So I could look down at Abilene. 🙂
For the past year I’ve been doing software consulting from my home office. This has a lot of advantages, but recently I decided I needed to get an office outside of my house. Now that I’m sitting in my new office I thought I’d write a blog post on why I did it.
Developing a Practice
I’ve been reading a couple of books in the last few weeks that influenced my decision. One was Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn Glei one of the editors at Behance. It is a collection of essays from different “gurus” on how to be a freelancer better. One chapter is a Q&A with Seth Godin. His answer to the question, “What’s the hardest part about getting a daily routine right?” is what got me thinking office.
“The strategy is to have a practice, and what it means to have a practice is to regularly and reliably do the work in a habitual way.”
I’ve also been reading, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. One of the points of the book is that habits are how we live our lives. Even really complicated behaviors are often habits. Duhigg breaks down a habit into Cue-Routine-Reward. Something triggers the habit (Cue), our brains go into autopilot, and we just do the routine. This means if you want to consistently do something, you need a cue. One kind of cue is a change of environment. This is the beginning of what Godin calls a Practice for work.
My office is my new cue for working. When I get to the office it is to work. To create. Even now, during the first time I’ve been to the office when it was mine, I’m working. I’m writing a blog post. Even though I’ll have to go home to post it because my Internet isn’t hooked up yet, I’m working.
(This is related to my new found distinctions between obstacles and excuses, which I’ll write about another time.)
When you work for yourself and have no employees or coworkers, you have very little face to face interaction with other people. Add to that I’m are new in town and it can get lonely. Actually it really isn’t lonely, it’s more stir crazy. There have been a number of days in the last couple of weeks where I’ve gotten up early in the morning and gone to bed late at night and never came in contact with another human being (my wife’s been out of town 11 of the last 14 days.) That’s just not good for you, even if you’re an introvert.
Getting an office at least forces me out of the house.
Division of Work and Home
Working from home means work can never start and it can never end.
It is easy to do just one more thing around the house before you start working, or to wash some dishes during a programming break. Those dishes turn into cleaning the whole house and you’ve spent a couple of productive hours doing the wrong thing.
The opposite happens too. If I’ve got a project due for a client and I sit still for a few minutes at the house doing nothing, I’ll feel the need to go work. Doesn’t matter if I worked all day on the project, because it’s just a walk down the hall to my computer. It is easy to keep working. I also have insomnia, and if I wake up at 3 AM one of the things that plagues me out of bed is work that needs to be done.
Having an office means work is in one place, and home is in another.
There are a few other small things that make this office better than my house. Surprising to me, these are the kind of quantitative reasons most people would use to justify the expense.
DistractionÂ I love my wife and have missed her dearly when she’s been gone these last couple of weeks, but she’d been home one day when her legitimate interruptions of my work started to bug me. When I get in the zone programming, any little thing can pull me out. Then it can take 15 minutes to an hour to get back in the groove. Having my own office will lower that.
The internet should be blazing fast. One of Abilene’s business Internet providers is in the building and they have a special deal for tenants. They’ll hook you into there fiber network and you get 20-30 megabits down and 10 or so upload.
Office rent in Abilene is dirt cheap.Â I’m renting a 500+ square ft office for under $400/month. It includes utilities and office cleaning.
Ego. It adds a little cache to be in the tallest building in Abilene. (Twenty floors if you were wondering) Also adds some legitimacy to some clients to have a “real” office in a high rise.
And, being on the 8th floor, I can look down on Abilene.
The distractions thing is SO true. I’ve been working largely from home, for the first half of the day, for the last couple of months. And I thought it would make me more productive.
But the reality doesn’t match: I find myself futzing around the house instead of working. Sometimes it’s a spot that turns into an all out cleaning session. Sometimes it’s remembering that one measurement I’ve been meaning to take. Which, turns into drawing plans and shopping online.
Today I found myself cleaning out an entire closet–even though I have about 50 pages to write for a client. So I can totally identify. Working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Anyway, really looking forward to hearing more about your experiment, Ron. Good luck.
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