by Suzanne Falter-Barns
One thing that my dear friend, Andrea Lee, said to me when she and her husband visited recently has stuck with me for several months now. She commented on how tightly my work was integrated into my totally mobile life.
I never put much thought into, but you know what? She was right.
She marveled about how I would sit down and press a few keys on the computer and make something happen. Then I’d go off and make a little lunch. Then I’d come back and lead a little teleclass and when I was done I’d go out and get on a boat or go for a walk. I’m just moving back and forth between my work and my life all the time – it’s all very inter-meshed.
Then I got to thinking. I have been working from home since 1985 (1985! — that’s 24 years!) I grew up in a family with stay-at-home mom AND dad before it became ‘trendy’: my father was an artist and my mother a successful magazine columnist. So I got to see them do it before I ever tried … and they did that same interweaving trick.
My business has woven itself into my life so tightly that when I travel I have it all timed out. I know exactly where I have to be and when. I’m constantly creating space pockets to lead a class in a quiet place, send out emails to people, coach/consult clients, etc.
Tips for Working On the Road
Since I’m a speaker, I’m on the road a lot. For instance, this month I’m in Las Vegas, NYC, and rural Colorado. Next month it’s San Diego, Los Angeles and Phoenix. What I’ve found is that, as I move around there are certain tasks that I save for different situations. The point here is that you can weave where you go with what you’re doing – that’s the nature of a mobile office.
The trick is to do everything as economically and efficiently as possible in terms of time. For example, usually I fly Southwest Airlines out of the airport in Albany NY, which is 2 hours from my home.
There are lots of reasons why I do this:
- SW flights are seldom late
- SW never lose your luggage
- Albany airport is really easy to park in (as are most of SW’s ‘less busy’ airports)
- It’s completely un-crowded
- The drive down there is relaxing and gorgeous
- I can show up at the airport less than an hour before departure and still just walk on the plane, with complete, relaxed ease
- There’s never a line at security
Albany airport also has free WiFi so I can sit and work on my computer as long as I need to until I get on the plane. I also bring along Verizon’s new MiFi. MiFi is a cell phone based broadband speed modem that connects s to your computer using cell phone technology to deliver high speed internet. It’s awesome! 5 computers at a time can hook up … in a car, train, restaurant, anywhere you need a signal.
You can even be sitting on the tarmac on a delayed plane, fire up your MiFi and be online while everybody else is sitting there reading a book. So you can get a bunch of work done while you waiting for the plane to get cleared for take-off.
Another thing I do when I fly is use the time in the air when I’m offline to organize my flies, clean out stuff, and answer emails. I can’t send the emails while in the air, but there is something about being in such a closed, focused environment that fires me up to be more efficient. I find myself whipping through emails and cleaning out my inbox. When I land at the airport I just pull out the MiFi again and I send them all while I’m waiting for my luggage. Every single time I do this I end up radically improving my headspace because I just answered about a hundred emails. It’s such an emotional relief!
If I have extra time I start going through my hard drive and documents file, sorting through and organizing them and throwing out all my junk. I even clean up my desk top – it’s like cleaning my desk out at the home office.
Sometimes I do content creation on airplanes because nobody’s there to interrupt me; the phone isn’t ringing and I don’t have appointments that need to be kept.
Also, I really love my Mac Book Pro because it has 4 hours of battery life and I can get all the way to Las Vegas and not have my computer die on me.
Ditch the Home Office Every So Often, Too
The problem with the home office is sometimes you just have to get away. So I have this routine I do every Friday when I’m around – I go to Burlington, Vermont to get my chores done. Sometimes phone calls get scheduled on a Friday (which is technically my day off) but it may be the only time I can speak to that person. So I have to have a quiet environment where I can talk to them. I drive to the top level of the City Market parking garage to make the call.
I’m outside in the sun, and it’s very pleasant. The windows are open and there are absolutely no cars up there; it’s perfectly quiet. In my experience, cafes are too noisy. You just can’t find quiet places in the city unless it’s your office – or on the roof of a parking garage!
My car becomes my office and if I’m coaching or consulting and need to get on the Web, I have my MiFi so I can fire up the internet. The only tricky part is when the garage security guard comes over and asks, “What are you doing here?” I have to explain it in the middle of my coaching call; the last time I did this, the parking attendant told me I was ‘very strange’.
After I get off the phone I go sit in the cafe and write my blog posts – the delicious edition with a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant. Or maybe I hop over to the YMCA and fit in my swim or a run on the treadmill.
So on a typical day, I’ll consult with a client on the ferry (I live across Lake Champlain from Burlington) and then show up at the City Market and do my groceries and put it all on ice. Then I’ll do a strategy session with a couple of clients on the roof of the garage. Then I’ll hit the Outdoor Gear Exchange to hunt for a pair of used hiking boots for my son. Then back to the garage for a free teleclass…
This is literally what it’s like – it’s this complete mish-mash of my life and my business which is exactly what I always wanted to create, back when I was stuck in a cubicle.
Are you the kind of person who needs to take it all on the road … even just to get out of your office. If so, enjoy my tips and go get ‘em!
Suzanne Falter-Barns is best selling self-help author, former New York City journalist and marketing consultant who helps coaches package their businesses for maximum credibility and platform. Using her techniques, her clients have been able to attract calls from venues like People Magazine, USA Today, 60 Minutes, Time Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal, as well as major publishers, agents and powerful joint venture partners. (You can see real specifics at http://getknownnow.com/success_stories.html )