I recently read a piece about “The Pajama Trap”. Essentially, it focused on the best ways to make sure that, as a freelance or home office employee, you were able to stay focused on get work done. Trust me, as someone who works primarily from home, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of relying on the comforts of home and failing to get done what you need to get done. I have an X-box, Netflix and a beautiful deck with a lovely backyard. Getting work done could be a challenge. One of the easiest ways to avoid getting distracted when you work from home is not to work from home. Obvious, right? In this post, I’ll talk about some of my favorite places to work and describe ideal atmospheres conducive to getting shit done.
For freelancers like myself, coffee shops are usually considered the go to option for getting things done. Outside of the home, they’re likely where I do my absolute best work. But over time I’ve come to realize that there are very specific things that I look for in a good, working coffee that I wasn’t looking for before I was using them as workspaces.
First and foremost, I require uncomfortable chairs and small tables. Now I’m not talking about back breaking rusted out, creaky chairs. I’m talking about working chairs. I don’t want to sit on something that looks like it used to be a bed. I don’t want to sleep. I want to work. You may be confused about the small tables piece. It’s simple. I don’t want to share a table and I don’t want to have extra room for anything I don’t need. This means that I’m less likely to buy food that I don’t need which will also distract me from the work at hand. I typically limit myself to 2 drinks and 1 treat for anything under 4 hours and I’ll add a sandwich and a 3rd drink for anything longer.
Also, I tend to avoid coffee shops that are REALLY pumped about the music they have playing. That’s fine when I want to hang out. But when it’s time to work, I have my own music and a place that blares their tunes is not ideal for me. Also, REAL, FREE wifi. No limits. No messing around. Just let me connect. There are a few shops that I use that have spotty wifi that I will use for just straight up writing and planning but when I need to post, research and converse, I can’t mess around with wifi that PROBABLY will work.
Finally, while I love to chat, choose a place that will NOT distract you with conversations. Don’t get to personally know the barista at your fave working spot or at least make sure they understand that you’re there to work. Don’t interject yourself into conversations. Just go about your business.
Throughout the US there are a lot of startups that are using libraries as their home base for work. Free wifi is available at most with a library account and if you don’t have an account, get one, they’re free. Libraries have done well switching from places to read and research to places to work. Proper workspaces with plugs have replaced “reading nooks”. Most libraries now have decent coffee shops. But there’s a few things I like to avoid.
First, avoid people. This isn’t meant to be mean or sound weird but a lot of people that go to the library like to talk and some of them will have long, weird conversations with you if you’re not careful. I once had a 45 minute long conversation with a man about televisions. Not television. Televisions. It was, to say the least, unproductive. Since it doesn’t mater exactly what section you’re working in, choose a section that is quiet. Don’t sit in the fiction section and wonder why it’s so busy.
Second, don’t read. I mean, obviously, read. But don’t go to the library with mixed purposes. Or if you do, set very specific timelines for both activities. And get your work done first, then explore the library. Finally, make sure that there’s nothing going on when you want to go to the library. If a major event is scheduled when you want to go work, it will often be too busy to get a good spot and will be crowded enough to be disruptive.
Companies that offer inexpensive spaces to work in are fantastic. Locally, there are a number of companies that offer really incredible places to work where you can get things done for a fraction of the costs of a “real” office. Here’s what I like about these spaces.
First, the amenities are always in place. Wifi specifically is always on point because they have to ensure they’re providing adequate services for the higher-tiered clients as well. Secondly, they’re professional. No one is going to just wander in of the street and disturb you. Finally, there’s always the ability upgrade to a more complete office solution. From more time to renting an actual office, most co-working locations offer the ability to level up as it were.
The obvious major drawback is that these places are not free, nor should you expect them to be. If you want free, go to the library or buy a coffee and go to a coffee shop or work from home and ignore Netflix for awhile.
Working from home poses a variety of challenges but so does working from anywhere else. It turns out that the problem MIGHT be working. I would suggest that if you have trouble focusing on your tasks no matter where you are, you may want to seek the opinion of a doctor. If the doctor thinks you’re fine, you may want to change up the work because, despite it’s name, you really should enjoy your work.