Blog Post

The SWAT (solos working alone together) Approach

Earlier today while hanging out at my local Starbucks, I ran into Shannon Clark, consultant for networks and organizer of the influential Mesh Forum Conference. He moved to San Francisco earlier this year, and he told me about One Web Day, which is being promoted by fellow broadband geeks. (More about it here.) We chatted briefly and I mentioned Web Worker Daily and why I started the blog. Good man that he is, he pointed me to a post of his, which he thinks is a good way to beat the cabin fever: the solos working alone together or the SWAT approach.

The idea, which I think and hope will expand beyond Chicago, is for independent consultants and entrepreneurs to select a specific place and days. We then agree that whenever possible, we’ll work from that space on those days. It gives us a chance to grab lunch, or share a coffee with interesting people, while also getting our work accomplished.

“The idea was that if it was a regular thing, no one would feel guilty for not show up,” he explained. “But this way you can all work together, grab lunch or simply ask a question.” He used to meet with like minded people at Cafe Mud in Chicago. “It motivated and gave me a couple of days a week to not work at home.”

Of course if you don’t have a blog, you could simply email people, or send them a text message. It doesn’t have to be very complicated. So what is a good SWAT location? Clark says find a cafe with great wifi, and that is reasonably quiet. Also look for a place which has good tables and a staff that appreciates the extra bases. Has Clark found a good place in San Francisco? “No haven’t found the perfect one as yet.” He likes Muddy Waters though it is not ideal. Hopefully some of our posts should help him find the spot he truly loves.

Shannon left us some nifty suggestions already in the comments section.

Printing can be an issue for the mobile worker. In my office, or even at my home, I think nothing of printing out a long document for later reading/anotating (generally I print two pages per page and duplex to save paper and weight). More importantly when I make a transaction online I always print out the reciept and confirmations.

So when I have to do a transaction outside of the office one trick I’ve found that is very useful is to have a “print to PDF” tool installed on my laptop – that allows me to “print” the reciept/confirmation for future reference.

16 Responses to “The SWAT (solos working alone together) Approach”

  1. That’s what our grad student team does: we all have shared schedule, but we know everyone tries to make it to the lab on Thursday. The upside is the rest of the lab expects us to be there that day; the downside is we talk a lot—but as we are supposed to publish every several month, we can postpone writing for a day.
    It’s not enough, however, and I had to resolve to make my calendar open.
    Maybe you could have two talking / no talking area ? The talking being the sunny spot near the coffe spot, and the working the one with the best wifi signal, plugs and not so much light.

  2. Wow! This is a great idea. If co-working had existed a couple of years ago, I probably would have gone for that solution to cabin fevor. Instead, I worked out a bartar agreement with a local law office. I get an office in their suite in exchange for SEO and PPC services.

    The arrangement has worked out well, but lawyers aren’t quite as intersting as the folks seem to be who are involved with coworking.

  3. Two points:

    1. Something like this would be outstanding for guys like me who don’t have the good sense to have a local client base and are traveling all the time. A listing or hub bolted onto this site might be a great value-added feature.

    2. Color me a fanboy: Two days with this blog and it’s already one of my favorites.


  4. What a great idea, a facility covering any venue/city around the world would be very cool. I know I would benefit from such a facility, as would many others.

    P.S. Anyone got any recomendations for Guildford (could stretch to Reading some days) in the UK.

    Love this new blog by the way Om, absolute master stroke.

  5. Jaro, yes it does take a respectful group of colleagues. Some writer friends of mine who do something similar often resolve this by chatting when they first get together, then imposing an hour or two of “writing only” time. In Chicago we weren’t this formal but we didn’t typically chat much – rather what helped was being in the same space as others who were working productively (not to mention how useful it can be to have friends to watch your laptop while you take a call outside, grab a refill, or use the bathroom).

  6. Wow, this is a very interesting approach. I think it would require lots of respect from all participants. You don’t want to be distracted when you are in the middle of writing an article. Some feel like chatting others want to work – mutual understanding is required.