A few weeks back I explained how my co-working buddy saved my freelance business. This week, I want to talk about a place that’s just as important to my productivity. Without it, spontaneous combustion brought on by over procrastination probably would have happened many months ago. This place has become my office away from my, well, home office.
If you follow me on social media you may have guessed already that I’m talking about Brisbane City Library. In this article I’m going to share why I often escape to the library and the fairly particular rituals I have when I get here. It all adds a little summit’ summit’ to creating the writer you see before you.
Clues I should escape to the library
Eighty-ish percent of the time I’m as happy as buff-tailed bumblebee in a garden full of foxgloves. I’m surrounded by all the lovely pretty things that help me work and keep me comfortable. I have decent internet speeds and there are nearby delights I can buzz over to when I need a break. I’m motivated and I’m productive. For eighty-ish percent of the time.
For around 20-ish percent of the time, I find I’m not productive at home at all. A couple of traits of ‘Rose, the Avoider of Work’ include:
- Sitting at my desk but achieving fuck all
- Sending random texts to my husband telling him things that can wait until he gets home
- Flitting between several tasks and finishing none
- Buying stationery I don’t need
- Chain tea-drinking (like chain-smoking, but with tea)
- Cleaning or sorting my accounts because even that appeals more than sitting and writing.
When any of these creep into my day I know it’s time. Best to pack up and move on before my productivity vanishes completely. So I head to the library.
Of all the places in all the world, why the library?
Signing up to a co-working space where I could spend my days with likeminded people is an option. It’s certainly something I’d like to try one day, but for now I’m content with the library.
The fact it’s free is an added bonus. And unlike working from a café, I don’t feel obliged to constantly buy drinks or cake. Usually one coffee is enough to send me scatty, so doing a whole day in a caf?
For me, I like the library because it’s a public space. It’s a chance to get out into the land of the living and trust me, in the library you see many different interpretations of ‘living’. This isn’t a bad thing. Or a judgement. I actually enjoy it and wonder what I’ll see that could influence something I write.
It’s also nice to be in the thick of the morning commute once or twice a week. I enjoy moaning with people at the bus stop that the service is late. Again. Or hearing school kids bitch about the lessons they have that day. (Ha! Enjoy it while you can.) And I like queuing up to buy a coffee.
Doing these things, which for some people are everyday things, is enough of a difference for me to reset and get into ‘work-mode’. Perhaps because it reminds me of my days working in-house?
Creating my office-for-a-day
Moving my workspace from home to library doesn’t take much. I only really need laptop, charger, notebook, a couple of pens, scarf (the aircon can get pretty full on), Keep Cup and my headphones.
Headphones are the most important. The fact I’m trying to escape the isolation of my home office may be at odds with my motivation for going to the library and then drowning the world out with music, but it’s sometimes a very noisy place.
I can’t handle screaming kids while trying to write or edit. Nor can I handle the people who take 20-minute phone calls to discuss a blown-down fence panel, completely ignorant of the fact there are others who are trying to work and study
I can handle the upbeat loudspeaker public announcements, the soft chatter between study buddies, the (often interesting) Q&As between library staff and the public, and the soothing whirr of the escalators.
So not all of the noise needs drowning out. Just the annoying stuff.
Where I work best
After a few months of working in the library a couple of times a week, I realised that I gravitate to one particular spot.
Here it is.
It’s on the end of a row of computer desks. It’s aesthetically pleasing. I have the plants in front of me, soft overhead lighting and natural light from the skylight. From here I can also see who’s coming up and down the escalators. Did you know I’m a very curious and inquisitive person?
Sitting in the end workspace makes me feel like I’ve got a little more breathing space compared to sandwiching myself between two people.
From a more practical point of view, sitting here guarantees a power socket and these desks have the comfier computer chairs.
On my co-working days with Kelly, I don’t sit here. Kelly and I nab a larger table with a view overlooking Brisbane River. Also lovely.
[Note to self: get a better phoo of this view. You only have crap ones and your readers deserve better.]
Having these two separate work spaces — one of me when I know I need to get my head stuck into work and a second when I know I’m likely to have a chattier, more collaborative day — is another way I stay focussed.
Extra benefits to library days
Reclaiming my work focus is just one reason I like working at the library. Other benefits include:
- Being around other humans
- Change of scenery
- Fewer chances to procrastinate — I can’t keep nipping to the kitchen/loo/shops/sofa and Netflix
- I treat myself to having lunch out.
Finding your refocus location
I’m gonna hedge my bets that if you’re a freelancer reading this, whether you work from home or not, you have days when trying to get anything done in your usual work spot doesn’t happen. So, where do you go to refocus and claim back your working hours?
Comment or tweet me. I’m curious to know all the different places we escape to.