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Why work doesn’t happen at work—part 2

Or: On Where I Work

“Where do you go when you really need to get something done?”

This post is related to Jason Fried’s short TEDx talk on Why work doesn’t happen at work, so start there.

Jason asks an important question: Where do you go when you really need to get something done?

This is a topic that has fascinated me for a long time. I’ve thankfully—and I’m very grateful for it—had the freedom to work how I please, for the most part, over the last few years, since I work for myself and I’ve learned some things. That said, the patterns that I’ve fallen into aren’t necessarily working for me just because I’m not an employee. Depending on your personality type and the work you do, I think some of these things might work for you too:

I’ve had periods where I had an actual office and periods where my only office was a home office. In either case, I found myself escaping to coffee shops or offices of friends to get in a concentrated work session of 2-4 hours, with some transitionary downtime in-between.

Switching up locations throughout the work day seems to allow me to reset, regroup, and refocus as I change tasks.

Switching up locations throughout the work day seems to allow me to reset, regroup, and refocus as I change tasks. It also forces in little transitionary breaks so that I’m not as likely to get burnt out on the long days I tend to work.

One of the other major things I’ve noticed is that certain spaces are better for me for certain tasks or better simply depending on the mood I’m in or the amount of energy I have. I would find myself needing to sketch logos and for some reason feel the most creative energy at my favorite coffee shop. I would be deep into several days of coding and desire to spend time in a different coffee shop. Or, I would need to work on some UI design and nothing sounded better than forcing myself out of bed, early, and sitting in front of the big monitors of my Mac Pro, with a cup of hot tea, in the quiet of my home.

These things shouldn’t be meaningful. I should be able to do any sort of work in any sort of location at any time… But, the truth is, space matters.

Crazy, right? These things shouldn’t be meaningful. I should be able to do any sort of work in any sort of location at any time. I know that’s what I thought at first. I fought this idea for the longest time. But, the truth is, space matters.

I know: certainly there are times where you have to do a task, and it has to be done in the location your currently at, but when you have the opportunity to tune into and listen to these subtle whims, you might end up more productive. You might even end up in a place where you can embrace them—choose certain places for certain tasks. Just don’t get stuck in a rut, because these whims will often change. You’ll wake up one day and get nothing done in your favorite space. This might just be an anomaly for the day—or it might mean that it’s time to mix it up and try something new.

I’ve learned that I can spur growth in my work through changing my work habits from time-to-time.

That leads me to my last point: change things up. I tend to avoid change. I get pretty comfortable and I like routine. But I’ve learned that I can spur growth in my work through changing my work habits from time-to-time. It’s like walking home a different way than you’re used to. You see new things. If you can observe yourself a bit, you might even get some new insight into how you best work.

Your mileage will probably vary, but I think the biggest mistake you can make is not asking yourself the original question Jason posed in his talk: Where do you go when you really need to get something done? Is there something you can do differently in your work day to breathe some new life into it?

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jason fried
tyranny of the 8 hour work day
work space
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