Why I love working in public: Inspiration, opportunity and fresh thinking
Over the past week I’ve spent 70 hours at university, including the weekend, with half those hours in the same room. I’ve just started working on my graduate project, so it’s not necessarily a surprise, but not all those hours were working towards it and only 6 were scheduled teaching lessons. So why did I spend so long there when I didn’t have to?
I could quite as easily have done most of the work from home, I have a computer, paper, the internet and books. But instead I choose to work at university, in the library, at coffee shops, on the train, in the park and even my back garden.
There’s certainly something to be said about productivity. Although I’m known to take frequent naps on the floor of the computer labs, it’s far less regular than if I had my bed staring back at me. But it’s more than just productivity, I enjoy the atmosphere and I think if you do it right it can be the equivalent of a cup of coffee: a boost to your work and your ethic. It’s not like we even have an excuse, most of us only require a laptop of notebook for our work and the internet and power sockets/ batteries are becoming more and more reliable. Below I’ll explain my tactics for making the most out of working in public.
The key to gaining opportunities through working in public spaces is to be strategic. If I’m not looking for quiet spaces to work, I will always choose to place myself in areas that I know have lots of activity. I’ll work in lobbies, by entrances, near offices or in the main computer labs. The amount of people I’ve met just because we happened to be working next to each other is astonishing. But also it’s about making yourself almost reliably consistent and part of the environment. Repetition after all is part of marketing 101, if people see your face enough they will remember you and be intrigued. Similarly a lot of the people I know well, I often bump into or see around the buildings.
Take regular walks
I’ll take every opportunity to go for a walk. I don’t just do this to burn the calories, I get all the exercise I need just from pacing around the room, something else I’m well known for. But by getting out and about you can cover more ground, bump into and see more people and increase your likelihood of being in the right place at the right time. You can also see who else is around, if there’s anywhere better to work and take the opportunity to talk to the other regulars. I have a great relationship with the coffee ladies at university because I take the opportunity to talk to them and ask them how they are.
When you’re at home you’re in your own controlled environment, nothing is going to happen that you don’t expect. Whilst you might think that’s great for focus, it may not be as good as you think. For starters you know your environment so well that you also know all the ways you can distract yourself from work. Also, there’s nothing unexpected that is going to happen, so there’s no opportunity for inspiration. So when you’re working in an environment that you don’t control, anything can happen.
You might overhear a conversation that supplies you with the award winning line for your script. You might see something from a perspective that inspires a camera angle for your latest film. You might talk to someone and make a new connection that your business can profit from. You might see someone struggling and it inspires your next big invention. There’s no end to the inspiration you can gain from just being outside your traditional working environment and in a public space.
Similar to inspiration, it’s all about being in fresh environments. Being somewhere new will inspire creativity and help inspire you to think outside the box. But also just as Woodrow recently mentioned how fresh air can help you pick yourself up, it can also help make you more productive. In “This Is Your Brain On Stale Air” Tom Scott and Kurtis Baute describe how by working in the same enclosed environments, we’re breathing in the same carbon-dioxide saturated air -and our brains don’t like it. So get up, get out and get about; use those walks and working outside to give your brain a breath of fresh air. By doing this you can help improve your thinking and productivity, use the environment to keep you awake and inspire fresh thinking.
I hope this blog encourages you to stop, or at least not rely on, working in the same environment. By working in new environments, or at least in the somewhere that you don’t control, you can gain from so many benefits. Some people get a bit of anxiety when they’re not in a space that they control or are used to. But by slowly extracting yourself from this environments you can make yourself more versatile, freshen up your brain and thinking, increase the likelihood of gaining new opportunities and inspire yourself to do better work.
Also published on Medium.