Q&A: How to be organised for cafe working?

How to set up for café working?

What goes into our portable office?

Introduction

As has been mentioned already we have no dedicated office space. With our new business we have decided to keep our costs down by working where we can. Sometimes this involves working at home, and sometimes we meet and work, usually in a café. We have discussed some of our top choices for cafe working here, but whilst it might seem like living the dream to some, it also comes with its own set of drawbacks. Not least is that you no longer have a dedicated space to work, so no dedicated space to leave your stuff, and a strict limitation on what you can take with you when you head out. So here we share some of our tips for home working/cafe working.

Home working, cafe working - the portable office

If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated office room in your house then equipping your workspace is likely a straightforward affair. However, if like us you have to dual purpose one of your other rooms, then you will probably find the balance between practical working space and kitchen/dining room/bedroom a tricky affair. I personally find myself working at home from any combination of the kitchen table or the sofa and it is still a work in progress as to how I keep the house tidy after working, yet make it a workable space when I am.

When we meet, usually once or twice a week, we agree on a suitable venue. It might be one or other’s house, it might be incorporated into doing the Stationery Walk for the day, but usually it will be a venue we have settled on. There are several considerations when you decide to work in this way.

Weight

I think for us this is the big one. If you are carrying your laptop, and maybe a charger too, then it adds up quickly. Throw in a notebook, pen, and any extras you choose to carry (water bottle, book, keys etc) then you start planning your load like a backpacking pro.

Bag

cafe working - kanken backpack

You will need a decent bag, ideally one that allows for safe carriage of your laptop. Some people like 101 pockets so that every item has a home. Some (like both of us) like a big open space where you can open the bag and see everything. Horses for courses but the point is the same – you need a good bag. We both carry a Kanken bag, a legacy of our days at Bureau when the whole office seemed to have one. Still widely available – click here to see a decent range at John Lewis.

Laptop

cafe working - macbook

This is most certainly not a tech blog and I am not here to recommend laptops. That said, we have both ended up with a silver HP laptop. In my case it does the job, just. Once you immerse yourself in the world of cafe working though you will soon get Mac Book envy. Much comes and goes in the world but the hipster laptop of choice solidly remains Apple. You can buy them at John Lewis. Just saying.

Tech

Outside of laptops there is the small issue of tech paraphernalia. There is no end to what you might need but my tips centre around keeping a core of gadgets that will keep me going. Phone battery life can be an issue on heavy-use days, so being able to charge it as and when you have access to a plug point can be a life-saver (so to speak, although it might actually save your life one day when you need a phone in an emergency). So I carry a lead, a plug and a battery power pack. And it all goes in a neat little Muji case. See below for the breakdown.

Case

cafe working - case

The paraphernalia fits, just, into this compact case from Muji. It means if I know battery life will be an issue I just grab the lot. Click here to see more.

Power Pack

cafe working - belkin power pack

There are so many out there. This one caught my eye on John Lewis. It seems to be about the size of a small iPhone.

Plug

I do love this. Plugs are so bulky, and won’t go in my Muji case. But I then found this folding USB plug. Genius. Click here to see more

Stationery

After all, this is a stationery-centric blog.

Notebook

cafe working - leuchtturm notebook

I like a notebook that has room to write but cafe working demands a portable office and this is also quite compact. The softcover makes it less bulky, and it has all those great Leuchtturm features. Perfect. Click here to buy over at Foyles (look for the B6+ Softcover)

Pen Loop

cafe working - pen loop

I was sent a Midori pen loop by Nero’s Notes recently and it is brilliant. Unlike other ones it clips on so can be reused on another book, and is quite flexible so can take a wide variety of pen sizes.

Sadly they have stopped selling them but you can get the Leuchtturm pen loop here.

Pen

cafe working - pen

I naturally also need a pen. Now the honest truth is that I have settled on a Muji rollerball pen. I do love them, and whilst I might be expected to take a fountain pen with me, they are just too much hassle for me. Sorry. I just find the combination of ink and sofas a risk too far!

Pen case

cafe working - pen case

I do sometimes need a few extra pens, scissors and other stationery knick-knacks. On such days I will naturally have a pen case for the job. I have a choice of ones to call on but this one is a favourite of mine.

To do notepad

cafe working - notem to do pad

Jo has suggested a useful to-do notepad, a simple way to keep on top of your daily tasks. This one over at Paperchase fits the bill.

Diaries

cafe working - hobonichi diary

I am not one for a paper diary but others swear by them. We will be doing a diary special very soon, but in the meantime you can find some diaries over at Foyles – click here to see more.

Do share any thoughts you have on working lean. What essential items do you take with you? Please share in the comments below. And why not check out our top 5 ‘cafes’ we have found to work in?

4 Comments
  1. If you could source something like the Passion Planner, but less “self-helpy-hands-in-the-air” I’m in.

    Otherwise, these all look ideal. I’d dread to show you what my portable office looks like, as it’s not half as nice, although still serviceable.

  2. Ha. Mine only looks half as smart thanks to doing a photoshoot. You should see it now as I write this with a 7-year old slowly pushing me off the kitchen table with his toys!!

  3. Great information here, always fun to peek inside someone’s bag/life! I love the Mark + Fold diary, the paper quality is exceptionally good, and if you have a fairly minimalist approach to your schedule the week-to-view layout is great. I have recently fallen in love with the Filofax Notebook – the one with a spiral binding and removable/repositionable pages. The paper quality is the best in their range and much better than Leuchtturm in my opinion, you can punch other items to insert, and it’s relatively cheap. I have deconstructed my Mark + Fold diary and carry three months of diary pages plus some lined paper in the Filofax Notebook – gloriously slim and very functional. If I wasn’t living on a zero-income basis at the moment I’d be seriously yearning for a William Hannah disc-bound notebook, but that’s a dream too far!

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