Let’s start here: one of the core tenets of my mission is to help you create space for your best work. That means a lot of different things, and as you continue to follow me we will discuss more about the other aspects to that.
Today, I want to discuss physical working environments.
As a solopreneur, my biggest challenge has been in finding work environments conducive to my productivity. Here’s my review of the options, including a newcomer to the workplace space.
Creating Space for Your Best Work
A decade ago, I embarked on a career change from corporate lawyer to New York City real estate broker. One of the appeals of real estate was that I would no longer stuck behind a desk all day. Of course, with so much of my day spent traveling around the city (often underground) or waiting in building lobbies, I quickly realized that I would need the ability to work from anywhere. I refined my systems to be entirely mobile-based and paperless. Since then, I’ve done most of my “office work” from my iPhone and iPad.
The talk and workshop I deliver on this topic is one of my most requested offerings to real estate agents, and even led to a consulting practice through which I help other agents implement mobile-based workflows in their business.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in the past decade is not how to get things done, but where to work.
Environment is More Potent Than Willpower
One of the biggest factors that impacts productivity is our external space. Advances in technology may help us work from any place, but not every place is equal in terms of its suitability for the work we need to do.
The Workplace Options for the Solopreneur
A particular challenge for me is to find a place that fits the needs of my ADHD working style.
I tend to be most productive in places where I’m surrounded by other people who are also working — provided that the energy in the space aligns with my needs (more on that below).
A subtle buzz in the background helps distract the parts of my brain that otherwise interfere with my processes. If the conversations around me are too loud, I’ll get pulled into them. Even with my earphones in and music playing.
Over the past two decades, I’ve explored various work environments. Here’s a rundown.
In my former life as an attorney, which I left 10 years ago, I always had a private office. Often I would take advantage of an empty conference room in my law firm’s offices, when I needed to spread out more.
Breather fills the specific niche for private space for solopreneurs, but often I don’t need or want my own space. Isolation typically isn’t the best solution for my ADHD brain, unless I am working on something that requires incredibly deep immersion. This is one of the reasons I don’t like to work from home. It helps me to be around other people who are working.
Also, Breather is increasingly targeting teams and larger companies who don’t have enough conference room space, rather than the solopreneur who needs a place to work. The rates have increased a lot, and it is hard to justify that expense if it’s just me, unless I’m doing something that needs total silence and privacy.
Open Plan Offices
One option I have that many solopreneurs don’t have is a desk at my real estate brokerage’s office. But the environment there is not constructive to my productivity. The air in most real estate offices tends to thick with anxiety, desperation and frustration. As I learned to become better attuned into my energy, I noticed that no matter what my mood I felt going in, I walked out in a bad mood.
Hotel Lobbies and Coffee Shops
Hotel lobbies and coffee shops can be crowded, loud and have inconsistent wifi. You never know if you’ll get a seat, if you’ll get online and if you’ll be sitting next to people who are working or who are chatting about the latest news.
I’ve pulled the trick of lingering over a late lunch at a place like Le Pain Quotidien, in the hours when the restaurant quiets down. It’s a solution, but not an ideal one, because I don’t always want to order food.
In college and law school, I loved to study in the library. Armed with my DiscMan and a few choice CDs (I realize I’m dating myself with that one), I could get in a zone for hours. Sometimes I’ll go to a branch of the New York Public Library work. The energy at a library tends to be industrious and focused, and it keeps my ADHD brain dialed in, at least as much as it will consent to be reigned in on any day. The drawback to the library is that I can’t take phone calls. Also, the seating is limited. If I’ve walked over and there are no seats, I’ve wasted a trip.
For several years I was a member of In Good Company, a co-working space and community for women entrepreneurs that shut down last year. I would occasionally go there to work. But paying by the hour to work in a space can get expensive. It’s not ideal on a daily basis. Especially with the way I work: I can easily get into a flow state. Suddenly, hours have gone by and I’ve racked up a hefty bill.
The Key Driver of Productivity is Not Time, But Energy
The key driver of productivity is not time, but energy. Energy includes a lot of elements, including our mindset, emotions, and the physical environment in which we work.
What do I mean by this?
Some days, I would clear lots of time to work on a project, but would get little accomplished because I couldn’t find the right space to support my work.
This coffee shop was too loud.
That restaurant had the air conditioning too high.
The hotel lobby was too crowded.
The energy was off in all those places. I couldn’t get into a rhythm.
Time means nothing if you don’t have the right energy.
Armed with my gear, I would move from one place to the next. I felt like Goldilocks: in search of the space that felt just right to nurture my best work.
If you’re a solopreneur, you know this challenge well.
Meet Spacious, a new entry in the co-working space. Spacious leverages the space in restaurants that are closed during the day, and turns them into co-working spaces. Sound familiar?
It is one of those business models that makes you think, “This is a great idea. I wonder why I didn’t think of that?”
The moment I saw this, I knew I had to check it out. Last week I signed up for a one-week free trial, and headed to Corkbuzz wine bar, a block from my apartment. This week I’ve been working at their newest space at Rouge Tomate, a few blocks away. The amount of time I’ve spent in a space has varied. It’s been as little as 45 minutes to several hours.
After the first day I knew it was a game changer for me, and today, I joined as a monthly member. At $95/month for unlimited hours in any of several locations, the cost is less than a 2-hour block at a Breather space. Spacious has a growing calendar of community events, and some spaces are starting to offer lunch service.
This is a winner, as I knew it would be.
Note: Spacious did not ask me to write this article endorsing their business. I write this purely to recommend a service that I love and that you might find valuable. You can check it out with a free trial week by visiting Spacious. If you decide to join, you can use code RFISHMAN to get $50 off your first month. If you stay, I’ll get $50 my next month. Win-Win!
Now that you’ve found the external space in which to do your best work, I’d love to help you clear the internal space to cultivate your ideas and self-trust. If that interests you, please click here to register and I’ll be in touch to schedule a complimentary Clarity Call Consultation.