As I type this, I have flakes of croissant all over my body—I just brushed one off of my shoulder. And that, my friend, is the victory motion of the perpetually-business-displaced: those of us whose work situation doesn’t require us to appear in a cubicle at a certain (or, any) time of day. And while that freedom can be wonderful, it can also be perplexing and lead to low productivity, and ain’t nobody got time for that. So, here are a few tips for creating an office wherever you are.
1. Have a game plan
A friend recently told me that Barack Obama has eaten the same thing for breakfast for the last bazillion years. The reason? Small decisions can slow you down through the day, and having a plan and a routine keeps your brain open for more important things. Just because there’s nowhere you have to be doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a place you decide to be. Before you go to sleep, decide where you’ll be working, and decide where you’re having lunch. Having an itinerary means you don’t waste an hour staring at your yoga pants deciding if you should shower now or have a yogurt before you leave because you can’t remember if that coffee shop has the croissants you like and it’s kind of close to the gym so maybe I’ll wear my running shoes but then where will I get a sandwich and all of a sudden it’s 11 am and everyone on your social media channels knows you still haven’t gotten your ass in gear. So, make a plan. Stick to the plan. The plan is your boss.
2. Know Thyself
Know what works for you, routine-wise. I like to go to the same coffee shop every morning (see #1), but keep things a little more flexible, location-wise, in the afternoons, when I tend to be less productive. Working on your own terms allows you to monitor when you work best, and you can use this information to inform your day.
3. Do What Feels Good
One of the most stressful things about an unstructured work environment can be the feeling that you’re being unproductive, solely because your style of working is often out-of-step with a lot of your 9-5 friends. Don’t let this psyche you out. I find that having a routine and being disciplined about starting work at the same time every day, whether I’m at home, at my office, on a train, or in a coffee shop, really helps.
4. Take Advantage
While it may seem like employment utopia, all this self-directed work time can be isolating and stressful. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of some of the benefits of your unconventional situation. If you, like me, have a serious 3 pm slump, make that the time of day you go to the (blissfully empty) gym, or take a (blissfully uncrowded) yoga class, or even run (blissfully line-up-free) errands! Start an hour earlier, work an hour later, and embrace this life-hack you’ve been handed.
5. Find a Friend
I reached a point in this whole working-on-my-own lifestyle when I found every little thing, from tech mishaps to someone sitting at MY table at the coffee shop, irrationally frustrating. After some reflection, I determined that it was because I’m a very social person, and working solo every day was bringin’ me down. So I enlisted pals. I found friends who, like me, work demanding jobs outside of a traditional office structure, and I started meeting up with them to work together for half-days. Now, when my boyfriend tells his fun office-culture stories, I don’t stare at him with giant, wisftul sad-eyes. I have my own office culture, and it comes with croissants.