9 Productive Hobbies To De-Stress, Build Skills, and Stay Happy

9 Productive Hobbies To De-Stress, Build Skills, and Stay Happy

Work can be a grind, so it’s important to have hobbies on the side to help you relax, focus, and overall, stay productive.

We’ve compiled a list of hobbies that absolutely anybody can get into, but would take a lifetime to master. Consider setting aside some time each week between your work, family and other obligations to try these out and incorporate it into your routine!

 

Deep-reading

With social media, people have gradually shifted their reading habits from concentrated reading to skimming for facts. Deep-reading harkens back to a time when people found solitary places to read long texts, often focusing on the symbols, themes, and concepts presented by the book. You can do it with any book, just slow down your reading pace so you can fully absorb each sentence with clarity. Visit Longreads for some other in-depth interviews, books, stories, and essays. Check out Novel Coworking’s list of 8 must-read books for 2018.

 

Exercising

If you really want to stay productive in your free time, the best thing you can do is to exercise. Doesn’t matter what kind you do- whether it’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Crossfit, yoga, or just a quick run- getting your heart and lungs pumping can be liberating while helping you stay focused and energized. Look for gyms and fitness centers near your home, and try to fit in an hour or two of training before or after work. Above all, exercising can help you stay fit and healthy, especially if you sit in front of a computer at work for most of the day.

 

Cooking

Everybody wishes they had more time to cook. The truth is there is time! Sometimes the biggest challenge is finding the right recipe- one that doesn’t take too long and doesn’t require multiple trips to the grocery store. Allrecipes is an awesome starting point. They have a gallery of popular recipes with reviews from the community, a recipe finder with ingredient search, and filters for cooking time or cuisine. Save your money, stay healthy, and develop one of the most important skills by cooking at least twice a week. You won’t regret it.

 

Writing a blog or journal

Writing isn’t just one of the most productive hobbies, it can also be a great method of recording moments, thoughts, and feelings, as well as a timeless way of communicating with someone miles, or even centuries apart. One way to practice writing is through a blog. Not only do blogs let you communicate with readers directly, but it has become a way of earning money for many writers. We recommend reading The Minimalists’ guide to starting a blog, which walks you through each step in detail. Don’t feel like sharing your thoughts with the world quite yet? Try out journaling. Journals can help you think through complex issues and emotions, without fear of being judged.

 

Drawing and painting

Similar to writing, drawing can be a powerful alternative to traditional communication, like speech or the written word. Drawing (and painting) can help reveal hidden emotions and thoughts, and revisit how we view the world. However, compared to methods of traditional communication, the barrier to entry for drawing is typically higher and is not often treated with the same importance. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain has become a popular introductory course and book taught by Betty Edwards. After just a few pages of reading and practicing, you too will realize drawing isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be, and can actually be deeply relaxing and satisfying.

 

Volunteering

Time is never wasted when it’s spent helping someone else. There’s something profoundly rewarding about using your free time to volunteer at a soup kitchen, contribute to a charity, or assist at a shelter. Visit Idealist and VolunteerMatch for safe matches with organizations and activities based on your skills and experiences. It doesn’t take much to make a difference.

 

Programming

Programming isn’t just about making apps or video games- it represents the language of the future. That’s why so many schools have begun teaching it as part of the curriculum. The next generation will develop software and programs that we’ve never dreamed of. But even as a hobby, programming will teach you new ways of problem-solving that can be applied to other fields and aspects of your life. Codecademy offers an easy way to learn through a code editor with a built-in tutorial and preview window. Harvard University’s CS50 course is just as good, complete with filmed lectures, problem sets, exams, and homework.

 

Travel and Sightseeing

Travel shouldn’t be limited to the once-a-year vacations! You don’t have to plan a whole month or save a fortune, you can start exploring the world on a shoestring budget. Try using Skyscanner, a website and app for tracking the best flight deals. You probably already know about Airbnb, but you can get the local experience and stay places for free through Couchsurfing. Want to stay somewhere fancier? HotelTonight lets you know which hotels have discounts tonight or the following night. Even if you can’t get away for a weekend, you can always explore your own city. You’re bound to find something you didn’t know was there before.

 

Dog Walking

Have experience with dogs? Why not walk them in your own time? Get some cardio in your free time while exploring local areas and meeting new pups. On top of it all, you can make some extra cash on the side (some walkers make up to $20 for each walk!). Check out Wag!, an LA-based dog-walking app that connects walkers with pet owners. Check to see if your city is supported.

Here’s our advice- give it some time! Hobbies aren’t supposed to be stressful second jobs, they’re meant to provide some levity and balance to your existing obligations. Put in a few hours in each week, and you’re guaranteed to develop some skills and perspectives that can even help you in your daily work.

Check out our previous blog on getting a productive start to your morning.

Make sure to follow our blog for more guides and posts on productivity and all things entrepreneurship.

How to Find Commercial Office Space For Rent

How to Find Commercial Office Space For Rent

Choosing an office space for a business is a difficult but important decision to make. The space you ultimately choose will come to represent your brand and influence how your team performs. Before you make your decision, you should do your research to find the space that best fits your business’s needs.

There are a lot of considerations to make in finding commercial office spaces for rent. While we can’t make your final decision for you, we can help steer you in the right direction in determining the space or spaces that work best for you.

 

1. Plan for Your Office Needs

Forget about “best of” lists and fancy awards- the best office is one that supports businesses to do their best work. That includes:

  • Space – how much square footage of space does your business require to operate efficiently?
  • Number of offices – are you a large business that needs private offices for each member?
  • Location – where your business is situated can impact how your clients interact with you. Check out Business Insider’s list of 50 best places to work in the USA.
  • Amenities – Coffee machines, printing services, mail delivery etc. Typically more amenities mean a higher monthly or yearly rent.
  • On-site staff – From the receptionist to the community manager to the cleaning crew, a helpful team can make all the difference in an office.
  • Transportation – The ideal office should be close to public transportation or main roads and highways. The easier the morning commute, the more productive the team can be.

 

2. Calculate Your Monthly or Yearly Budget

Moving offices may seem straightforward, but it can quickly become a costly investment if not properly accounted for.

If your business involves moving from a previous location, start by evaluating the cost of moving. These costs typically include the cost of hiring a moving company or renting a moving truck. Keep in mind your previous office location may require an early termination fee under a rental contract.

Consider additional costs, such as electricity, heat, Internet and parking spaces. While some places may quote a reasonable rate, make sure it’s inclusive of all the other utilities your team may need.

Once you add up your costs, evaluate whether a move is right for your business. For many startups, a coworking solution may be more cost-effective. For medium-sized businesses, a shared office suite may be more effective. Explore your options and consult your team for the best route.

 

3. Focus on a List of Potential Locations

Location is everything! Once you begin to find spaces based on your personal criteria, consider where the building is located. Is it in a safe neighborhood? Are the rates reasonable for the area? Is it close to public transportation, nightlife, restaurants, other relevant or important services for your business?

Start listing down locations that best match your expectations. Some may be in completely different cities or states. It’s important to get the opinions of other key stakeholders in your team. Would they be willing to relocate?

Check out Novel Coworking’s various locations across the nation.

 

4. Tour, Interview, Research

Start researching your list- the locations and the building. This is the only way to determine the viability of potential locations.

Determine what kind of space your business needs. Do you need an extension to your business’s existing offices? Or perhaps you simply need a temporary coworking solution.

Many office space providers offer tours of their location. Don’t just settle by going off images or 3D renders- you need to visit them in person to make a decision. Can you see your business’s culture developing within the space?

You may also spot something during your tour that wouldn’t have shown up on the webpage- a dilapidated corridor, or leaky pipes. In-person visits will also help you measure the specifications of each room, allowing you to determine whether you can move in existing furniture and infrastructure.

Most importantly, touring a location with your team can really help you accurately envision how your business may operate within the environment. There’s no point in having a large and spacious office that none of your team members feel connected to.

 

5. Negotiate Your Lease

You’ve narrowed your choices to one or two spaces. Now it’s time to negotiate the terms of your lease contract.

Keep in mind not all places will allow negotiation of a contract. However, they may be open to a flexible rate depending on a few factors, including the expected length of stay – the longer your business expects to rent out the space, the better position you may be to negotiate a lower average rate.

Plans may vary also depending on your need. Monthly plans may be more suitable for shorter stays, while Yearly plans will help you save in the long run.

Have your team’s general counsel or attorney review the terms of the lease as well. You never want to be caught in a position where you inadvertently break one of the landlord’s rules and find yourself moving spaces again.

 

Your new commercial office space

There’s no specific guide to finding commercial office space- each scenario differs depending on the business involved. However, you can still use these tips and best practices to help find a space that maximizes your team’s productivity and efficacy.

Interested in finding a flexible, customizable solution for your business? Whether you need multi-room extensions or just a new private office, Novel Coworking works with your team to develop a plan fit for your needs. Check out our plans and pricing page.

5 Collaborative Calendar Apps To Supercharge Your Team

5 Collaborative Calendar Apps To Supercharge Your Team

Time is a resource just as important as money. With only a few hours in the day dedicated to work, how you spend them can impact your overall bottom line.

Business owners and entrepreneurs should strive to find new ways of saving and managing time. A great starting point is finding a robust collaborative calendar app that encourages communication and teamwork.

 

Why you should use a collaborative calendar

 

Better time management – To-do lists aren’t enough. If you really want to get things done, block out a time during your day to work on that project or task. Seeing your task as a part of your day will motivate you to better plan the rest of your week.

Reminders – Forget to return a call? Showed up late for a meeting? Next time set an alert by scheduling it on your calendar. No matter what you’re doing, a quick notification on your phone will make sure you’re on time.

Clearer team communication – Stop worrying about time zones or conflicts- sending someone a calendar invite ensures they have the event in their calendar as well. Better yet, sharing a whole calendar with your team allows them to see your weekly agenda.

Want some tips for better managing your time? Check out our previous post on time management hacks.

 

Top Five Collaborative Calendar Apps

 

1. Google Calendar

 

For many businesses, Google Calendar and the rest of the Google Suite has become the defacto cloud setup. It’s easy to use, has a sleek interface, and best of all, is free. No wonder it’s become so popular. Inviting others to view your calendar through a unique URL can be convenient for colleagues. Best of all, it’s already integrated into your Gmail account, so you can easily schedule meeting requests or calls.

Google Calendar

 

2. Apple Calendar

 

If your organization uses Apple hardware, Apple Calendar will already be installed. Make no mistake, Apple Calendar is a sleek app. The interface is as simple as it gets, echoing the same visual design seen in other Apple apps. While Apple Calendar may lack flashy extensions and is limited to Apple and iOS devices, the company’s apps have always centered on simplicity and user experience. As some people say: “It just works.”

Apple Calendar

 

3. Microsoft Outlook

 

Apple uses Calendar, and Microsoft relies on Outlook. Many businesses with desktops continue to use Outlook for its Microsoft Office integration- allowing them to manage emails, contacts, tasks, events in a unified setup. Features include team calendar sharing, side-by-side comparisons, and sending meeting requests straight from email or the calendar. Unlike Apple Calendar, Outlook can be used on both Windows and Apple devices. Subscriptions start at $6.99/month or $69.99/year. You can also purchase Office 2016 completely at $149.99 (for the Home & Student version). Fortunately, the mobile versions are free.

Microsoft Outlook

 

4. UpTo

 

Looking for a more casual, social-oriented calendar set up? Try UpTo. Unlike other calendars on this list, UpTo resembles more of an enclosed social network for planning events- allowing you to view your colleague’s activities in real time, with options for liking and commenting. The app also allows you to follow other calendars, like the schedule of your favorite TV show, or your favorite sports team. You can even set up groups for work, family, projects, and more. Best of all, UpTo integrates with your existing calendars, including Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and Facebook Events.

UpTo Calendar

 

5. TeamUp

 

Maybe you just want people to view upcoming events or projects neatly without all the trouble of setting up accounts and permissions. That’s what TeamUp is for. Designed with a colorful interface, TeamUp works to simplify team collaboration. The calendar is so dynamic and customizable, it has been used by everyone from the education industry to technology, including Harvard University, NASA, HPE, Philips, Red Bull and more. Visit their website for a deeper look into real use cases.

TeamUp Calendar

 

As with most tools, a calendar is just a means to an end. You shouldn’t expect your organization to radically change overnight. Collaborative organizational values and practices have to be instilled over time, but having a calendar is a great place to start. When businesses can internally communicate more clearly about what they’re working on, and when client meetings have reminders before they start, operations become almost automatic.

Are digital tools getting in the way of your productivity and organization? Try an analog method with the bullet journal.

How to Use a Bullet Journal for Work

How to Use a Bullet Journal for Work

What is a Bullet Journal?

You may have seen mentions of “bullet journals” frequently throughout social media. Just what is a bullet journal and why are they so special anyway?’’

Searching online for more information turns up several results: calendars, journals, agendas- even sketches and paintings- each one adorned with precise linework and calligraphy fonts.

However, in its most basic form, bullet journals are a productivity system. Sure, you can purchase physical bullet journals, but the notebooks themselves represent a completely new way to stay organized. As the creator Ryder Carroll describes them, bullet journals are “the analogue system for the digital age.”

 

Why use a Bullet Journal for work?

For one, they’re compact. You can store your entire year of appointments and to-do lists in a few pages without sacrificing any important information.

They also help you to be more productive. Each entry is organized in a way that makes sense. You’ll learn about different views and signifiers which can encourage you to actually get more done.

Finally, they’re infinitely customizable. You can find countless versions and designs that put professional notebooks to shame- use it for tracking habits, collecting recipes, or a list of books to read.

 

How does a Bullet Journal work?

The Bullet Journal is designed as a fast and flexible way to organize various thoughts and tasks using only pen and paper. They’re designed to “track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” Any notebook or pen will work, but there are actual bullet journals available to purchase from the likes of Leuchtturm1917, Rhodia, and Moleskine.

 

 

The Bullet Journal System

  • Index – On the first spread within the notebook, add the title “Index”. These two pages list the contents of all subsequent pages and their corresponding page numbers, similar to a table of contents or an index page.
  • Future Log – On the second spread is the Future Log. This section acts similar to a calendar with a 6-month view, although there are variations. The Future Log lists all the upcoming events and tasks.
  • Monthly Log – The monthly log consists of two parts: the monthly calendar on the left page (a list of the days), and the monthly task list on the right (a list of items to complete during the month, in bullet point form). Each spread after the Future Log is counted as one month.
  • Daily Log – The daily log tracks your day-to-day activities. The present date goes at the top, and then each entry is listed as a bullet point. Entries come in three forms: Tasks, Events, and Notes.

 

Rapid Logging

Bullet Journals are written using Rapid Logging, the modern note-taking technique. Rapid Logging creates meaningful notes while retaining overall efficiency. Essentially, Rapid Logging is composed of four key elements:

  • Topics – Each page should have a brief but relevant topic name. For daily logs, this can simply be the date.
  • Page numbers – To make it simple to find your place in the journal, write down the page number before adding content to a new page.
    Short sentences – Each entry should be as succinct as possible to allow for more space and utility.
  • Bullets – Bullets vary depending on the entry and can provide a lot of contextual information. For example:
    • Events (represented by a circled dot)
    • Notes (represented by a dash)
    • Tasks (represented by a normal dot)
      • (X) Task Complete
      • (>) Task Migrated
      • (<) Task Scheduled

Signifiers

Use symbols to add meaning and context to your entries. For example, (*) can indicate a priority for a task, while (!) can indicate a potential idea or source of inspiration. Others have developed their own signifiers, using hearts for memories or triangles for appointments. Make the bullet journal into your own!

 

The Bullet Journal Method

  1. At the end of each month, start a new Monthly Log on a new spread.
  2. Check your daily log for outstanding tasks.
  3. For completed tasks, write an “X” over the bullet.
  4. For tasks that are incomplete, use a right arrow over the bullet to migrate them to the present month. If the task is due months later, use a left arrow to move into the future.
  5. If a task is not worth completing, cross it out.
  6. To group a common set of tasks, notes or ideas, start a “collection.” On a new page, give your collection a title and page number, then migrate notes, tasks or ideas, from the daily log into the collection. Record the page number in the index.

There you have it! You just learned how to start your very own Bullet Journal.

 

Tips for Bullet Journaling

Keep it simple! Everyone has posted their version of a Bullet Journal, and it usually involves something extremely intricate and artistic. If you’re using the Bullet Journal for work, you don’t necessarily need it to look pretty, just organized. Otherwise, you may spend too much time designing and less time actually doing.

Limit your collections. While it may be tempting to include a special collection for each interest you have, keep it limited, and only add them as you feel necessary. Adding too many collections can quickly become distracting and ruin the whole point of an organization system.

Combine digital and analogue. Paper notebooks or digital notes- why should you have to choose? Paper notebooks are still effective in helping you remember and organize thoughts, but why not enhance its utility by capturing pages on Evernote? You can save, send, access your pages from anywhere in the world.
Stay with it every day. As with most organization systems, it becomes easy to neglect your agenda. The Bullet Journal forces you to sit down and think through your actions and priorities each day. Take a few minutes to get organized before you do anything else in the day.

The Bullet Journal doesn’t just represent a system of organization, but a whole community of organized thinkers. It’s not uncommon to see someone showing off their journal on Pinterest, or coloring in their calendar on Instagram. Bullet Journals have gone viral for a reason- they encourage people to take pride in organization.

As with most organization systems, it’s only effective when you’re patient and use resources to your advantage. Check out this list of Bullet Journal ideas from Nifty on BuzzFeed for some inspiration.

 

Follow Novel Coworking’s blog to learn other tips and tricks to staying organized at work.

How to Hire Stellar Freelancers in the Modern Age

How to Hire Stellar Freelancers in the Modern Age

Running a business today is nothing like it was 20 years ago. If you wanted to hire someone, you had to take out an ad in the newspaper, print out flyers, or network through someone with connections.

The world of today is built on faster, more digital connections. Freelancers and contractors have grown in popularity. It’s not uncommon for a business to have a handful of dedicated team members, and hire a professional freelancer as needed. Our own coworking spaces are full of freelancers.

We present a few best practices for how to hire a professional freelancer today.

 

Best Practices for Hiring Professional Freelancers

 

Set goals and expectations

Everything you do should tie back to your overall business goals. Some stay fixed (like delivering high-quality consulting service to clients), while others change over time (like the need to revamp the website).

Before you go on a hiring spree, make sure you understand the position that needs to be filled and the purpose for bringing others onboard. Instead of “we need a new website”, how does a website help you achieve your business goals? Don’t just focus on “more blogs” but how they can bring more traffic.

 

Create a brief

Once you’re ready to hire, create a brief. This simple document will help save your team and the freelancer hours of confusion and miscommunication. All it does is clearly outline the scope of your agreement. Including:

  • The type of work to be done
  • Project goals and objectives
  • Standard of quality
  • Deadlines and due dates
  • Rounds of revision
  • Logins and other permissions

For example, a brief for a freelance writer’s email campaign may include word count, the target audience, the brand’s tone and cadence, and access to any image assets.

A brief for a developer coding a new website may involve the expected layout, programming language, important pages to create, brand assets to include, and milestones along the way.

Briefs aren’t just requirements, they clarify the agreement between the contractor and the company. Check out this post on how to write an effective brief.

 

Communicate frequently

While email remains a staple in today’s business communication methods, new apps are taking the best features of email clients and streamlining them for the modern era.

Most popular is a web and mobile app called Slack. Similar to the instant messaging apps from the early days of the Internet, Slack has a user interface that emphasizes direct, real-time communication, with other features including:

  • Video and audio chat
  • Channels for each topic or team
  • File attachment support
  • Third-party integrations

The last one is key, as Slack supports connections to popular apps for file storage, project management, code repositories, and more. Some of the ones we recommend are:

Google Drive – Perhaps the most famous cloud storage app online, Drive is a great way to host your business’s documents, videos, images, and audio files. Business plans are cheap and reliable.

Salesforce – Companies around the world default to salesforce for their CRM solutions. It simply has every feature a company could need to track and analyze their customer database.

Github – For development teams and programmers, Github is essential. Repos are not only the best way to store and host code, but also encourage others to collaborate with you.

Gratify – Need to hire an expert on short notice? Hire a professional straight from Slack, and assign jobs, send payment, and leave reviews without ever having to leave the app.

 

Schedule check-ins

Once assignments and deadlines are set, agree on a day and time to frequently check back with your freelancer. Businesses can get overwhelmed with various initiatives, while freelancers can be sidetracked by other projects. Check-ins ensure both parties are accountable for the work and payment.

If both the freelancer and the client use Google Calendar, scheduling an event and sending an invite is a great way to receive an alert a few minutes before the check-in.

 

Final thoughts

Freelancers represent a shift in the new kind of business. No longer are teams tied down by their location or technology- we can connect with writers and developers from around the country and complete projects in half the time.

Modern technology and resources, such as co-working spaces and project collaboration apps, allow freelancers and businesses to collaborate more efficiently. It’s up to businesses to empower freelancers by following these new practices. Revisit your own tools, streamline your processes, and bring your business into the modern age.

9 Unique Productivity Gifts

9 Unique Productivity Gifts

Whether it’s a special holiday or someone’s birthday, finding a gift for a colleague can be tricky. You want something that’s not just thoughtful, but something with more utility than a simple tie.

We present some of the best gift ideas that your recipient will truly appreciate.

 

Gifts to improve your life/personal development

Gym membership gift card

If someone on the team is a fitness junkie, a gift card to a nearby gym could help save them a lot of money. Be careful with this idea though- if someone hasn’t explicitly shown their desire for working out, this gesture could come off more as an insult.

Blue Apron e-gift

We all wish we had more time to cook at home. That’s what Blue Apron is for. The popular home meal kit delivery service offers e-gift cards in values of $60, $120, and $240. For reference, $120 is enough to cover a 2-week delivery, with 2 recipes each week. There’s also the option to send wine instead of the meal plan, which features a fancy selection of world-class wine pairings.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

Books will always be one of the best gifts to help someone improve themselves, and you can never go wrong with Eckhart Tolle. One of his most popular books, The Power of Now, teaches its readers to silence the “mind-consciousness” and the frantic nature of everyday life, and focus on the most important gift: the present moment.

 

Gifts for organization

Evernote Moleskine Notebook

Moleskine has developed a reputation for having some of the best-crafted notebooks, and also some of the priciest. There are several reasons they’re universally appealing: from the quality of the paper to the portability. You can get special edition notebooks too, from Star Wars to The Little Prince, but our favorite has to be the Evernote Moleskine. This notebook allows you to digitize your notes in the cloud, so you have a physical copy and a digital one too.

Beluga Cable Clips

They may not the most personal gift in the world, but we guarantee whoever receives these cable clips will be grateful. The Beluga Cable Clips are colorful, useful, and affordable gift options. Not only do they stick to most surfaces, but they can help keep any desk or home office neat and organized.

Personalized Calendar

Even though everyone has a calendar in their phones these days, nothing beats the practicality of a physical calendar. There’s something about writing down special days, flipping pages for every new month, and crossing out past days. On Shutterfly, you can create custom calendars with images and layouts of your choice.

 

Gifts for improving productivity and efficiency

Hamilton Beach Coffee Maker

Forget about Keurig, nothing beats a traditional coffee maker for that classic coffee taste. With the Hamilton Beach Coffee Maker, you don’t have to trade convenience for flavor either- this Amazon Best Seller lets you brew single-serve or full pots of coffee. Perfect for the caffeine addict in the office.

Noise-canceling headphones

Sometimes a coworking space or office can have distracting ambient sounds. Drown them out and stay productive with a pair of noise-canceling headphones. For budget, brand, and effect, few come close to the Bose QuietComfort 25 Noise-cancelling Headphones. These headphones are packed with features, such as an inline mic for taking phone calls, deep bass for great sounding music, and a lightweight profile for easy storage.

Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock

Getting up early can be a struggle, especially when it’s still dark in your room. The Philips Wake-Up Light alarm clock overcomes this by simulating a sunrise synchronized to your alarm time. You can even simulate the sunset to help ease you into sleep.

 

Finding the perfect gift

Gifts are always difficult, especially for coworkers, where you need to be professional. These gifts are bound to be appreciated by anyone who receives them. After all, what can be a better gift than helping someone be more productive or organized?

Want to find other (free) resources for staying productive? Check out these 5 Chrome Extensions to download.

For more tips and ideas on staying productive, follow Novel Coworking’s blog today.