Sometimes, I need to get out of the office, but beyond a 5-minute toilet break it was, until recently, rather hard to do.
Fact: You will be found out if you go unprepared. No, I don't mean by the people looking at you weirdly for obviously working from a coffee shop, but by your colleagues and clients as you blather along while some idiot behind you screams about their milk not being hot enough.
Step 1: Don't use your cell
Cellphones are, for the most part, prone to picking up the residual noise of just about any coffee shop, and I've never been to one in New York that stayed reliably quiet for more than 10 minutes. Your cell will pick up just about everything around you, as they don't usually have good noise-cancelling. Note: a lot will claim they do. Don't rely on them.
Step 2: Get a proper headset, not a Bluetooth one
Our entire office recently changed to SteelSeries Siberia V2s - supposed gamer-headsets that we use for normal music-listening and all Skype chats. First and foremost, it's more reliable and less prone to delay than some wonky Bluetooth monsterpiece - secondly, in an office full of cross-talk, it manages to isolate our dulcet tones versus the relative omnivorous pickup of a few Jawbones I've happened across.
The general rule of thumb, in any case, is not skimp on cost if you intend to buy one. A $30-50 Bluetooth or wired headset will not do the job correctly. The reason I sided with the Siberia V2s was because they're clear and hard to break, yet comfortable. Many headsets will eventually make your ears too hot to wear, or strain your head in some way, but these have some kind of strange leather voodoo to them that wrap them around your cranium in a strangely comfortable manner. Furthermore, they sound loud and clear and actually play music remarkably well.
Pretty much, for the cost of just over a month's lattes, you could have something that will put you in the Barista's eyeshot without your client hearing your order.
Step 3: Keep your notes in the cloud
Be it via Google Docs or Evernote, you want everything you want to be available in one place. I don't mean on a table, I mean on the internet. Yes, it's tough to convert all of your important things into a format that is location-agnostic, but guess what? It's one of the few reliable ways to make sure you don't lose something important or, worse still, have to go back into the office once you're sat down with a Mocha.
Step 4: Don't be that guy.
The benefit of being away from work is that you're able to relax somewhat, get a delicious drink, and relax in an unpressurized environment. Guess what? This also means you can't boom at the top of your voice. This isn't just because you're in a public place, but also because this kind of thing will come across in the tone of your voice, and - worse still - peak the levels on your headset, no matter what kind you get - making your lovingly-crafted pitch sound like a fart in a fan.
Essentially it comes down to this - sound your best, and nobody will be any the wiser that you're not sitting in a plush office, like in the movies.
Final note: I was recently buzzed about WorkSnug iPhone app, which can also help you find a cubbyhole to shove yourself into - hold up your camera, and it'll show you where the best local places are based on Wifi signal, coffee, and smell. Okay, not the last one. It also uses headset maker Plantronics' Decibel Meter to measure the noise in an area and upload it so that other people can know whether they'll have to stand the sound of a squalling mass of toddlers at any given time. Download it here, it's rather cool.