Take It Outside: Making The World Your Entrepreneurial Office
For the past 6 months I voluntarily worked in an office that had no windows. Okay, that's an exaggeration. There were some windows, but I couldn't see any from my own desk unless I swiveled my chair completely around backwards and looked through a doorway into another office with 2 windows, of which the shades were always pulled down.
Through this experience I learned that limited access to daylight can completely kill every good vibe I am capable of both producing and absorbing, which in retrospect, helps me better understand the side effects of the depressing basement apartment I used to live in, as well as my entire childhood.
The cool thing about being your own boss is choosing WHERE it is you conduct your work, and while having a real location is important (your living room counts), I've become a giant advocate of taking work outside. Not all work travels well, but where it does, you can start maximizing your productivity without feeling like a shut in.
If you're a fellow work-from-home-er, you know what I'm talking about. Working from home is kind of like getting the mumps in high school –stick with me here– Instead of trudging to school everyday for 8am homeroom, you chill out all morning on the sofa boning up on history and Spanish lessons, and probably eating a lot of jello. Everything is easy breezy. But by day 5 you've forgotten completely how to socialize, and have begun to resemble that weird pale kid in The Secret Garden of whom sunlight causes him physical pain. If you're not careful, working from home too much will turn you into an antisocial cave dweller and neighborhood kids will make up urban legends about you.
If you're not careful, working from home too much will turn you into an antisocial cave dweller and neighborhood kids will make up urban legends about you.
What's more, working from home is distracting. You'll be halfway through a major task, and suddenly your home office is transformed into a claustrophobic amphitheater surrounded by bleacher-esque book shelves full of everything you've ever owned and every responsibility you've ever taken on, all shouting for your attention like an angry mob, at which point you're eaten alive by a hungry deadline. Take your work out of your living space and you might be surprised at how much you can accomplish when your concentration isn't being challenged to a gladiator battle against the rest of your priorities.
I'm still exploring what my favorite outdoor places to work are, but so far park benches, cafes during low-traffic hours, and public gathering spots seem like my best options. Read below to see how I make taking my office duties out on the town work for both my mental health, and the wellbeing of my endless to-do list.
What work works? Packing lightly is the name of the game where taking your work with you is concerned. You don't want to be doing anything too messy or cumbersome to avoid annoying others around you or potentially losing things. I love taking my graphic work out with me because all I need is a sketch pad and a few pens, and I can erase as much as I want and not have to clean up all the eraser dust! What else travels well? Study! I'm studying business books right now and I have a lot more fun doing it on a park bench while taking notes on my phone. If you have hours of computer work ahead of you, head to a local cafe or an empty picnic table (if your battery is game), and burn out those retinas while getting some fresh air.
Cushion for the pushin': By hour 2 of illustrating while seated on the cement steps at Houston and Chrystie last week, you can imagine what my boney ass felt like. So I bought a foldable foam cushion (see above) which has greatly expanded the options of places I can put my butt. Imagine all the lightly colored outfits I can wear while doing spontaneous work in the grass, on the steps of a fancy apartment building that I'm pretending is mine, or in that one subway seat everyone else is afraid to touch.
A desert oasis: If you're really trying to hunker down for a solid afternoon, you're still gonna need to take frequent bathroom breaks. That's why working near a reliable place to pee is always a good idea. This is a hard pressed thing to find in NYC where frankly, nobody trusts anyone, but if I can do it so can you. In general, public libraries often have facilities. Similarly, any establishment with a food court will also offer public restrooms you can sneak into (locals be aware that many Whole Foods locations have an attached food court/cafe). If worse gets to worse, buy a to-go drink at a nearby cafe and use the empty cup as a bathroom token throughout the afternoon. You're a paying customer, after all. Be polite and it won't be an issue.
Healthy fuel: Working around your city can be a money suck if you find yourself near your favorite lunch spot or bakery (I caved and bought Babycakes for my outdoor office set up last week). Treating yourself is fine, but don't make it a habit to spend money that you wouldn't normally spend if you were home. Packing a sandwich and a few simple picnic snacks will keep you full and stop you from making poor diet choices when your energy levels drop.
Dress code: I'm a sucker for office attire but I keep it extra casual when my office is on the go. In general, pick pants or shorts over dresses and skirts to maximize your sit-ability, or else just accept the fact that everyone will see your underwear the way I did the other day (Let me add that I got kissed by a stranger in a non-threatening way, so choose your own adventure).
An arsenal of business cards: Here's a good one. The combined downside and upside to working in public is that you have to deal with the public. While you may have to swat away the occasional weirdo, others may take interest in what you're writing/editing/drawing/or planning and that's when you hand them your business card! Gee, who knew networking was as easy as walking outside of your house.
A portable charger: Trust me, you'll need one.
Office mates: Once you've mastered the fine art of working outdoors, you can invite your best buds to join you! This solves the weird adult problem that happens sometime between the ages of 25 and 30 where you never see your friends anymore because you're all too busy. But if Betty has a big test coming up, Helga has like 200 photos to retouch, and Heidi has copy editing to get through, you could get that belated picnic day in while doing the same thing you'd be anyway– staring at your individual electronic devices and not talking to each other.
Have a favorite outdoor work spot? Tell me what it is on Instagram.