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When you really need to get work done, where do you go?
It depends on where I’m at where I’m having problems focusing.
If I’m at the office, I’ll put headphones on. If I’m at home, I’ll either go into the home office, or go to a coffee shop with headphones on.
A key is to put the headphones on, for me.
I dig deeper, the location is irrelevant.
The A Team!!...oh wait, I think I misunderstood the question.
Coffee shop. Can’t play StarCraft II or Xbox there ;)
+1 for headphones
I try to find a place where other people are focused and working.
Where is less important than clearing distractions. If I’m at the office I make sure it’s clear that I’m working then I close email and IM and only use the browser to look at what I’m working on. If i’m not at the office I get to somewhere without a lot of distractions.
Good question and something I’m still trying to figure out. Sometimes the bookstore or a coffee shop if I can get out the office. One place that definitely doesn’t work is the small office set up at home, still trying to figure out why.
Depends on the work. If it is research, I grab headphones and iTunes. If it is working on something like an elaborate spreadsheet, I go home to work. If it is writing, I take a long train ride.
Generally, I try to focus with headphones on playing music with no lyrics.
Like @cpawl said, you just have to dig deeper & eliminate (or avoid) distractions.
Working from home helps as you can’t be tapped on the shoulder or have something dropped on your desk as if it’s some sort of massive inbox.
Always a coffee shop. Cha’va in Chicago to be specific.
Another vote for headphones and music as a first step. Second step is no music, just brown noise (like white noise but less tinny). The next step is to unplug from the internet. If that doesn’t work I’ll sit in a different chair. If I still can’t figure out an angle I’ll take out the IDEO Method cards. Last ditch effort is to do savasana (corpse pose) for half an hour.
The key for me is to be able to remove distractions.
I need a “long runway” to free myself from distractions and find “the zone”. I find that less noise doesn’t necessarily mean less distraction. A noisy coffee shop can be less distracting because the noise isn’t demanding my attention. It fades to the background.
Home, though I don’t have kids or pets to bug me, and the roommates are gone during the day.
My home is where I have the most control over my work environment. Temperature, lighting, noise level, desk arrangement, monitor size, chair, etc.
I quickly tidy up the desk and go offline (as far as possible). No special location needed.
In the words of “the social network”
I wire in.
(I think thats the line they used). Headphones on (noise cancelling if possible). Tunes on (usually psytrance). A wall infront of me (ie, nothing in my field of view).
So, basically, an open plan office if pretty useless to me. So is a cafe, tho I quite enjoy working on somethings there. But not code.
My commute on the bus. Provides the isolation necessary to focus.
Library provides such a conducive environment to concentrate > 80% on work.
Coffee shop. Cheapest office space with added music around.
Home. My time in the office is primarily for others (strategy, client meetings, biz dev), when I go home at night is when the real focused work gets done.
I find it’s great to have a set work place that when you go there, all you do is work. It’s great to work where ever is comfortable, home, office, coffee shop, etc. But if you really need to get work done it works wonders having a set place where you do nothing but work.
For me I have a corner spot in the library which has no distractions and when I go there I feel like I can’t have tweetdeck open, I can’t have skype open, I can’t have gmail open. I’m in the mindset of working and I get a lot done.
Home, always home. The walk from the studio to my apartment clears my head, and by the time I get through the door my distraction counts dropped to 0.
in college i’d go to the stacks of the library. now i head to the public library w/my headphones for a few hours to write.
coffeshops are too distracting for me
tidy desktop, trance music on headphones, lights off, i turn display clock off in mac os, playing movie on mute on ipad in the background and then nothing can’t stop me from getting things done.
I go to the wee hours of the morning: 12am – 4am.
In my home office. With phone, skype and email client switched of.
I lock myself in a room. Without any sound, any Internet connection. Just some sandwiches.
I have a small but awesome office at home. I specifically remodeled it this past spring to be an inspiring place to work. I succeeded. I put on some tunes, close the door and can get more work done in four hours there than eight hours at any client site.
But clients still insist I work at their space.
I go… offline.
And I wear my headphones even not listening to the music. This, and switching off instant messengers works like a charm.
I go for a bike ride.
Starbucks, North and Wells.
Starbucks internet got incredibly slow, though, after they made it free. iPhone tethering would be orders of magnitude faster.
When I really need to dig, I tend to go down to the library at the local university. Free wi-fi, but it’s limited in what I can connect to, so I cuts down on the distractions.
I make an Americano, go to my office, turn off email, put on some ambient music and focus on what I need to get done.
My kitchen table, with the headphones in.
Depending on my mood, I either want to be sitting up straight at a desk, headphones on, or I want to sit in my rocking recliner chair, laptop in lap, click-clacking away.
Sometimes I get alot of my work done when I’m on the train. No internet access so no distractions (I don’t have modem in my laptop). I’m completely closed. There is nice white noise outside and contrary to the ariplanes there is plenty of space, nobody is asking me every 5minutes if I want to drink something etc.
Sometimes it’s also good to take train without laptop you can really think trough most of the problems.
In my headphones.
If I’m at home, I include a pack of cigarettes in the mix.
For a walk. Clears my head of distractions and gets me focused.
I put in headphones. But I play no sounds.
Working in a friendly office distracts me, but with headphones in, everyone tends to leave me alone.
I go to bed. Then I get up at 5am the next day to get 3 or 4 hours of quality work in at the office before my “day job” starts.
When working on my day job, +1 for headphones, sound optional.
Anywhere but the office…
Headphones + dnb or psytrance.
I read through the replies and I think I have a unique one.
When I really need to get something done I go somewhere I really would rather not be, an internet cafe. If I would rather be at home while working from an internet cafe and I promise myself not to leave until I’m done, then I can really focus on getting the work done.
1) go skateboarding
2) go home or to starbucks.
The first gives me energy & levels the mind. The second removes distractions, but only with music.
+20 for music.
My concentration playlist, “Thinking Music”, consists of Terry Riley, Steve Reich, The Books, Kronos Quartet, Tyondai Braxton, and Tape. Recently, I’ve added in XLR8R podcast 117.
Great thread. I struggled with this for a long time, and found that nothing compares to having a room at a co-working space. It’s open 24/7 and quieter than a coffee shop or a library, but still has the benefit of having people around. Plus all my equipment is there ready to go.
I go “offline”
If it’s coding/scripting work, I prefer my desk at work – a quiet, gray cubicle with no distractions and the threat of looming co-workers to keep me on task.
If it’s design work, I like to sit at the picnic table in my backyard. I’m better with visual creativity when surrounded by nature.
I go on the internet.
home office or a coffee shop.
CalTrain. Quite, clean, no Internet. I buy a day pass and work from San Jose to San Francisco to my heart’s content.
To really get work done, I need to be alone. With no external distractions I can get in the zone and crank away.
Usually that’s in my basement where I have a small office setup. It’s very quiet and worky!
Notepad with a clear short list of items to complete
headphones to block out the world.
I’ve found that it really doesn’t matter where I am physically, so long as I have a very clear list of things to focus on and some good tunes to block out interruptions.
Both elements are critical.
The short, handwritten, concise to-do list is what allows me to dive into execution mode and really focus. If I don’t have that list, my brain wanders. Also, I’ve found that when I get into execution mode, I naturally tend to ignore other things that are going on.
The headphones provide a barrier to distractions and interruptions. I don’t have a specific type of music I listen to, just whatever I feel like so long as it’s cranked and isn’t new to me. I’ve found that if I listen to new music, my brain will try and pick up on the lyrics or the beat whereas if the music is familiar it just acts as a barrier to the outside world.
On a passenger boat on the local lakes (without using their WLAN). A switched off phone, headphones and the inspiration of a moving surrounding (this probably gives me the impression of not being stuck) is the perfect combination for me.
Listening to Yanni.
Need lots of alone time in a hushed room with no other humans and not even the chance of interruption. No music, just silence for hours and hours.
I can have people around and music on just no human interaction. No talking, no talking, no talking.
you can’t beat face to face with the customer/colleagues – lots of jokes and verbal combat.
a brisk walk with the other planners through trails in the woods
Anywhere is usually fine as long as headphones are involved… although “anywhere” at home can be a real problem when you have a 2 year old on the hunt for your attention ;-)
My desk very late at night or very early in the morning. Sometimes I can’t focus at 2pm no matter where I go. Getting in the zone takes a while but I find absolute silence helps for flow.
I go to the least cluttered, visually neutral environment possible. I used to try the coffee shop, but I can’t get any work done there now. Even the library has my brain on the lookout for distractions. Perfect would be a small, white room with a simple, flat, single-plane desk and a big external monitor.
So this semester of classes this has been a huge question for me as I try to tackle 22 hours of math & economics while building my portfolio for grad school in architecture.
For all of my classes it’s always good for me to do the math in a quiet, claustrophobia inducing environment, because all the rules are so eerily restrictive that I have to mimic it somewhat in order to focus. I need a list and music so I’ll try sitting in the corner of a room on the floor or even under tables. Definitely need that list though that says Discrete HW1, check, Cal Stats HW 2, unchecked.
For my papers that I need at times in economics, I swing through a bigger more noisy environment. I’ll read the prompt, look over my sources and then just sit and watch the surrounding, maybe walk. While that’s happening, I’m usually piecing together my argument for the paper. When I think I have my basis, I start mapping things on my notepad. Headphones and music is essential.
For the portfolio, I try to do listen to something poppy (like the Gorillaz) and tons of visuals up around me.
Essentially I’m always trying to create some sort of visual and audio noise so that my system doesn’t respond to them when they pop up, but it doesn’t flip me out by being alone either, because that drives me nuts.
(Although I have been known to go sit in the restroom at home and work simply because it’s isolated and no one can go hey Nick can you fix this or do that.)
At work, I just close the door. For side projects, my favorite coffee shop with a pair of headphones.
For repetitive “crank the handle” work: the best place is at my desk with headphones on.
For collaboration and design: a small quiet office with a whiteboard.
For creative brainstorming: by myself, away from my desk – normally in a new location every time.
Not to the office.
I always feel far more productive when I’m in a busy coffee shop with a good pair of noise canceling headphones. Somehow the act of ignoring all the busyness moving around me helps me to zone in and focus.
For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing.
There’s an argument that one of the best places for learning is anywhere new:
Some amazing coworkers (and Malcom Gladwell) are fond of working out of coffeeshops. May not be a total coincidence.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/07/health/views/07mind.html on learning in new places, and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704147804575455923448456324.html is Malcom Gladwell talking about working in coffeeshops.
[Blog engine munged my previous try at posting this.]
I grab my laptop and sit on the bathroom floor with the shower running.
herb and music (with or w/o headphones) as long as there are not lyrics
A cafe. None of my stuff is there to remind me of other things I’ve got going on, there’s no Internet access, and people there and people walking past gives it a more lively and energizing feel and helps ‘keep me honest’ (makes it feel harder to slack off).
Coffee shop with headphones and phone shut off
I usually find late night with some good digital love by daft punk works for me I have listened to that song for 8 hours straight.
Where I am now, Goa.
We got this setup where we rent a house in Goa. I travel from London to Goa and part of the team (of 30 people) come down from Surat. We spend 2 weeks here.
Have a driver and a peon who will do everything (bring tea, cook, wash clothes etc) and we sit around in shorts with no distractions but to focus on the work.
Fly back to london tomorrow, probably done about 2 months work in 2 weeks. Super focused. We’ll come back in 2 months and do it all over again.
If I’m able to do it, I go back home. I always work much more from my home office than from the office at my customer’s.
If I can’t, pairing up is the second best way to boost my productivity, unfortunately I can’t afford to hire another developer, so when I happen to have a trainee available, I just get it.
And, yes, I’m definitely planning on buying a rubber duck someday, when I have enough money for that.
I need autumn rain and closed door behind me. Sometimes I need to shoot a couple of family members to get understood.
When I was under the most pressure doing my masters I would turn off my cellphone and go into one of the libraries on campus far away from the facilities where my program were. I’d work in the silent study area and even have my wifi turned off unless I really needed to reference something. That way I couldn’t get interrupted or get myself sidetracked by anyone or anything. It actually worked really well and I did this process quite a few times last year to get things I otherwise wouldn’t have done.
to God. Source of Inspiration and Motivation.
I put on my headphones.
I step away from my work area and focus on something totally unrelated for a couple of minutes. Before returning I mentally review how I’ve approached the problem so far and what I’ve tried. I return to my office area and jot down my plan of attack then dive in.
I work 4 out of 5 days from home in the country. I have total control over noise like radio, music, phone, email, etc. I find it’s very inefficient to tackle problems that require critical thinking at the office. That one day a week is usually “turn the crank” day for work that requires my attention but can happen with frequent interruptions.
Someplace outside of the current environment. A coffee shop, a patio, a library … depending on the time of the year.
If weather permits, I go out in the woods, light a fire and sit down to sketch/write with a simple pencil and a notebook (Molesine is a favourite). Amazing what you can do with analogue tools (zero startup time – no need to reboot) and total peace and quiet.
Into a relaxed and focused state in a distraction-free environment.
Last year they were doing some re-novation of a flat above our place and directly above the room where I had my home office so I because of the noise I couldn’t focus… so when I wanted to get a lot done I found a great place to work, which was only one block away:
That’s right. Here in Europe they’ve renovated most of these places and they look quite good, they serve great cappuccino, offer free Wifi and the noise of people around me is constant and can be ignored when “in the zone”.
Later, when traveling through Europe I found out that in most McDonalds they serve the same good Cappuccino and free Wifi, so for a Nomad like me, McDonalds became my virtual office.
McDonalds would always give me a 2-3 hours of very focused work.
If the work requires an internet connection, then I go to Rue de La course. If my work is better served by being disconnected from the net, then I go to Cafe Du Monde in Metairie (The original in the quarter is no place to get any work done whatsoever).
I personally started doing something I call ‘nomad workspacing’. I found that after many days of just working from the office I feel pretty cut off from the real, tangible, breathable world.
So everyday I pick a different spot around Portland where I live and go there to work:
One day I’d pick a place near the Columbia River, take a chair with me – and sit next to the river while connected via tethering.
Another day I just go nearby a bookstore and work there – and I can go check up some books during break and after work.
Other days I get up early and drive maybe 30 minutes to 1 hour out of the city to places I haven’t been to and just sit down in a nice cafe and work.
Everyday before I go to sleep I check out some places I could go the next day and go there.
Next week I’m planning on flying myself (I’m a pilot) to Seattle(just because) and hanging out there for the day.
The important thing for me when it comes to being able to get lots of work done – is first feeling that there’s a balance between work and play. By ‘nomad workspacing’ I feel like I’ve fulfilled the play part and I can allow myself to immerse in work for the day.
Minu, this is exactly what I do, and for very much the same reason. The surroundings, the background social distraction, the smell of coffee when you ordered tea – they all help you stay with the world, even as you dive into the muck of a tedious deliverable.
However, when immersed in something more fulfilling (side project: building web apps for the Kindle) I find none of that is needed. No music, shades closed, often no food or water… for hours and hours and hours. Love it.
In a public place like a restaurant, a quiet bar, where wifi is available and other customers are also reading or working. And I turn off my iPhone…
Can’t complain much about the office…it has its own pros and sometimes I get more done at the office, especially when it’s crunch time. It gives a feel of being at work. Of course, headphone is a must but with noise-cancelling I always end up people knocking at my desk to let me know that they were waiting there calling me for couple of mins. Lately I’m trying it out with no music.
At home, late hours are more productive to me. Of course, the day time would be horrible to get much done but I found the late night sessions are more productive and make me feel that I’m in the “zone”.
That’s just me.
local coffee shop. Into my studio if I’ve been home or in the real office.
For me it is not about going somewhere, for me it’s about creating the right atmosphere, mood and environment.
I switch all my phones off. I turn off my IM. I break the task into tiny pieces, which can be done for a couple of minutes each. I bring some food at my working place. I turn the certain sort of music on (Armin Van Buuren’s State of Trance radio usually), which I’m listening to only when I’m working.
When I really need to get work done, I don’t go anywhere, I bring productivity to where I am.
Ultraedit, instead of Word or Outlook. I find it surprisingly productive to not be hampered by text formatting.
Being generous to myself, the process of procrastination may actually be the cognitive phase, and then it all comes pouring out when I eventually fire up Ultraedit.
Location is irrelevant. Mindset is critical. If I can’t get down to business I go for a “walkabout”. They’ve become notorious amongst colleagues. Sometimes I come back with a coffee, others I just go for a walk around the block. In the end, the destination does not matter. I just need time to clear my head so I can think straight, no matter where I am!
A coffeeshop or anywhere where there are a lot of people but I’m in my own zone with earbuds and some music cranking.
I agree it’s more about getting in the proper “I’m going to crank out some work” mindset.
I grab some coffee or a rock star, put on the headphones, turn off chat, and close my email to eliminate distractions for a few hours.
Jason co-founded Basecamp back in 1999. He also co-authored REWORK, the New York Times bestselling book on running a "right-sized" business. Co-founded, co-authored... Can he do anything on his own?
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