Free to work where and when I want
Transforming the way I work one desk at a time
I prioritized my desire to feel free after reading The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. After looking at key areas of my life, I realized that my work environment and schedule needed to change. Instead of feeling free, I was feeling restricted. Let’s dive in to what my work life looked like before and after I chose to feel free.
Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash
Before I discovered The Desire Map, my commute to work had been one of the banes of my existence. Over the course of my career, my longest commute was 1 1/2 hours one way. Plus, it was on on a crowded Japanese train traveling from Kobe to Osaka, Japan. That meant that I lost 15 hours of my free time each week commuting. A Japanese newspaper published an essay I wrote about this commute titled, “I understand the fatigue of a Japanese salary man”. The only good thing about that commute was that I wasn’t driving and could read a book.
Another awful commute was a one hour drive into the city with very unpredictable traffic. Even my shortest commute was not short. It was a 30-minute car ride one way.
Now, my commute to work takes less than 30 seconds as I work from a home office. At the most, it will take ten minutes if I choose a change in scenery. I didn’t realize how much stress my commute caused me until I no longer had one. The lack of a commute, which reduced my stress and increased my free time, has been a game changer for me.
I am very sensitive to the environment around me when I work. Unfortunately, I previously had almost no freedom over my work environment. I have worked in an open office with cubicles. For an introvert like me, this was the worst possible work environment. The next worst is sharing an office with another person, no matter how much you like that person. I have had my own office. I have worked in basements. I have had no windows. I have worked next to the bathroom and an often smelly kitchenette. I have worked in a cold office with two walls of windows. Some of these situations were better — let’s be honest, much better — than others.
Now, I am free to create the office environment that best suits my needs. My ideal work setting is quiet, has natural light, a window with a view that includes some nature, and a clean, minimal design. My main home office meets all my requirements.
In addition to being free to choose my office setting, I also usually did not get any say in the office furniture. As a person who spent hours working on a computer, my office furniture did not allow me to create a perfect ergonomic setup. Thus, I developed chronic neck and shoulder pain.
This is what my work environment looks like now that I have chosen to work for myself. I am now free to choose where I work. I often work from multiple locations over the course of the day.
My first choice of location is usually my home office. I love that I am free to close the door to focus. I can block out any distracting noises, like my elementary school age son playing with his friend in the hallway outside my door, with headphones.
My home office set up also gives me freedom. First, my desk has wheels. I can move it wherever I need to in the room or even stash it in my office closet. Besides being mobile, I am also able to convert my desk into a standing desk with a stand. My office chair is also flexible. It is a leaning chair. I can adjust it to various heights depending on whether I want to be almost seated or leaning. For those times when I just want to sit in a chair, I have a regular chair too.
Other times, I work at my treadmill workstation. I love that I am able to work and get in some steps at the same time. My husband built a treadmill desk for me using a bookshelf board, screws, and bungee cords for less than $40. I got the idea from this article, but my husband did all the work. When I don’t want the desk on the treadmill, I can simply remove the desk. I also have a shelf installed above the treadmill where I can set a laptop for viewing only purposes. I often use this setup when I am attending a webinar.
On a gloomy, rainy morning, I sometimes choose to work in bed. I stay in my pajamas, set up my bed tray, have a cup of tea, and light a nice smelling candle. Who says you cannot be productive in your pajamas? I have found that this setup works especially well for me when I want to write. By the way, if you also work from home, you must read the hysterical New Yorker article about working from home in pajamas.
If it is a gorgeous summer day, I work outside in my yard. Sometimes, I work at our outdoor dining table in the back yard. I have even set that up as a standing desk, but I tended to bonk my head on the umbrella so that didn’t work so well. Or I sit on the backyard swing with my laptop. I also love working on my front porch with my feet up on a chair hiding from view behind our azalea bush.
When I have the house to myself, I also love to spread out in my dining room or on the kitchen table.
Other times I have to get out of the house. I go stir crazy or my neighborhood is noisier than usual. I know many people love to work in coffee shops, but that does not work for me. Alas, I am a tea drinker who prefers the tea I make at home to that sold in most cafes.
My favorite out of the house work spot is in my local library which has gorgeous views overlooking ponds. The other day the view included a flock of hundreds of geese that took off and landed. I am also able to reserve private study rooms at the library with a desk and a white board. I love to reserve the room for brainstorming sessions.
Sometimes my work doesn’t look like work at all. It is me on a walk in my neighborhood or around the library pond thinking through an issue. If I have my iPhone with me, I can even record my ideas using the voice memo feature.
Do you notice the theme here? My work environment is all about freedom and flexibility. What feels good to me right now? What will make me feel free as I go about my work today?
This piece, my friend, is just one example of what designing your life with your core desired feelings in mind can do for you.
(This post was initially published in BeYourself on Medium.)