Your work space is killing your productivity
When I began freelancing I made two decisions right off the bat:
- Unless I was in danger of starving, I would never again work in a sterile cubicle. I’d pick a cubicle over death…but not by much,
- I’d keep my space happy and all my favorite things close by me in the office.
This probably sounds like freelance advice from the Antichrist to many of you, but hear me out.
One of my hobbies is playing guitar. Actually, for me playing guitar is a sinister all-consuming obsession. Some days I wish I were addicted to crack instead; I’d be in much better shape.
Productivity specialists and professional organizers are often of the same opinion, namely that you should move your guitars and other distractions into a different room from where you work. Supposedly you’ll be more productive that way. Heck, while you’re at it why not move everything except your office out of your office, which is supposed to be empty and used for working only, right?
No way. This is one reason I wanted out of a cushy job in corporate America in the first place. Now I keep everything close by. My stereo, guitars, Moleskines, sketchbooks, magazines, all my books and of course the internet … everything I like is in my office where I work. Why?
- Things are only distractions if you let them be
- Because I like the stuff I own. That’s why I bought it.
Those things we’re so quick to call vices and “dangers to productivity” are actually rewards for production. (You have those don’t you? And I don’t mean money.)
Your things are inspiration. They’re how you live and what make you who you are. Why can’t I decide to take ten minutes off for guitar playing, or a whole afternoon for rock-climbing, or a long lunch so I can read a funny book? That’s why we freelance isn’t it?
50 days in the hole!
It’s not without reason that inmates in prisons are punished by loss of books, magazines and personal items/activities. That’s not the type of working environment we want.
As a caveat, certainly there’s the danger of goofing off too long. That leads to not meeting deadlines, loss of clients, starvation and finally death.
But in the freelance world that’s just natural selection. If you don’t keep yourself disciplined you’ve had it, and you’ll soon have a disciplined alarm clock waking you up and new boss to keep you disciplined at your new job.
Use your distractions as leverage
You can set little targets for yourself. “As soon as this CSS validates, I’m playing guitar for ten minutes!” or “As soon as I write 1,000 words, I’m going rock climbing!”
This gives me a reason to work hard, a reason that’s often way more valid than, “I need the money.”
And you’ll kill another bird with this stone: taking a break. It seems to be a common theme among the freelancers I know that we just don’t stop working enough. We’ve got to get outside, rest our eyes, exercise and just goof off. Our health, productivity and happiness all depend upon it.
Knowing I get to put my feet up or goof off with my stuff makes me happy. When I’m happy I work better. I’m no genius but that seems like a pretty straightforward equation.
You may find your concentration is even better
In order to not be distracted by your personal belongings you willl have to concentrate a little bit harder, but only in the beginning. Before too long you’ll find that by concentrating harder, you won’t really need to concentrate at all any more. You’ll be in “the zone” or that “deep state of whatever you want to call it.” I just call it working, which is not to be confused with concentrating.
I’ve often found that when I set little goals for myself of, say, working for twenty minutes straight, I’ll look up later and see that I’ve been at it for a solid two hours. I’ll have gotten an amazing amount of work done without once thinking, “Geez, time for me to buckle down and get a lot done.”
On the other hand…
You may have trouble with having too many goodies close by, which I understand, I really do. Some people have a little more trouble concentrating than others, just like I have trouble not eating every chocolate chip cookie on the planet. If that’s the case for you and you find this the biggest “un-productivity” tip you’ve ever heard, do what works for you.
But before you write this off as flippant, you might give it a shot. It’s too easy to sell yourself the story that it’s your guitars that keep you from working or achieving your goals. Your distractions just sit there after all. It’s you who has to give them your time.