Welcome to the soloist work space: smoke, mirrors and a washing machine
My real-life work space is boiling in summer and freezing in winter - the polar opposite of my client’s romantic notions - and I know I am not alone, writes Anne George.
I was on the phone to a new client a few months ago, when she suddenly gushed “you know, I have a picture in my head of where you are sitting right now, because you are a writer.”
“You’re in this lovely country cottage,” said my client, “before an open window. There’s a beautiful garden and a stream running by, blue skies and nothing but the sound of a bird or two flying by!’
My imagination immediately kicked in. I was there. Actually I think I was in Italy, and may have even caught the aroma of freshly baked baguettes prepared by my personal chef, who just happened to look a little like Chris Hemsworth (but not the Endgame version.)
My client’s romantic notions were a stark reminder that my real-life work space is the polar opposite – and I know I am not alone. So what do we do when our place of work is not an idyllic country cottage? Here are five of my tried and true tips to survive and thrive in the home office.
Focus on your work, not your workplace
Working from home can feel like an endurance test. My ‘office’ is boiling in summer and freezing in winter. There are about four months of the year I can work here happily 5 (or 7) days a week. Yet, I still manage to produce work that clients love. I still meet deadlines.
Tip 1 – Focus on the work. Ultimately we need to draw motivation from what we are producing, not our surroundings. If the work isn’t motivating you, there’s work to do there, too.
Spend at least one day a week ‘OOO’
I am a café lurker and I love it. I know the best places for coffee and one hour’s worth of writing or an extended stay with a side of chilli scrambled eggs.
Tip 2 – Head out with your laptop and go exploring, but with a checklist. Are the chairs comfy? Is it too loud? Is there a quiet corner where you can enjoy the buzz but still concentrate? Remember you need to find a place to do your best work. Oh and the coffee must be good. (Incidentally, everywhere you go is a potential social media post. “Look at me out and about, working at….”)
Find a coworking space you love
One of the benefits of being solo is aloneness – not having to deal with what-happened-on-the-weekend-with-my-boyfriend chatter. But sometimes the silence (or the sound of the washing machine) gets a bit much.
Tip 3 – Coworking spaces have everything we need, usually for a very reasonable and tax-deductible price. Check out a few to see if you like the vibe and importantly, if the environment is helpful or a hindrance to your best work.
Treat yourself. Go on, you’re worth it.
This is one area where I don’t compromise. If I’m in the home office and I want a take away coffee or a cheeky muffin, I just treat myself.
Tip 4 – Working at home means massive savings on rent and fuel. Want a latte? Go get it. Now. It’s a small price to pay for extra motivation. (In your KeepCup, of course.)
If you can’t change your office, change your attitude
You might not have the tools to build a better office – but you have the tools to build a better mindset. Sometimes, we just need accept things we can’t change and make the best of it. A bit of gratitude goes a long way.
Tip 5 – When you can’t have the office you want, focus on what you have. At least for now. After all, world domination may be only a phone call away!
As Peter Crocker wrote in the ‘Soloist’s Creed’ (which is proudly displayed on my office wall) “We are the third bedroom dwellers, the kitchen table perchers, the café lurkers.” In the battle of Environment vs Attitude, we have the power to change seats. Embrace your ability to be mobile and inventive. Use the determination that got you this far. Don’t let the washing machine win.