and recommend), LogMeIn, and CrossLoop allow you to set up your primary computer and use it remotely just as if you were sitting in front of it. Remote desktop services typically carry a per-month or per-year cost, but the costs are worth having instant, direct access to your computer at any time, from any device, exactly how you’re used to using it.

Any other tips? Let me know!