Finding my best location to work..What’s yours?
For 2019, I have set myself the goal of rethinking a few things and changing things that are necessary. These have both private and professional aspects. One of the topics is my work location. Not whether I live in Munich or Berlin and then work in the respective office, or even think about SAP as my employer. Not at all, the current combination of employer and Munich is excellent without advertising here. But I want to have a suitable environment for various tasks. Let’s call it, unfortunately misleadingly, a working environment. Of course, I’m curious to see what makes your motivation boost up – no matter how small your game-changing detail is.
In other words: I am looking for the perfect environment for specific tasks (administrative tasks, creative tasks, etc.). What drives me to stay focused? Which location offers me the most advantages, with the least possible effort and travel distance? I’m working in a global team, the majority of my team is spread all over the world and I only have one colleague ( Marius Obert ) in Munich – so why shouldn’t I use the freedom of “remote work” to increase my productivity.
We all have a stressful job, I’m pretty sure of that. I’ve seen a number of things last year that causes impairment of my productivity that I overlook for the sake of comfort from time to time. Every single distraction leads to interruptions in your particular tasks. Getting back to your original state where you have stopped does take some time – sometimes longer, sometimes not.
Interesting read, if you want to know what a single distraction causes: (developer specific in this case, but applicable for most of our daily work)
And distractions have so many facets. Loud colleagues, poor internet connection, flatmates, post deliveries at home, your outlook or even your particular messenger app…just to name a few. And not all of them are caused by your location where you are working from. So, all I care about here is the location considerations.
Foto: © digitaleconomyforum.org
Have you tracked down any of your significant distractions yet? I had been working on it and identified most of it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a disturbance, sometimes it’s just a gut feeling where I can be more productive. Not to rule out that a large part of my impressions emerge on placebo. A café, for example, has ample potential at first glance to tempt me to be unproductive. But more about that later…
The most obvious place to work from: SAP offices.
Frankly speaking, I’m not an office guy. I let myself be distracted by too many things and am very bad at keeping small talk (my biggest disturbing factor perceived) short or not letting it germinate at all. Unfortunately. I lack the ability to end a conversation friendly, but abruptly. Don’t get me wrong, I love small talk and talking to colleagues (who have become friends in the meantime). But then in the appropriate time window for it. At dinner or at the end of my working day, when the focus is gone anyway. But please not when I’m in the middle of a so-called tunnel. And as long as I don’t have this highly valued ability to end conversations in a targeted way, I have to start looking for alternatives.
Additionally, I am tired of being disturbed by other people’s phone calls. Some people have mastered telephone conferencing, some others could just get rid of their phone and scream over hundreds of kilometers instead. I am sure this stereotype is very common. And even my expensive noise-canceling headphones don’t help at all.
But don’t get me wrong, there is in fact also a great deal of own incapacity in all the disruptive factors. Correct and timely dealing with small talk, conditioning colleagues as to when I am approachable or not (experience has shown that this only works after a fashion)..all of this would also be possible partial solutions. Following my gut feeling overall: Having meetings in the office, yeah. Having a stable internet connection for presentations, sharing sessions, etc., yeah. But other than that I avoid it as often as possible. Primarily blaming me for those circumstances, not anybody else.
I’ve discovered the library for myself! Thank god. One of Munich’s many city libraries has a lot up its sleeve for me after I have searched for a long time. An inspiring setting (see the picture. It’s entirely possible that this is inspiring only for me…), a short drive and above all tranquility and a highly focused atmosphere. From the very first second, this spurred me on. Spurred me on to stick to my task list. Spurred me on not to check Slack or Outlook every few minutes. Why does this work (even) better here than at home or in the office? Hey, no clue. But it works. And that’s all that matters to me right now. And I’m absolutely sure that this can and will change at any time, inevitable.
You may have wondered how this is supposed to work. Working from a library? Without the possibility to have calls? (That’s what makes the library so special, by the way) I block 4-6 hours every now and then during which I do independent work. Composing tutorials, drafting blogs, preparing lectures, reading documents. All that where my sweet 14″ MacBook provides me satisfactory services.
It’s the least obvious workplace you may imagine, right? I’ve tried a several places, but a café is outstanding for one of my activities: Blogging. There are a few explanations that I have put together. As already mentioned at the beginning, I wouldn’t guarantee that those feelings aren’t based on temporary placebos – but as long as it works 😉
Let me start to explain my magic/superstition of a café the other way round. For me, blogging means breaking out of my own bubble. A lot of things are routine and self-evident for me. (And so it certainly is similar for a lot of us) The same applies to getting into the office or sitting in the home office. It’s routine. In a café, I get other impressions and meet other people. I observe people because it’s not routine for me. Because of that, I start thinking about my assumptions twice. Does anybody benefit from things I write? I often consider, all you know is too basic for everybody out there. Don’t take everything for granted.
And on a side note: Coffee and tea in the office or at home can never be as good as in a café 🙂
The hairy beast: homeoffice
Hairy beast, no more words needed. I am unconditionally sure you know most of the ups and downs of your well-known home office. Every now and then I am absolutely in favor, but only for certain situations: When I need several screens (more extensive coding) or when I work until late at night and simply want to fall into bed subsequently. After that, the other options (library, café, SAP Office) simply become futile due to closing times or commuting homewards.
Why don’t I work more from home? Distractions lurk in every. every. single. corner. Cooking quickly at lunchtime? Having a spontaneous workout in the afternoon (so tempting when it’s sunny!) and therefore work in the evening? And cheers to my amazing roommate (you are the best!), who wants to seduce me to any kind mischief at any time. 😉
You may get a clue, why home office is not my favorite place to work when it comes to productivity.
My Couch and my balcony
I couldn’t think of a better place to take care of my administrative tasks than my sofa or balcony. You might be appalled to say: “these are my feel-good zones, I will certainly not think of any work there”. But somehow I am motivated to tackle my rather unwelcome tasks there. Why is that? In a way, this has something to do with my personal gratitude, giving something back that I can more or less determine for myself when and where I work.
Thus, I also tend to sit on the couch or on the balcony late in the evening, getting my travel expenses done, sorting my e-mails or any similar tasks. Doing these kinds of tasks in a library or cafè? At no time. I don’t have a real motive for that. Maybe also old routines – in the past you had to scan all the travel receipts painstakingly and where is/was my preferred scanner? Right, at home.
TL;DR (too long, didn’t read)? Here we go:
SAP office: all sort of (online) meetings.
library: quiet work, such as preparing presentations
cafè: creative work, such as blogging
homeoffice: late work or multiple screens needed
couch and balcony: administrative work
I’m pretty sure that you have certain habits. I’m super curious about your ways of working. What’s your least/most favorite place to work?
This blogpost was powered by an excellent peppermint tea of Kaffeemühle Dinzler Rosenheim (disclaimer: I don’t drink coffee, If somebody is that curious)
Great post, Maxi - I really enjoyed reading it. I wrote a couple of posts on related subjects that might perhaps add to the mix: Things I do to make my work life better and The Maker's Schedule, Restraint and Flow.
On the work place question, my ideal location is in fact where I am right now and where I'm based - which is at home. I'm lucky enough to have a study with a permanent desk and a dual display setup, which is quiet and allows me to focus.
I can turn off distractions when I need to, and only check mail at certain times of the day.
For inspiration, my view out of the window is pretty good. I can and do sometimes work in cafes or the library, but it's not very often. And now I have my mechanical keyboard (which I love), I can't stand typing on my laptop keyboard (the MacBook Pro) so that's another reason I stay at my home-based desk 🙂
Sweet setup - is your keyboard made out of Legos?
Ha, that would be good, although perhaps a little painful (unless I used smooth plates on top). Such things do exist, actually! -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jP6MFBXFaA&vl=en
wow...no thoughts other than the dude has too much spare time, and it would likely drive you back to using the native MacBook keyboard
Great post, Maxi. Thanks for sharing. I recently discovered the library as well, it's highly focused magic for powering through so much. Glad I'm not the only one!
Very nice blog post, Maxi. I enjoyed reading it. And I am jealous about the flexibiliy you have in your life - when I work from home it is because kids are coming back earlier from school. Or I avoid driving 50 km because I don't want to get stuck in traffic. But actually, this helped that I am very used to working from home and I can concentrate even more than in SAP's office. Those days are fully loaded with meetings, small talks or interruptions at my desk 😉 To be honest I would prefer the library - I guess that it is a very cool location... however, I probably will never the get opportunity... Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks for sharing your thoughts 😉 Unfortunately forgot to tackle the commuting aspects in my blog which is absolutely a central point in your case.
Personally for me to get into a car or walk to a cafe/library would be more distracting than the basic home office setup I have here in my house. Sorry if I missed it, but I didn't notice any discussion concerning the impact of a short/long commute? Although I enjoy the connected feeling of an office setting in Newtown Square, or an occasional visit to Walldorf, adding 2+ hours a day for driving to/from the office is a real situation to factor into the equation, especially if you are in the office and your day is scattered with Skype headset calls. I won't even go into the personal vehicle costs of gas, maintenance, weather, and carbon emissions that are a non-factor on home office days.
Hey Jeremy, thanks for your thoughts!
You are totally right, promised to write about commuting aspects but it turned out that I skipped it 😉 I'm living in the center of munich, so I never use my car anyway (searching for parking lots at least doubles your commuting time) to get to any of those locations. Other than that, libraries and the SAP office are all equidistant - round about 15 minutes by bicycle, one way. I wouldn't spend more than 50 minutes per day for a daily (not occasionally) commute.
Amazing post, thanks for sharing your thoughts ! Seems we have similar goals for re-focussing our work habits in 2019 😉
What comes kind of in the background of your text is that you are able to block times for different types of tasks. Meaning that you are able to say : “ on Tuesday, I’ll work from the library to work on things that require deep-focus and will do my skype meetings Wednesday”...
That’s actually one of the things where I’m currently struggling... unfortunately, I am not consequent enough yet to block bigger time slots for focused work or education (Also only possible if organized properly). But maybe your tips about different locations for different things will help me with that !
glad, that we have something in common 😉 Well, not consequent enough means you probably want to start with too huge blockers? Maybe take your time and force yourself to sit in a café for 2 hours to walk through some tutorials or whatever you wanna work on. Then you are actually blocked - or would you really wanna have a call in such a - most likely - noisy surrounding? 🙂
Not sure if that helps. From my point of view, everything that helps improving your productivity is eligible. Don't hesitate to improve yourself 😉
Very good blog post, Maxi. I also had flexibility but I had to work all the time, almost in every place, so I can work in a cafe, in a library, in the car,on a park bench, even in the beach. And I agree with Svea to be honest the days on the office are fully loaded with meetings, small talks or interruptions at my desk. Thanks for sharing ?
so jealous, would love to be able to work from literally everywhere. "park bench, beach,..." 😀 Somehow I'm always distracted by "it's too bright, I can't read anything on my screen", etc.
Great post, Maximilian! Here are my comments 🙂
“Location” depends on the “Position” and avoiding “Distraction” depends on the “Situation”. Joining a good “Organization” is a “Solution” and has a direct “Relation” with the “Ambition”. An “Attraction” for many, it is the right “Option”.
Is my “Imagination” of work “Description” only a “Fiction” or a “Revolution”?
overwhelming! 😀 no way to reply adequately 😉
Here's another comment, adding to what Maria Antonieta Lopez has said.
Not everyone has the "flexibility" to turn the "complexity" into "simplicity" in absence of the "maturity" in a "facility" which requires complete "familiarity" of the "productivity" and "responsibility". The "mentality" of a "community" determines such a "possibility".
Excellent post! I never thought of changing things up. I have a home office set up. When I'm home and working, basically everyone knows to leave me alone. So I have an advantage here. Maybe you would call it a distraction, but I'm set up in front of a window. Looking outside every now and then helps me Stop and Think about other possible solutions. Or just work out a solution in my mind.
My internet is very fast. I pay a lot more for very fast. It's comparable to working at the office. So no worries there. However, I'm in the country on DSL. I have to have a backup plan. For me (until right now - Covid-19) my backup plan was McDonalds down the road. BUT after reading your post, I think my backup plan will now be the library.