(Originally published on my old blog on 7th Feb 2016)
I don’t tend to make New Year resolutions in the sense of giving up things or anything that should make me feel guilty. But I do make pledges to myself about what I’ll achieve in each year.
In 2016, one of those pledges is that I will make more use of the ability to be able to work from anywhere. So, when I travel for a conference or meeting, I’ll also add on some time to just do my normal work from somewhere else. In addition, I’ll actually plan special trips simply to do my normal work, and be somewhere nice, with no other excuse for the trip.
I started this plan in style, by taking a January week in New York. I rented an apartment in a nice residential area — West Village — so that it would be more like living there than visiting there.
As it happens, the week that I went co-incided with their worst snowstorm for many years. It meant that the authorities advised everyone to stay inside for the night and day of the storm (so I got a lot of work done), but afterwards, it was magical to explore the city in the snow…
The trip was also good for food. Just near my apartment was a gastropub (The Spotted Pig) owned by one of New York’s hottest chefs of the moment, April Bloomfield — who just happens to be from Birmingham in England! The menu is all about casual dining with European influences.
Breakfasts were an important part of my food experience, and one of the hotly tipped venues was French-style Buvette
Their trademark breakfast is to make scrambled eggs using the steampipe on the coffee machines that would normally be used to froth capuccino. It makes them lighter and fluffier…
My favourite though was the 11th Street Cafe, where the tables had enough space to work on a laptop, the wifi was good, and there was a friendly clientele.
My favourite breakfast there was the avocado on toast, with perfectly poached eggs and toasted almonds…
But the star meal of the trip was actually eaten in the least pleasant surroundings, and really didn’t look very photogenic. But the flavours were incredible. The place is called Xi’ian Famous Foods and it’s actually a takeaway that has a few seats.
They serve paper plates of homemade noodles of such perfect texture, with spicy sauces packed with a punch of flavour. I had the Spicy Cumin Lamb.
Overall it was a great week. I got to see a lovely residential neighbourhood that completely changed my perceptions of New York from my previous in-and-out visits to Manhattan for meetings.
What did I learn about working in a different place?
I did get wiped out by the combination of the jetlag and the cold. The cold really made me want to hibernate, and add in the five hour time difference and I just wanted to sleep all the time. Then, with me only being there a week I’d just got used to the timezone when I had to fly back.
However, I had an incredibly productive week of work, and part of that was down to only half of my working day overlapping with other colleagues and clients. It meant I had half of my day to just be available to others, and half to motor through my task list in a focused way. I got some of the bigger, more creative tasks done, which had been bugging me for months, because I could devote a good block of time to them without interruption. There’s a lesson in there about carving out chunks of offline time in my schedule.
Also, I found that being in a different environment stimulated my brain, so I had more enthusiasm, more creativity and was more productive.
Travelwise. As this wasn’t a trip needed by work, I paid for it myself. I flew economy on the way out, but used airmiles to upgrade to premium economy on the way back for comparison. That made a huge difference to the journey, as I was actually able to stretch out and sleep. However, if I hadn’t had airmiles the price difference would have been too large (as evidenced by the fact that the seats were mostly empty in the premium economy cabin).
In conclusion, I think I’d repeat the experiment, but would probably choose somewhere that has less of a timezone shift or is warmer — or I would go for longer. I’d also try to blag an upgrade on the plane, but probably wouldn’t pay for it if it was increased the price by more than a third.
It was a great week, and I’ll be blogging from more of my working away trips in 2016.
You can view my Flickr album of photos from my New York trip.