Where do you do your best work?

For as long as I’ve lived on my own, I’ve always maintained a dedicated office space of some kind. When I was young, my father ran a business out of the home and had converted one of the first-floor bedrooms into an office for his work, and to this day that room in that house is still his “office.” He’s long since retired, but he still has a room configured that way. It looks exactly the way you think it would look, being the home office of a man who spent his entire career working with audio/visual equipment and electronics.

Mine were always significantly neater (I’m far more of a minimalist than my father), but I also always kept a space like that. I didn’t have my own business like my dad did, but at many points in my career I did various freelance things, and even between them I’ve always liked having a specific space for writing and other projects.

When people make decisions about their careers, they’re often motivated by things other than (or in addition to) salary and job description. The “side perks” are often equally important, like commute time or office culture. One of these perks that is more and more desired and sought-after is the ability to work remotely at least some of the time. That was never high on my list of priorities – I didn’t have strong feelings either way about it. Despite this, I’ve found myself in roles where I work 99% remotely for the past half a decade.

Since I already had a home office (I always do), and didn’t really seek out remote work for that reason, I haven’t given a lot of thought to my work environment. I just worked where I was. But in those five years a lot has changed. My number of children tripled, and the amount of stuff they have has increased by a factor of approximately 100. The amount of noise they make has increased to a level incomprehensible by man.

So for these and other reasons, I’ve decided to try out a co-working space. I’m sitting here right now! I found a great little one less than ten minutes from my house, with a very reasonable price point and all the amenities I need for my work and other projects. In fact, I came here late last night and had some of the most productive few hours of work I’ve had in a while (it’s available 24/7, a huge selling point for me).

The additional benefit was not only high-productivity work hours, but when I got back home I just… didn’t work any more. A historically difficult thing for me. But I just didn’t unpack my laptop.

The problem you run into when you don’t make deliberate decisions about things is that those decisions get made anyway, they just get made in fuzzy default ways by the universe. So me just sort of sliding into “working from home” as my default without taking the time to really establish what that means, especially in the face of a growing family, meant that there were a lot of negatives. The lines between when I was working and when I wasn’t became less clear. I was both always working (bad for the home life) and always available for my family (bad for work productivity). So in many ways I got the worst of both worlds.

Now I’m aiming for a “best of both worlds” situation instead. A co-working space means I can put clear bright lines between my work time and my home time, but the fact that I still technically work remotely means I still have 100% flexibility to be available to either as I need. If one of the kids has a doctor’s appointment or something, I don’t need to be “in the office,” but it being otherwise available to me means I can be at work when I’m at work and home when I’m home.

December is going to be intense on both the work and the home fronts, so a little structure sounds wonderful. What environment do you craft for yourself to maximize your sanity?

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