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Remote Control: 5 Must-Have Items For Your Go Bag

Remote Control: 5 Must-Have Items For Your Go Bag

Beyond • May 28, 2014

Recently, something happened in So Cal that turned my work from home days entirely upside down. What was it? Fires. Lots of them. Within a 14 mile radius of my neighborhood, close to a dozen fires burned, while the temperature climbed almost 100 degrees, making working from home in my air condition-challenged abode almost impossible. So I weighed my options. The first was going into the office to work. This was quickly shot down. Both freeways that would take me there were shut down because of fires, with one fire creeping up to a partially defunct nuclear power plant that sits next to my go-to freeway. The second option was to “voluntarily evacuate” and find a cool place with WiFi to continue finishing my work. As I gathered my stuff to find that cool, quiet, work-friendly destination, I took a large backpack and stuffed it with snacks and other essentials. Even though I was never able to find a good place to work (coffee houses were packed, cooling centers had no WiFi, even McDonalds was chaotic), I did learn what items to take when I had leave my home in a flash. Here they are: 1. An extra battery, extra laptop, or wireless keyboard. Admittedly, if you have a Mac, you definitely do not have an extra battery lying around. In this case, bring a lightweight, fully-charged backup laptop. For PC owners, get an extra battery. Look for discounts on Amazon for the best deals. A last and worst case scenario is to bring a Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet (or phone). You’ll work slower, but you will be able to get some things done. 2. Loose change/money. When I realized I was probably going to be parked at a Starbucks for hours, I brought enough cash to buy a cup of coffee, snack or other item every few hours, just to make the employees happy. One thing I did forget, though, was change for a parking meter. It was easy to think that every place I went was going to have free parking, but when my normal options fell apart, I found a potential workspace off a street that had nothing but parking meters. I scrounged the coins together and bought some time, but I quickly learned that having a few bucks in quarters would have made my life so much easier. 3. Medications. Even after passing five or six ugly plumes of dark smoke, I still expected to go out, work, and go back home. After driving around for several hours, I noticed a few new fires sprout up that were close enough to my house to make me nervous. What happens when you leave and come back, only to find that your neighborhood has been evacuated while you were gone and you can’t go back to get your stuff? For this reason, bring your medications with you. You never know when you’re not going to be able to go back home and get them. 4. A charging cable for your phone. If you still have cell phone service when disaster strikes, remember that your mobile is going to be your lifeline. Not only will you be able to call for disaster info, but reach out to your family, friends and co-workers. If you’re lucky, your manager will probably emphasize your situation and let you skip meetings or cancel them altogether. However, if you have a standing meeting that just can’t wait, keep your phone charged so you can Skype from your car. 5. A piece of paper with essential information. During the 9/11 attacks, I had the unbelievable misfortune of staying with my in-laws in New York City. As soon as the towers were hit, land lines and Internet was out, and mobile phone service was spotty. My parents back in California were in a total panic, and I just needed to make one call to let them know I was okay. The problem? I forgot their phone number. Any time you leave your home, disaster or not, bring a paper with important info. This should not just include phone numbers, but names of your medications, addresses of friends, and maybe even your bank account and routing number (self-encrypted, of course). Oh! And don’t forget a bank statement. When electronics are down, some shop owners might be reluctant to let you buy things, but having a recent bank statement that shows you actually have money in your account might persuade them sell you goods. Whether it’s a monsoon, flood, earthquake, fire or Sharknado, you should still be well prepared to be away from your home for an extended period of time. And whether or not you have everything you need to get through the day (or days) will make all the difference in how you handle being stranded somewhere else.


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5 Essential Upgrades For Your Home Workspace

5 Essential Upgrades For Your Home Workspace

Beyond • May 14, 2014

Dear telecommuter, You’ve been so busy cranking out awesome work that you’ve completely neglected your workspace. Yup, I’m looking at you! Sure, you might have a good computer and a decent set of collared shirts you can throw on for video conference calls, but it’s time for a few upgrades. The next time you have a little extra cash to spend, remote working warrior, here’s what you should invest in to make your days nicer and more productive. Don’t max out your credit cards, just pick one or two things from this list and take the financial plunge: 1. A good, ergonomically sound chair When it comes to office chairs, the price gap between not-so-great chairs and amazing, 100% ergonomically sound chairs is extremely wide. You can invest your money in a $700+ well-crafted chair that’s meant to last, but if you’re struggling for cash, consider a balance ball or saddle-type of chair. 2. A multi-brightness lamp Unless you work outside or next to giant, floor-to-ceiling windows, there’s no way you’re going to get the full benefit of sunrise-to-sunset light. If you can, spend a little money on a lamp with more than one brightness setting -- or even better -- one with a dimmer. 3. Noise-cancelling headphones Ambient noise can be a productivity killer, so noise-cancelling headphones are a godsend when you regularly work in proximity to children, cars, pets or noisy neighbors (including spouses, SOs and roommates). Do your homework, read the online reviews, and find a pair within your budget. 4. A second monitor Trust me on this – you can never have too many monitors. However, if you’re going to splurge a bit, buy at least one more than the one you have. If you have a flatscreen TV, that’ll work too. The price of monitors has dropped precipitously so look for sales (or shop online) to get the most bang for your buck. 5. Something cheery Is your work from home space dreary or dull? Buy something bright and interesting to look at when you need a break. A colorful piece of artwork. An attractive, low-maintenance plant. A colorful goldfish (well, if you have cats, maybe not a goldfish). When you just need to think or work out a problem, having something bright and familiar as a focal point really helps. If you’re cash strapped or frugal, the fifth option is only going to set you back a little bit. If you’re flush, go buck wild on this list, and see how much these little (or not so little) things improve your daily working life. Hope this helps! Sincerely, Jennifer


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3 Things We Learned from Sharon Chen of America’s Startup

3 Things We Learned from Sharon Chen of America’s Startup

Beyond • May 13, 2014

Our latest Heart of Business guest, Sharon Chen, is no stranger to startups. With a background in finance and investment banking, and a business-owning family, she was practically born to do something special in the world of entrepreneurship. Enter America’s Startup. America’s Startup is Chen’s shot at creating a reality show about hungry entrepreneurs. The show will not only seek out and highlight the best new potential startups, but crowdfund the winners on the show. After speaking with Chen about her vision for America’s Startup, as well as her plans to start entrepreneur-focused expos across the country, here’s what we learned: Good business habits will stay with you forever When Chen was growing up, she saw how her parents poured everything they had into their business. Building the largest independent pharmacy in Tucson, Arizona, their hard work not only paid for college and living expenses for Chen and her siblings, it gave Chen a lifelong sense of admiration for the business owner. To this day, her parents count as a huge inspiration for America’s Startup, and their “do whatever it takes” mantra has changed Chen’s entire outlook on running a small business. Great startups need visibility just as much as money With thousands of startups being born each year, but a lot less actually succeeding, many people assume that all startups need is money. Not true. According to Chen, one of the biggest gifts you can give a hardworking entrepreneur is visibility. It’s a basic notion that money = success in the startup world, but many entrepreneurs can get funds if they can at least get the visibility they need. Always go back to your core reason for doing things As Chen assembles a string of startup expos across the country, she’s often gotten lost in spreadsheets and calculations over what to pay for next. Her parents, seeing her struggle to make everything fit, told her “Don’t get bogged down by the numbers. Your numbers will work, as long as you remember why you’re doing this.” This simple, elegant piece of advice comes into play whenever Chen feels like she’s focusing too hard on numbers and forgetting the Big Picture. Starting a reality show and hosting conventions throughout the country is a tall order, but Chen has both the chops and imagination to make it all happen. For solid advice on how to run your startup, or extremely useful tips on running a small business, Chen’s Heart of Business episode is a 100% must-listen.


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How to Pull an All-Nighter (Without Losing Your Mind)

How to Pull an All-Nighter (Without Losing Your Mind)

Beyond • May 7, 2014

It’s a skill most of us learn during college that often dissipates when we start working from home: Pulling an all-nighter. As a youthful student cramming for finals, staying up all night is as easy as popping some No-Doz (do they still make that anymore?), hitting the books, and holding onto a 10 gig hard drive-worth of information until about one second after turning in a test. Not anymore. Once you hit the age of 25, if you use the same guerrilla techniques, burning the midnight oil at your kitchen table or home office means that you’re going to spend the next day or two in absolute misery. Here’s how to cram for a project or presentation without nuking your body in the process. Disclosure: The tricks you learn here are not going to save you from feeling crappy the next day. You’re an adult now with an adult body. Them’s the breaks. This is about minimizing how bad you’ll feel after the cramming session. Bank sleep Ah, yes. Sleep. Once you start your all-nighter, you probably won’t see a lot of it. However, if you get fair warning that you’re going to end up working all night (you’re coming back from vacation, you procrastinated, etc.), get some good, quality sleep before your session. The unexpected stuff you can’t do anything about – you’re just going to have to run and gun it. If you know that you’re going to have to cram on a certain day, pre-sleep is going to be a huge help. Make any and all soft surfaces treacherous and unappealing When you work from home and your eyes begin to droop, your bed, favorite chair or couch is going to cry out to you like a beautiful siren on the rocks. Resist that call! Instead, cover your usual resting spots with lots of random things like books, pots and pans, even old electronics. You’ll want to make it to where lying down will cause injury (I’m serious), or moving stuff out of the way will result in a huge crash of junk, a massive, loud avalanche of epic proportions. Laundry is a no-go as you will probably just push it out of the way. Stick with stuff that just doesn’t belong on your couch or bed. Use caffeine, but double down on water There are tons of articles out there that will tell you to avoid caffeine and drink stuff like plain water or juice during your cramming session. Those articles are written by college students - you’re going to need the hard stuff to make it through the night. I’m personally a disciple of The Church of 5-Hour Energy, but coffee, Diet Coke or Mountain Dew works as well. The key to using caffeine and staying alert is hydration. In other words, if you drink a soda, drink twice the amount of water. If you throw back a 5-Hour, drink lots of water. If you down one of those ginormous green cans of Monster Energy, drink a huge amount of water. Water will be a big component of keeping your body refreshed, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of staying awake. Light up your workspace Remember this simple fact: The darker the room, the easiest it is going to be to nod off. Your cram isn’t going to be like a movie montage, where the actors huddle around a single, 1-watt gooseneck lamp and binge on Chinese Takeout. You’re going to have to light up your work area to stay up. Get a couple of bright lamps. Turn on your overheads. You don’t want the light to cover just one or two small spots on your desk, place your lamps strategically so they illuminate the entire room. There’s a reason why Black Ops teams use bright lights to harass people who are being interrogated – it keeps suspects awake whether they like it or not. Ride the snack train At some point in time, when you’re halfway through your coding or presentation material binge, you’re going to get hungry. Knowing that Frankie’s Pizza and Great Wok of China is just a phone call away isn’t going to help. The key is to keep up some snack momentum. Buy a combo of healthy and carb-y stuff – apples and peanut butter pretzels, finger sandwiches and pizza pockets. Don’t stop and slam down a lot of food, graze. Snack throughout the night. This will not only give your body energy, but keep you up (you need to be awake to chew, right?). Once you’ve finished that code, written those pages or pieced together that multi-media presentation, you’ll get the reward that you’ve been waiting for: rest. If you still can’t sleep when you finally get the chance to do so, just go online, read the latest city council agenda, and I promise you’ll be out – like a dim light – in no time.


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5 Video Tips for Work-From-Home Skype Interviews

5 Video Tips for Work-From-Home Skype Interviews

Beyond • April 30, 2014

Your workspace is 10 feet away, but your employer is 100 miles away. Your uniform is a T-shirt, jeans, or whatever you feel like wearing at the moment. Your preferred method of contact is chat with a little bit of email mixed in. And now your employer or client wants you to step outside your comfort zone and do something terrifying: Have a video meeting. While working out on the fringes, it’s easy to forget that at some point you exist beyond your latest email missive or chat volley. Here are five ways to optimize your Skype calls and make your video meetings both painless and professional: Light it up Whether your Skype call is ultra-short or really, really long, you will be judged based on the brightness of your workspace. Go for natural light or multiple lamps to lighten up your room, but make sure you’re not so backlit that you look like a silhouette. Mind your six Before you start your call, check for anything that looks weird in the background. Books stacked haphazardly on a shelf, spots on walls, or even piles of clean laundry in the background will give you an air of unprofessionalism. Think office, not bedroom. Clear up bandwidth When your digital clock, tablet and cell phone all share your wireless connection, the quality of your Skype calls are destined to suffer. Do more than close unnecessary programs on your laptop or desktop, look around for outside devices that can erode the quality of your video meeting. Wear nice pants I know it’s tempting to put on a nice shirt and throw on sweatpants. Don’t. Will you have to stand up during your Skype call? Probably not, but if something unexpected happens – earthquake, doorbell, urgent bathroom break – you’ll curse yourself if you’re wearing raggy pants. Sit up straight Let’s face it: body language matters, even during Skype calls. You’ll want to project confidence, but if your camera sits at the perfect height and you’re channeling Oscar the Slouch, you’re simply going to look bad. Sit up straight at all times and whoever you’re speaking with will notice how professional you look. There are just as many tips to make great Skype calls as there are ways to make your conference calls fall flat. These five are just the basics, but they should definitely improve the quality and professionalism of your face-to-face meeting.


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Three Things We Learned from Chris Kostman of AdventureCORPS

Three Things We Learned from Chris Kostman of AdventureCORPS

Beyond • April 29, 2014

When I first saw the resume of Chris Kostman of AdventureCORPS’, which took him from the Triple Ironman in France all the way to archaeological digs in Turkey and Egypt, I wasn’t quite sure how to process the information. After many seconds of silence, my Heart of Business co-host Andy Shore cut through the dead air with perhaps the most accurate statement I’ve ever heard in my life: “This guy is Indiana Jones.” Indeed. Our latest podcast guest needs no introduction in the endurance sports world, as he hosts some of the most grueling races on the planet, including a 135-mile California footrace that starts below sea level in Death Valley and ends at Mt. Whitney’s portal at 8,400-ish feet. After organizing and managing numerous ultra-endurance races including the world-famous Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, Kostman has learned a few things about running a business. Here is some of the wisdom he passed on to us: Don’t be afraid to be really, really choosy Kostman gets hundreds of applications for the Badwater 135 alone, from Sumo wrestlers to hyper-fit marathon runners. For Kostman, keeping the race down to roughly 100 elite people not only protects the safety of the runners, but ensures that most of the participants finish the race. In business, you’ll want the very best talent on your most important projects. Keep things exclusive and you’ll reap the best results. “Just do it” is not a slogan, it’s a way of life When Kostman was in high school, he set world ultra-cycling records when he rode from San Francisco City Hall to Los Angeles City Hall. When he was 20, he became the youngest finisher of an 11-day bicycle race across America. Kostman always had the confidence for endurance racing, but getting on a bike and challenging himself was only one way to know if his body could match his will. If you aspire to own your own business, you may have a roadmap to success, but unless you go all in and execute your plan, you won’t know if you’ll succeed. You’ll need something different to win an endurance race What type of a person decides to hop on a bike for 48 hours and ride for more than 500 miles across long stretches of desert and winding mountain road? Someone who embraces the challenge and rewards of a grueling race. Kostman says that many endurance racers seek a completely calm, clear-minded mental state one can only get from pushing the body to the limit. Not every business you run or project you tackle will be mentally challenging like an ultra-endurance race, but embracing each step of the process and sending yourself into “the zone” will practically guarantee success. Running a business and running down a long, windy, empty road at the dead of night in 120-degree heat are two entirely different concepts, but the parallels between endurance racing and business are startling. Tackle your work like you would tackle an endurance race, and you’ll only see great results with your business.


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5 Annoying Distractions That Can Kill Your Output

5 Annoying Distractions That Can Kill Your Output

Beyond • April 16, 2014

Like just about anything, working from home is about the little things. You can craft copy, code or customer service tickets from your sofa or the table at Starbucks, but the tiniest, most distracting things will make or break your output. If you do hours upon hours of work and you’re coming up with a less-than-stellar haul, there could be any number of basic things that are slowing you down. Here’s a list of five different annoyances that can stop you from being a work from home superstar. Dirty monitor Doing research on the Mona Lisa only to find she has a mole you never noticed before? Guess what? That’s probably not a birthmark. A dirty monitor can slow productivity to a halt. Buy a few microfiber cleaning cloths or monitor wipes and see how much a clean screen affects your output.  Messy desk What’s on your desk? Do you have more than the bare essentials? If so, it’s time to go militantly minimalist. Remove pretty much anything that doesn’t have to be there at any given moment. The less stuff you have on your desk, the less time your brain will spend processing those unnecessary objects  Tangled cables What’s under (or around) the bottom of your chair? Are you tugging at your laptop every few seconds because its charging cable is too tight? Spend a few minutes untangling wires and arranging them neatly throughout the room. Most people will fight with annoying cables for days before realizing they’re even doing it. You don’t want to be one of those people.  Smudgy glasses Ah, glasses. They can be so helpful yet so…not-helpful. Do your glasses have smudgy fingerprints or scratches? If your glasses are simply dirty, don’t just clean them, move them as far as possible from your eyes by adjusting their position on the bridge of your nose. If your glasses are scratched, head down to the local eyeglass manufacturer and see if you can get the scratches buffed out. Many stores will do this for free, and the only price you’ll pay is time.  Inappropriate lighting What’s the lighting situation in your office? Has your family nicknamed your workspace “the dungeon”? Is it so bright that whenever you leave your office, you’re stricken with spotty vision? The best type of work lighting is natural light, but if you don’t have windows, a good, bright desk lamp will work. Also, consider painting your walls a light color or hanging brightly-colored posters. These two tricks will brighten your workspace and keep your eyes as fresh as possible. If you had to fix all five of these problems in your work-from-home life, it would take you less than a few hours to make things right. Set aside some time to right these wrongs and you’ll definitely see a jump in your output.


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Remote Control: 4 Big Picture Facts About Working Remotely

Remote Control: 4 Big Picture Facts About Working Remotely

Beyond • April 9, 2014

With so many ways to gather intel, the Internet is rampant with often contradictory survey data. So as I wrote this blog post listing out facts about working remotely, it wasn’t hard to find lots of data on the benefits of working outside the office. Although you can find stats on the drawbacks of having work from home employees, most data shows that teleworkers not only get more done, they have better quality of life. Here are some Big Picture stats on the state of telecommuting in general, from both an employer and employee perspective: 1. Telecommuting rose almost 80% between 2005 and 2012 (American Community Survey) This statistic probably was probably driven by two things: The increase in communication technology and the downturn in the economy. Today’s remote workers are available throughout the day (and night) through Skype and other tools, while cash-challenged companies save money on medical insurance and other employee expenses. Everybody wins. 2. Employers save up to $11,000 per remote worker (Teleworkresearchnetwork.com) Anyone who says that workers are the only ones to gain from telecommuting is dead wrong. Between rent and other expenses, employers can save more than $10,000 per employee that works from home only half the time. The same survey says that remote workers themselves save between $2000 and $7000 per year on gas, bus and subway fare, and other transportation expenses. 3. Almost 65% of remote workers now carry tablets (iPass) According to a 2012 survey by iPass, tablets are a huge hit with remote workers. When the survey took place, the most popular telecommuter-friendly devices were iPhones, iPads and laptops, and even though we’re well into 2014, you can bet those stats have probably not changed all that much. 4. Around 40% of remote workers get more sleep (Connectsolutions.com) A small study in 2013 by Connect Solutions, a company that provides Unified Communications tools, found that while remote workers got more done, they also got better sleep. The study also showed that teleworkers were more productive and have a much more positive attitude about life and work in general. In other words, more sleep = better output and happier workers. On the flipside, a rather humorous 2012 survey by Citrix showed that remote workers have done everything from watch movies to drink alcoholic beverages during the workday. For statistically accurate purposes, we’ll just consider those mischievous workers outliers.


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Three Things We Learned From the Digital Nomads

Three Things We Learned From the Digital Nomads

Beyond • April 9, 2014

When we had Nate and Jeremy Ginsburg on Heart of Business, the pair was living in Saigon enjoying the food, social life and culture of Vietnam. But by the time the time the podcast went live, the pair had taken off to South Africa, yet another stop in the incredible, exciting lives of two guys who decided that home is where the backpack is. Welcome to the world of the Digital Nomads. Nate is a marketing consultant who teaches people Pinterest, Twitter and entrepreneurship. Jeremy calls himself a “Culture Chameleon” and blogs about travel, plays music, and even does standup comedy. Together the pair not only see the world, they make a good living while doing it. It’s a dream for many of us, but they’ve shown us it’s possible. After a lively podcast on everything from how Nate communicates with clients from halfway across the planet to how these guys choose where they’re going to go next. Here are three things we learned from the Ginsburgs about running a business while living abroad: 1. You won’t be sitting in front of a computer all day (unless you want to) One of the biggest fears Jeremy had on living abroad was loneliness, and that he’d be sitting in front of a computer all day by himself. Instead, he found that wherever he goes, he finds a lively community of people to help him enjoy the local sights and culture. According to the pair, if you become a digital nomad, you will definitely use a computer for work, but you can easily spend your days and nights socializing and immersed in the world around you. 2. You will find loads of like-minded entrepreneurs Thanks to world-shrinking of the Internet, entrepreneurialism can happen from almost anywhere. Heavily inspired by Tim Ferris’s book The 4-Hour Work Week, Nate was able to take the plunge and run his consulting business abroad. In their travels, they’ve come across numerous entrepreneurs, building businesses and running startups from café tables. If you yearn for business inspiration among your peers when you join the expat life, you’ll find it almost anywhere you go. 3. Bring a plan or you’ll never make it After meeting a man who was successfully traveling the world, running his business and using personal assistants for many of his tasks, Nate was ready to start his own venture and make a million dollars. The problem? Things were a bit harder than he thought. Nate ended up spending all his money, moving back home, and ramping up on social media and marketing before trying again. Once he had built up his clientele and crafted a plan, he was able to live his dream abroad without a constant fear of failure. Now that they’ve perfected the art of living and working on the move, who knows where Nate and Jeremy will end up next? The pair lives by the motto “Have Wi-Fi will travel”, and we at Heart of Business look forward to their next stop on this beautiful blue marble we call earth.


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4 Sensible Tips For Finding a Work-From-Home Alternative

4 Sensible Tips For Finding a Work-From-Home Alternative

Beyond • April 2, 2014

So, you’ve been working from home for days on end and it seems like all you’ve been looking at is a computer, a desk and maybe the green grass (or asphalt) outside your window. Call it cabin fever, homeworker-itis, or whatever clever name you come up with, when you feel antsy, it’s time to go out and work somewhere else. Unless your beach or pool has Wi-Fi___33, you’re going to have to go for something more…conventional. Coffee houses, libraries or even restaurants are good bets, and here’s how to successfully churn out the work in these oft-crowded places: 1. Case the joint Before you set up your tech in another place, spend at least a few hours gauging the remote worker culture. Who do you see? People in business suits or college students? What’s the Wi-Fi like? Fast enough or almost unbearably slow? What’s the climate like? Freezing cold or too warm for your liking? If you can find a Goldilocks place where most of your needs are met, test out this new place the next time you work.   2. Organize tasks based on the environment If you work remotely, you probably have to a) answer emails, b) make Skype or phone calls, c) read, or d) watch videos (instructional, of course). In a loud place like Starbucks, or even the quiet space of a library, watching videos and voice calls will probably be out of the question. Instead, do your phone calls from home, and save the other stuff for your local haunt. Make sure to invest in quality earbuds or a noise-cancelling headset as well.   3. Bring money At most coffee shops and eateries, you’re not going to see a sign stating that buying drinks or food buys you time. Instead, if you park it without paying for something every few hours, you’re going to get dirty looks, passive aggressive hints, and other clues that the staff wants you out. Don’t go broke, but make sure you bring money to buy something every so often. Also, it never hurts to nicely ask an employee what they expect from you if you’re going to work for hours on end. If the price is too high, you’re just going to have to leave.   4. Find an outlet It’s a fact: eventually your laptop, tablet or phone is going to die without external power. So when you first walk in the door to your potential work-from-home alternative, make a beeline for the nearest outlet. In an ideal situation, you can find an open outlet next to a table, chair or even couch. However, if the only open outlet would force you to sit on a dirty floor, or all the outlets are covered, you’ll have to find another place to go. In my experience, putting all your eggs in one basket by having only one place you can work outside the house always ends up badly. Instead, have two or three places you can go, and if your first choice fails, you can still have a massively productive day away from your usual domain.


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