Episode 125 | Optimizing Your Productivity By Working Outside of the Office

Show Notes


[00:00] Rob: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I are going to be talking about optimizing your productivity by working outside of the office. This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 125.

[00:10] Music

[00:18] Rob: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

[00:27] Mike: And I’m Mike.

[00:28] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Mike?

[00:32] Mike: How would you like a free ticket to Vegas?

[00:35] Rob: I would love one. How would I go about obtaining that?

[00:37] Mike: One of our sponsors from MicroConf is doing a contest. It happens to be Microsoft and if you go to microappcontest.com, they have a website where you can sign up to get involved in the contest and through that contest the grand prize is a round trip ticket to MicroConf, a MicroConf ticket and a Microsoft Surface RT.

[00:58] Rob: Wow, cool. It looks like their second place is a ticket to MicroConf and a Surface RT and there’s a third place the Surface RT. Nice. You have to build a Windows 8 app. Is that right?

[01:07] Mike: Yup. So, you build the Windows 8 app and you have to submit it to the, you know, Windows app store. I don’t think that it actually has to be approved but I think it takes about 24 hours to get that approval. There are some entry requirements for the app. So, it can’t already be in the Windows app store. So, it has to be something new and if you need any software, they got links there where you can download trial versions of Windows 8, you know, purchase Windows upgrade license if you need it. And then there’s some eligibility requirements. They list the judging criteria, all the different things that they’re going to take in to account when judging this, anyone who submits it has a decent chance to win. They’ll notify people by e-mail within I think 24 or 48 hours after the contest is over. And the contest ends on April 15th. So, there’s not a lot of time.

[01:50] Rob: All right and that URL was microappcontest.com. I’ve been off for the past week. I had friends coming to town and it was one of those times where I basically took the time off  just checked e-mail but a lot of things were set up in the past to and I already done all the work form and so, I actually had some of the best weeks for both HitTail and Drip that I’ve had in a long time. It was pretty funny. HitTail did a 3-day AppSumo deal during that time. It was very successful. It was more money than I made in the previous one. It’s about nine months ago for 30 days and this was only a 3-day deal but it was they’ve e-mailed their whole list and stuff. So, it was nice to see that shake out over the time that I was often and kind of watch the purchases stuck up as well as see that there’s a lot of trials that AppSumo drives to your app, you know, when they promote it and even trials that convert to actual paying accounts instead of the AppSumo deal price accounts.

[02:41] So, that went well and then with Drip, I was featured. I was – and I had e-mailed a long a time ago with the guy from Beta List which is betali.st, betali.st. And I remember giving him advice. Sure enough he heard about Drip and he now has Beta – a pretty successful site that has people who want to hear about, you know, apps that are in the early phase basically that have a landing page, that have some promise and they gather e-mails in order to launch. And so, he sought me out and I know that he has a lot of applications come in through, you know, Beta List and he only is able to promote a certain amount but he basically said, “Hey, you know, let me know about Drip and I publish it today.” So, I just wrote up a quick summary and got several hundred new e-mails out of that. It’s that whole thing of that “Make money while you sleep” you know and it’s not that simple but it was cool to be on vacation and check the e-mail and be like, man. There’s some really cool things going on that I’m not actually having to do right now that were set up, you know, weeks or months ago.

[03:38] Mike: Yeah, that’s really cool. One of the things that came out from last week’s episode was somebody had a question specifically for you because on the 20th minute you had said that if you’re taking credit card information upfront which if you’re a SaaS application you should and the guy asked he said, “I’m really curious about why you suggest this? I’m guessing to weed out the bad candidates but shouldn’t that already be solved with a very good Drip campaign?”

[03:58] Rob: Yeah and this question is from – he’s a long-time listener. His name is Emil Hajric and he’s a founder of Helpjuice.com which is pretty cool, a support app. Obviously, there’s a lot that can be discussed around this topic but the way I like to think about it is if you’re in doubt and you’re not sure about which way to go, you should ask for credit card upfront because that does a few things. One, it ensures that people can’t come back every 14 or 30 days and  sign up for a new trial. Second thing it does is it really does – it weeds out people who are just in there to have a look and who are never going to convert and early on those people are less helpful to you than the people who are at least serious enough about your app to enter a credit card. The third thing it does is it will dramatically increase. It should dramatically increase the number of people who make it through your entire funnel. A long term you want to test this but early on, I always recommend ask for credit card upfront unless you have a specific reason not to.

[04:52] The path of least resistance is not for ask credit card, right because you want to just get as many people using your app as possible but the thing is if you have a big beta list, a big launch list, you already have a bunch of people who you’re letting in to use the app anyways and you should be able to get on a feedback, be follow that process. You should be able to get enough feedback that you can iterate on the app and have something that you know people need by the time you get to the point where you actually sending them through to purchase.

[05:16] So, bottom line is I always default to asking for credit card first and then once you have a baseline of how many people are actually making it through to paid and you’ve fixed the funnel issues that we talked about in last episode in terms of rehabbing an app, then you can always test what is it look like to not ask for credit card and how does that compare? But from what I’ve seen from a number of SaaS apps, if you look at the successful SaaS apps, most of them ask for credit card upfront and there’s a reason for that.

[05:45] Mike: How things looking with MicroConf?

[05:47] Rob: MicroConf is going well and just wrapping up all kind of the prep work. The really cool thing I’m excited about I mentioned it last week was attendee talks. And so, there are going to be I think eight different talks driven [0:06:00] by attendees and they pitch the talks and they were voted on in kind of a Reddit or Hacker News style private little forum. And so, we have talks from the likes of Nathan Barry, Brecht Palombo, Brennan Dunn and Sherry Walling, Ph.D. – you may know her, Patrick Thompson. I know things ranging from Bootstrapping an App Business to Staying Emotionally and Relationally Healthy While Launching Your Startup to How a Non-Technical Founder Built a 6-Figure SaaS App Using Only Free Public Data Sources.

[06:31] So, I’m really stoke for this and I think this is going set the stage for some kind of the up and coming speakers and entrepreneurs that are coming in this, you know, the bootstrapping and kind of micropreneur movement. I think a lot of these folks are really going to knock our socks off. So, I’m very excited about it and maybe I’ll include a list of all the titles and the speakers in the show notes so that if you’re interested, you can come and have a look at that and certainly if you are attending MicroConf, you’ll get an e-mail in the next few days with the final listing. How about you? What’s been going on with AuditShark?

[07:02] Mike: I’ve been working through some issues with the Linux stuff that I started rolling out and as part of that, I didn’t realize that I had rolled this in to it but I expanded some of the internal encryption that I was doing. I don’t know why I seemed to be rolling out new features here and there like as I’m fixing bugs as well. But in doing so, I seemed like I’m introducing more bugs here and there as well and they’re usually around edge cases. So, for example, one of the ones that I rolled our this week was I made it so that then I would start encrypting more data in the database not because it probably needs to be but more or less just because I’m being ultra paranoid about everything that goes in there. What I did was that, you know, I made the database field long enough so that it would fit the username because that’s what I decided to start encrypting but in doing so I didn’t realized that that would double the length because I’m also encrypting it and then it goes pass the length of the field and then the framework just kind of bumps out. It doesn’t let it actually create the account.

[07:59] Rob: Yeah, that’s a real bummer  and is this stuff that – I know you’re in early access and you have a few customers using it. Are these things that the customers had asked for?

[08:07] Mike: Well, there’s a few bugs that they’re running in to that are mostly around edge cases that I just haven’t tested and then there’s other things that while I’m fix – that issues that they run in to and in addition to that, I’m adding features at the same time and adding new functionality and then just tweaking things here and there either because it’s, you know, on the list of things that need to get done or you know, they’ve asked for something and it just seems like everytime I turn around there’s another edge case that in run in to.

[08:31] Rob: Got it. So, do you have an updated idea of what’s coming next for you like when early access is wrapping up?

[08:36] Mike: No, I’m going to be expanding early access next week. So, I’m going to be talking to more people who are using Linux, hopefully, getting them sign on board. I haven’t decided on a firm number of people that I kind of want to roll it out to but it’s definitely more than it is. Probably about two or three times what it is right now and then after that, I think that things would be good to go. The one thing that worries me though is that because MicroConf is about what, four and half weeks away right now. It’s kind of like when do I actually pull the trigger and launch because I still want to run the early access a little bit more but it feels to me like it’s going to take me up until like the week before or two weeks before MicroConf. And to me that’s not really a good time to launch it just because of all the other stuff going on.

[09:16] Rob: Yup, that’s the same decision point I was faced with a few weeks ago when I talked about Drip and it’s a tough decision.

[09:22] Mike: Yeah, I think that I’m probably going to end up holding off until after MicroConf just because I think that pulling the trigger before hand is just going to be too much. I think there’s just going to be too many things on my plate that, you know, to try and keep track out. So, I probably do it either the week after at MicroConf or maybe two weeks after.

[09:38] Rob: Yeah, I think I look at doing it the week after and I think realistically you need to push two weeks at least. I think I’m looking at three to four to be honest just to make sure that I get everything planned accordingly and have a good crack at the launch.

[09:50] Mike: Cool.

[09:50] Music

[09:54] Rob: This week we’re talking about how to optimize your productivity by getting out of your office. So, you might [0:10:00] imagine this going to be – this episode is going to answer why would I ever want to work from a coffee shop or a co-working space. If I decide to do that, how can I do it efficiently, effectively, get a lot of work done and how can I kind of gear up and maybe get some new tech toys that help me work really well at coffee shops? I was never a fan of working from coffee shops. I haven’t been – I’d worked from home for about 12 years now. To be honest, I always felt working from home was just quieter, your internet and your power all taken care of and they’re consistent and fast and you know, there’s just a lot of pluses to being at home.

[10:31] But I think as time as gone on, a couple of things have happened. One, I have kids and sometimes my kids are at home during the day when my wife is watching them and that just throws a wrench and everything. And the other thing that happened is at a certain point, I realized that my environment and the fact that I sit in the same room everyday for six or seven hours really was starting to impact my creativity and my ability to kind of break through rots and I was falling in to this work rot. And so I started toying with the idea of working from coffee shops. The first time you do it, it’s a disaster. Like you just – you don’t do it right and it’s actually I learned to scale I’ve found and over about the past two to three years, I’ve realized that there are a lot of things that I put in to place some different rules and some different stuff that I have on hand that make it a lot easier. So, that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.

[11:18] So, I think my first thought is why would you ever want to do this, right? And I’ve already covered one of them. It’s to kind of break you out of a work rot. If you’re sitting in that same bedroom for several years or even every night, it just starts grating on you. And oftentimes you wouldn’t even realize it but by getting in to a new environment, you can spark some creativity. You can channel the energy of your environment because being in a room alone is very different than being at a coffee shop with a lot of people around you. There’s just the social communal energy like human beings are, you know, we are communal creatures by nature and to be able to – even if you’re not interacting with people, to be able to hear the conversations, hear the background noise, it can definitely serves its purpose. Not all the time, I mean sometimes you need that quiet. You need to just crank away  but other times having that kind of social space really gears you up.

[12:03] I know people like Tim Ferris actually works with the TV on in the background because it gives him a similar feeling of somehow being social. I’ve worked with Hulu on in the background or Netflix playing a TV show that I can cut mostly tune out but is just enough of a background thread that it makes me feel like I’m not just sitting here in this isolated, you know, very quiet, quiet room.

[12:25] Mike: Yeah, I’ve tried movies that I’ve watched over and over again so I could just play those in the background. The other thing that I heard a couple of weeks ago that I gave a shot was on the Lifestyle Business Podcast, Dan and Ian were mentioning something called Coffitivity which is a website you can go to that makes it sound like you’re in a coffee shop and just – you just open up the web browser and it just plays this background that it really does sounds like you’re in a coffee shop and if you put your music a little bit higher than the sound level of the coffee shop sounds, then it kind of energizes you and – I’d just given it a shot last week and it really does seem to bring out the creativity a little bit but if you’re sitting there trying to bang out code then obviously coffee shop is not the best place in the world to be doing that but if you’re looking for creative tasks, that’s definitely a helpful way to do it.

[13:09] Rob: I heard Dan mentioned that as well. I thought that was cool. I haven’t tried it but it’s definitely on the list. Let’s talk a little bit about working at a coffee shop versus a co-working space. If you haven’t heard about co-working space, the idea is that there are these spaces hopefully in your town where people typically somehow affiliated with the tech industry, it seems to be more of a tech movement, they will get like some old warehouse space or some commercial or office space and they basically just turn it in to often an open office area and you — just an office worker, a knowledge worker, you can come in and you can pay a day rate. So, maybe you pay 5 or 10 bucks for an 8-hour pass or you can subscribe to it for, you know, months at a time. I know there’s one here locally to me that’s like $99 a month and I think that’s actually a private office where you get like a desk and you are able to lock that desk. I don’t know that you’re able to lock the door to the office. I think there might be multiple desks in there. But you can actually leave some stuff there.

[14:05] And then there’s also a really cool local one here called the Hashtag and that one is very inexpensive. I think it’s like 5 bucks for a day and between 20 and 40 bucks for a month and it’s an open office space and you have to bring everything with you but you get a 24-hour pass for that low price. And it’s a cool environment. There’s a coffee shop next to it, Pizza Joint across the street and there’s a lot of other coders. There’s like some designers. People who can be mobile and who wants a place that’s maybe a little quieter than a coffee shop and that they don’t want to have to feel like they, you know, need to buy a coffee every few hours. And so you’re actually just paying for the space. The trade off is you get — may quieter environment than you would in a coffee shop.

[14:41] Mike: Yeah, there’s a few different places like that that are more like chains where they’ll have different places in different cities. So, if you travel a lot, you can rent a space and pay the $99 a month or something like that and then it’s good for any of those cities but you kind of have to be in their network. So, you do have to take a look at their locations and figure out whether those are places that you’re going to be but that’s definitely an option. There’s a couple of them near where I live but they’re far enough a way that it’s almost like commuting to an actual job.

[15:11] Rob: Right. Yeah, for me it’s also it’s about 15 to 20 minutes each way. If I’m going to do co-working or like a good solid coffee shop. I’ve made the choice that the added productivity for me on the days that I need it is well worth it and I, you know, I only do this 1 to 2 days a week to kind of get out of the building and feed off that energy of the people around me. I will make one last note like in a coffee shop, you basically you pay for it in food and drinks. There’s the background noise we talked about. You tend to have to fight for an outlet, the slow internet. It is often a problem but there’s more of that energy and in co-working spaces, it tends to – everything is taken care for you. The internet is typically really fast. You have multiple outlets. It’s often really a quiet office environment.

[15:52] So depending on the task you need and depending on the energy level you need. You need to know yourself and know like what you need for the day in order to really work a maximum productivity [0:16:00] and I definitely personally really noticed in myself that there are days when I needed to be super quiet and just want to kind of work and there’s other days where I wanted to be more of a coffee shop day I’ll say.

[16:10] Mike: So, let’s talk about etiquette. You know, what sorts of things are appropriate and not appropriate to do in these types of spaces?

[16:16] Rob: I mean I don’t know. There’s a long list. I just know that there’s a few things people have done around me that have been really irritating. So, I don’t know if you’ve heard but there’s actually a study done and it has to do with like cellphone conversations. The study showed that it wasn’t the people talk louder when they’re on their cellphones that irritates everyone around them, it’s that as humans we have a really hard time only hearing one half of the conversation that it irritates us to not hear all the responses. And so the piece of etiquette that I’ve taken away from this is not to make long Skype or phone calls from coffee shops because it just it’s – it’s just rude to the people around you. Whenever I have a phone call, you got to try to get…get outside and you know, go to the sidewalk and handle it there. If you have to do it on Skype because if someone overseas, try to get in to a corner where there’s no one there and try to keep the call short because it really does no matter how quiet you are, it irritates the people around you.

[17:07] So, it’s not a hard and fast rules. Certainly if there’s an emergency, you need to take care of it. For me the days that I am not at the coffee shops are the days that you and I record the podcast, that I, you know, do other podcasting interviews and that I have longer conference calls and such with people. And I think the other piece I’d say is if you’re on a coffee shop, it’s just common courtesy to patronize the coffee shop and to buy something every few hours. My own personal rule is to buy something every 3 to 4 hours. So, I might buy a drink in the morning and then a sandwich at lunch and then it’d be a lower caffeinated drink way late in the afternoon. It’s your own personal clock on this. I know some people who go and will buy one drink and stay all day and that’s okay but, you know, if I have a great coffee shop that I want to stick around then I know that I’m going to need to spend some money to keep them around.

[17:50] Mike: I think that generally the things that I try to do is, you know, avoiding anything where it’s going to be irritating to the people around me and like you said any sort of long phone call, you know, anything where you’re playing music loud. I mean that’s why  you bring headphones and things like that so that you can work and listen to your own music and not harass people around you with that sort of thing.

[18:07] Rob: Yeah, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about some gear. There are several things that I didn’t used to to bring with me or you know, once in a while I’d forget it but it was enough to really deter me from going to coffee shops. One thing is to have a spare charger for the laptop and to always have that in your laptop bag. If you don’t already have this, spend the money. It’s 20 bucks per, you know, a Windows PC and what is it, $79 or something for your Apple charger now. It’s worth the money to never have to think about unplugging your main set up at home and just leaving that one at home and having another one in your bag. This is not just for working at coffee shop. It’s for traveling. It’s for when you have to go to your relative’s house. It’s for if you have a conference you’re going to like – it’s not worth saving the 20 or 30 bucks to have to go in a panic when you arrive at some conference and try to find a spare laptop charger.

[18:50] Mike: Yeah, I found out almost by accident that if you have a problem with your MacBook, you have AppleCare. You bring it back and if they replace it for you, you get to keep all the accessories and stuff. So, they’d let you keep like the spare charger and everything with it and then they just give you a new one because they give you a whole new machine.

[19:09] Rob: Oh, that’s nice. So, you get double – so you have double power cords then.

[19:12] Mike: Yeah, I have one that I leave —

[19:13] Rob: That was —

[19:13] Mike: …at home and my office and I just have the thing plug in to the wall and then when I put my laptop on my desk, I just plug it in there but then I have another charger that I just carry around on my laptop bag all the time because as you said there have been times in the past where I’ve gone some place and it’s like, shoot, I forgot to pack my charger.

[19:30] Rob: So, the next thing I have on the list is USB headset. And the reason I like this instead of just plugging ear buds in to your laptop is that A) the sound quality is better and B) the USB gaming headsets go all the way around your ears and they can really cut out the noise of the environment. And so if you crank your music up not only does it not bother the people around you but it really envelops you and it can put you in kind of your own world even though there’s still the movement behind you and energy, it’s much better than ear buds which is what I used to use and it’s just night and day [0:20:00] if you really want to block stuff out and get in to your own world.

[20:03] And then of course, it’s great to have the mic in case you do need to take a quick Skype call or you know, you do need to talk to someone or record something or just anything. It’s nice to just flip that down to be able to talk instead of having to think, “Oh, I didn’t bring my USB headset today. I only have my ear buds. I have to do that when I get home.” You know, there’s enough time so I have to record things even just a quick snippet. It’s been invaluable. I now have three USB headsets with mic. I have a spare one and I have one at home and I have one always in my laptop bag so that anytime I can use that as my headset.

[20:34] Mike: Yeah, for headset, it depends on what I’m doing. If I’m planning on making calls or anything, I have the set that I – just ear buds that have, you know, a microphone built in to them so that I can make calls from my cellphone or whatever and then I can obviously plug it into my laptop if I wanted to use Skype or something like that but I also carry around a set of Bose headphones that have noise canceling. You know, I don’t use the USB headset as much because it’s hard to find one that has a mic and is noise canceling and I guess conforms to your ears pretty well.

[21:04] Rob: So, the next thing that I bring is a spare mouse and a spare mouse pad. And I know that there’s going to be debate over this. Some people will say that when you are working remotely like that, you should be keyboard and trackpad only. And I wholeheartedly disagree. I challenge anyone who uses their trackpad to compete against me with a speed race of accomplishing tasks. No matter how many keyboard shortcuts and gestures you know, there are tasks for you, you have to – you have to have a mouse to do it fast. Otherwise, it’s very cumbersome. So, that is one thing that when I would arrive at a coffee shop and didn’t have my mouse, I knew that at some point during that day, I was going to have to do a lot of highlighting, copying and pasting, moving things around and it’s just – it is way, way less efficient to do it with the trackpad.

[21:49] Mike: Yeah, it’s funny. I have a MacBook Air that I carry around and every once in a while I’ll pull up my mouse and it’s one of those Microsoft Arc mice which kind of folds in half that, you know, when you fold it out it’s basically a full-sized [0:22:00] mouse but you can fold it up in half and then it doesn’t take up nearly as much space. You can just shove it in a small laptop bag and every once in a while, I get this odd looks from people like, “Is that suck really you got a Microsoft mouse in a MacBook?” But you know, it works. I totally agree with you. There are times where you have to have a mouse. Now, I don’t carry around a spare mouse pad mainly because if I really need to, if I run in to problems with like a glass surface or something like that or the laser just doesn’t work, you know, you can just unfold a piece of paper or a napkin or something like that. You just put it right next to your laptop and it provides enough stability for that and then underneath that, obviously, it gives the ability for it to not reflect off of the glass or you know, whatever the surface is that you’re on. So, it allows you to use it without much of a problem.

[22:45] Rob: Yeah. It depends on how picky you are about it. To be honest like I view it when I’m using my mouse, I’m like high performance mode and high performance car needs high performance tires. So, I want the exact pad that I know works. Next thing, an extension cord, a small extension cord or a power strip. So, many times I have ask someone if I can unplug them from the wall because there’s no plugs left and plug them in to my little power strip that I bring. This is a veteran thing, right, you never think to do this early on but over the times where I have enough power and it actually isn’t much of a big deal now that I have a MacBook Air because its power life is so long but when I was on my old Dell and had 90 minutes of battery life, if I didn’t get an outlet within 90 minutes, my day was shut because I driven there and now, I have to drive back home and I lost all my momentum. I mean it’s just a big deal. So, if you can get a slim line power strip with only 3 or 4 power receptacles on it or a small extension cord, I’m telling you, it’ll make your life easier.

[23:39] Mike: Yeah, I’ve always kind of skip this but I think maybe it’s because I have the MacBook Air so it does have the battery life and I just don’t need to worry about it as much.

[23:46] Rob: The next one is more of an optional one but it’s one that I’ve started relying on more and more. It’s basically to get some kind of a MiFi router or a cellphone that tethers to your laptop. And this one, I’ve only used in kind of emergency situations  where I definitely need to be online to work which is almost always and the internet is either super slow or it’s down at a certain place. Now, if I’m in a coffee shop that I come to frequently and the internet is going down all the time, then I will stop going there, period. Right? Because you kind of have to be online to work in this day and age but I’m able to fall back now on I have an iPhone that I’m able to tether and if you don’t have that, it’s not a necessity but it really is something that you should think about not just for doing this remote work but there’s a lot of times where you’ll be sitting in an airport or you’re sitting in your car and you’re stuck somewhere and you are able to work but you maybe, you know, want to do in on the iPad or on your laptop and having something that can tether has really been a benefit to me, a surprising benefit. I didn’t think I would use it that much and I wind up hooking it up probably once a week to either my iPad or my laptop.

[24:50] Mike: I find that interesting because I thought for a long time, “Oh, I really need to be able to tether my phone,” and I realized that the vast majority of things that I really need internet access for like if there isn’t internet access there, I usually planned well enough that I’ll find some place that does or, you know, I’ll be in an area that does and I can use my phone to get by. You know, it’s been very, very rare where I’ve been in a situation where I’m like I absolutely need to be on my laptop and have internet access in order to be able to do something here. One of the things that I’ve taken to doing is carrying around the Apple Airport Express because it’s a MacBook Air, I don’t necessarily have wired internet access all the time. So, you know, and obviously, it doesn’t have a port for it. So, I carry around a USB, the Ethernet adapter but if before I got that, I would just carry around this, the Airport Express because I wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to be in a place where there was wireless internet access so I can just take the wired internet connection, plug it in to my Airport Express and then I’ll had both my phone and my laptop on wireless at the time just piping it through whatever the wired connection was. Obviously, that’s a little bit different than what the MiFi router is that you were talking about.

[25:58] Some of the other things that I carry around are spare batteries [0:26:00], so my wireless mouse takes batteries and sort of my Bose headphones. And then the second thing that I carry around is like a portable USB hub. I don’t carry that around nearly as much as I used to but I think it’s because most of the things that I work with now tend to be wireless either through Bluetooth that goes directly to the laptop. I make deal with the two USB ports that I have.

[26:21] Rob: Very nice, good additions to the list. I think the last thing I’ll mention is it’s a piece of gear but it has to do with ergonomics. So, if you don’t already have shoulder and neck problems, then you will soon. Basically, if you’re listening to this and you work on a computer all the time, by the time you hit 40, you will absolutely have this. Pretty much everyone I know who works on computers as much as we all do, you’ll eventually get it. And so to be concern about ergonomics, you know, sounds ridiculous when you’re 25 years old working on a coffee shops but once it hits you, it kind of never goes away and so, if I’m in a good spot or my shoulder and neck are feeling good, I can work on an elevated space, you know, because ergonomics and coffee shops are terrible, right? Having a laptop way up high where you’re wrists are bend at a weird angle and then you’re reaching over for the mouse. It just isn’t the best thing.

[27:08] So, if I’m on a particular spot where I am having trouble with my neck, then I have this Logitech lapdesk and it’s basically something – it’s kind of designed for like sitting in bed and working on a laptop and just to have a right angle and then not have it resting on your legs. You can put it on your lap and you can put an external keyboard and a mouse down there and if they’re Bluetooth and you just put the laptop up on the surface of the coffee shop and you put this lapdesk down. And it keeps your back and your arm kind of at the proper angle. If you haven’t work at coffee shops because the ergonomics are bad and you have bad back or back shoulder, definitely, consider getting these Logitech things like 15 bucks on Amazon. I’ll link it up in the show notes. It’s kind of a nice middle ground between working at the picnic table style succeeding that they often have a coffee shop and getting it actually decent ergonomic situation.

[27:59] Mike: I think for me those things  kind of seem a little excessive. I mean I try to travel light. [Laughter]

[28:03] Rob: Oh, yeah. Oh no, if I was getting on an airplane, they are excessive. They’re ridiculous to be honest but if I’m jumping in my car and I’m driving 10 minutes and I’m not going to be able to do it because my shoulder is so out of whack that I literally would not be able to go to coffee shop, then yeah, it’s worth looking like a dork for that 6 hours in public to me to get out.

[28:23] So, this next topic is about duplicate monitors or having a secondary monitor. At home, you might get spoiled because you have your two or three monitors set up and sometimes you have a task that you want to get done on duplicate monitors. The best way is to do them at home when you have a 23, 24-inch monitor and it’s way easier to do. But I have found times when I’m not been able to work at home because of maybe the internet goes down or people are around or there’s visitors over, my kids are at home or whatever and I need to compare two things and I don’t have the screen real estate on my main 13-inch monitor.

[28:53] And so, I’ve done a couple of different things. One is if you have an iPad, you can use it as a second monitor. There’s an app called Air Display. It’s 10 bucks and it just makes it so you can – it uses WiFi. If you connect both your computer and the iPad to WiFi, you can drag and drop Windows between the two. And obviously, your iPad is small but it’s better than nothing and I definitely compared spreadsheets and other things between the two monitors successfully and right, I have a pretty good experience with it to be honest. They’re a little slow and there is some latency there since it is over WiFi, it works nonetheless.

[29:26] And then the other thing that I’ve seen done. I haven’t actually done this but there are a lot of USB powered monitors where all you have to do is plug in the USB cable in to your laptop and not only will it show the display on the monitor but it will actually power as well so you don’t need an external plug. And there are really nice small ones. They’re like 7 to 8 inches that are under a hundred dollars and then there are some larger ones that I’ve – I can’t even imagine bringing but there’s like a 16-inch one on Amazon that I’ll link up for 99 bucks and there’s a Toshiba 14-inch that fits in a nice little case and it almost looks like an iPad [0:30:00] but it’s just a little larger and it’s not a touch screen. It really is just a second monitor and all that comes out of it is a USB cable. You plug that in and you have this portable secondary monitor. So, as you said, this is not traveling light, right? This is getting a little carried away but I can totally see this serving its purpose when you really need to get out of the house and you still need that second monitor.

[30:22] Mike: There’s a big difference between doing these types of things because you’re going to be traveling across country versus doing these things 15 minutes away in a local coffee shop. I mean those are two completely different used case scenarios. So, bringing extra monitors and stuff at a flight, it does not make a whole heck a lot of sense, same with bringing power strips and things like that. But going to your local coffee shop, it does make some reasonable sense.

[30:44] Rob: Right and co-working space as well makes even more sense. If you’re going to head there and do an 8 or 10-hour a day, having that extra monitor absolutely in research studies has been shown to increase productivity. There is actually a value case to be made specifically if you have a lot of desk space like that.

[31:01] Music

[31:04] Rob: I think to round this out for the day, I’m just going to throw out a couple of random topics that I’ve spoken to some people about over the past couple of weeks about getting set up. When I – I went to San Luis Obispo a few weeks ago and there are like a dozen coffee shops downtown. It was so hard to find one with reasonable internet speed. Like I wanted to record a podcast with you and I could not find one and I finally did. And the way I did it is I went to each coffee shop and I sat down and connected and run speedtest.net and I’m sure a lot of people already know about this but it is so helpful to know what the actual up and down speeds are at a coffee shop. And the cool part is if you do have a lot of local coffee shops, you can kind of figure out which ones that you’re going to go and work at purely because of the ambience even if the internet isn’t that fast and the ones that you’re going to go work at when you really need a fast pipe.

[31:52] And like I said before, co-working spaces almost always have fast pipes, they should by definition but there are only a handful of coffee shops that tend to really know what they’re doing in order to – you know, fast enough internet that allow you to work on remote desktop pretty efficiently or you know, do some other more heavy lifting uploading or downloading things. And so speedtest.net has been the tool I’ve used most often for that.

[32:16] Mike: You know when I got my new iPhone I went to speedtest.net when I was driving in to the Business of Software Conference. I was like sitting in a parking lot of the hotel and I just pulled it out and said oh, I wonder what the speed is like because, you know, they have LTE over there and I don’t have LTE near where I lived. And I was getting like 20 megabits of second up and down.

[32:33] Rob: Gee whiz. That’s nice.

[32:35] Mike: So – yeah, there was definitely an app that I download.

[32:38] Rob: Last thing I’ll throw out is to have some good music as your background. You know, we talked about having headphones on, noise canceling but you know, if you want to listen to music, what should be playing there? And it’s obviously, going to depend on your taste. Few of the bands I’ve been listening to recently that – a lot of these I’d been like looping the same songs for hours on end to kind of get in to work zone. One band is called Lord Huron. He has a new album out. It’s a one guy. There’s another guy called Rocky Votolato and both of those are more folky. There’s, you know, acoustic guitars and stuff. So, they’re kind of mellow but definitely good for coffee shop vibe.

[33:09] If you’re looking for instrumental music, there’s a band called Explosions in the Sky and they did a lot of the music for Friday Night Lights if you’ve ever watched that TV series. So, it’s a lot of the guitars and the very long songs and the droning instrumentals but very good for work if you don’t want to be distracted by words. And then in terms of high energy, drinking a lot of caffeine which of course, helps you focus and productivity to a certain point. There’s bands, punk bands, NO-FX and then there’s classic Metallica and that kind of stuff. So, depending on your mood and the stuff. If you’re trying to work faster, you’re trying to kind of work creative and mellow, those are few bands. I’m sure you have many of your own favorites and I highly recommend putting together a play list so you’re not sitting and screwing around with that on the day that you’re trying to work.

[33:48] Mike: Yeah, that’s a good point. I mean you really want to make sure that you get your play list done in advance because the last thing you want to do is bring all of your stuff to get there and try to be productive and realize that you have to put together a play list  that is going to, you know, help you get those things done. So, planning is definitely one of those key pieces of this whole equation.

[34:06] Rob: Indeed. So, I’m interested to hear what other productivity hacks people have for working outside of the office. Feel free to send us an e-mail or call it in or post a comment on this episode.

[34:19] Music

[34:22] Mike: If you have a question for us, you can call it in to our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can e-mail it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. You can subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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11 Responses to “Episode 125 | Optimizing Your Productivity By Working Outside of the Office”

  1. Two episodes in a week? BONUS! 🙂

  2. Great discussion as always, thanks. Has anybody tried this lapdesk http://goo.gl/rShuA ?

    I am actualy looking for a lapdesk for 13″ MBP

  3. Hey Guys, thanks for answering my mobile game question a few weeks ago.

    Rob, now that you have nice Apple hardware I suggest you try giving up the mouse for one week. It will be frustrating at first but it forces you to be more efficient with shortcuts/gestures, and saves stress on your arm and wrist. I know a few people including myself that have not used a mouse in years (even at their desks).


  4. Mike & Rob – Great suggestions! I’m personally working at home more now, which means working more at coffee shops, especially like last week when the kids were off school for spring break.

    Rob mentioned these music suggestions in the show but he also sent to me personally, and I thought easier to find than in the transcript.

    Explosions in the sky (instrumental)

    Rocky Votolato (acoustic)

    Lord Huron (acoustic but upbeat)

    Joshua Radin’s We Were Here album (really cool mellow acoustic)

    I also visit a local restaurant and a library at times to work. Restaurant booth tables allow a little more room than coffee shops typically (let alone more lunch variety than coffee shops typically). The library offers a “quiet room” for remote work when you need silence without headphones.

  5. As a freelancer I split my time between my home office, a coworking space and cafes.

    Home is best for concentrating, but sometimes you just want to be around people and home feels too quiet.

    A coworking space is great, particularly for meeting and chatting through your projects with like minded people. There are so many interesting people though, that I sometimes find it distracting.

    So a cafe for me lets you get the ambiance of being around people, but you don’t need to talk to them so it’s less distracting.

  6. Awesome episode, guys.

    I’ve heard you guys (particularly Rob) mention an personal organizing app called ‘Trillio’ several times on the show. I must be spelling it wrong, as I can’t seem to track it down anywhere. What is the correct spelling of this app?

    Thanks! Keep up the great work,

  7. By the way, if anyone has a good personal organizer app they’d like to share, please do! I’ve started using Evernote, but (like Rob and Mike were mentioning once on the show) I often retreat to pen and paper. Anyone found a viable substitute?

  8. @Ryan – I think it’s Trello: https://trello.com/

    I tried it some time ago and it looked nice but I’ve never actually used it for a project. I think it’s aimed more at teams than individuals but it may work for both.

  9. @Ryan – My favorite is Todoist. They have mobile apps as well. I tried out Trello one time due to all the hoopla around it but found it lacking on these such as automatic recurring tasks.


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