Productivity is not a place, nor a time, nor a situation, nor an environment. Productivity is a state of mind, a function of our current emotional state. Too often we lie to ourselves, “our environment isn’t good” or “I’ll do the work when I’m in the office” or “I just need X or Y”. These are always just excuses in this situation. What we’re really saying to ourselves is that “I’m not in the right state of mind to do the work”.
Instead of lying to ourselves we should tell ourselves the truth. I’m not ready to do the work yet. There is some form of resistance. Something is holding me back. By confronting this truth we can gain clarity and we can begin to move forward.
We should be able to work from any location at any time. A crowded bus stop with your laptop on your knees? Shouldn’t be a problem. At a busy coffee shop? No problem. In a dedicated office? Easy. At your home office? Go for it. It really shouldn’t matter where you are when you’re trying to be productive. If you are in the right state of mine then things will come naturally.
This is why we’re productive in weird places, places that we shouldn’t be. It’s nothing special about these places, in fact, they’re just a coincidence. These places have just taken on this meaning because we happened to be in a great state of mind when we were there. We felt productive because we were productive, but this is because we were ready to do the work, not because of the place.
I am liar when it comes to productivity. I’ve been lying to myself for years, more than a decade even, about why I haven’t been getting the work done. I’ve been making excuses, telling myself that if I only had X or was in location Y then all of my problems would be solved. I’d be this productive machine, churning out interesting, thoughtful and creative work, time after time. This hasn’t been the case, my writing is still kind of bad and doesn’t flow, my code sucks, I’m a terrible maker and I can’t saw a straight line to save myself. But these things haven’t been improving, I haven’t been giving myself the best chance of success. Instead, I’ve been waiting for the perfect conditions for so long that I never actually did the work in the first place. Funny how that works.
It’s not just places, the same goes for the time as well. A little bit tired? Better take a nap, grab another coffee, definitely no possibility of getting anything done today. Haven’t had a coffee yet? Better solve that first. Have had too much coffee? Oh dear, well, might as well take the rest of the day off. Have a meeting in 30 minutes time? Yup, no point even starting something I might as well just be browsing some form of content based dopamine delivery system for the next 30 minutes. Better not do the work.
You know, I wouldn’t want to “ruin” the perfect piece of work I’ll be accomplishing later in my perfect conditions by spoiling it with this tainted work now. Instead I’ll just wait, delay, procrastinate, masturbate and hallucinate my way until that moment. Of course that moment is coming, it is, right? Right?
So I’ll just wait. Better not do the work.
Oh, and I don’t have this ultra specific and niche tool so there’s no point in starting. Better not do the work.
I can’t forget that I don’t know how to do this very small component of the work even though I’m an intelligent adult who could likely learn how to do it in a matter of moments. Better not do the work.
And shit, the lighting is a little off and the temperature isn’t the best. Better not do the work.
Damn it, someone just released a new cutting edge tool that I don’t have or don’t know how to use which means anything I make is immediately obsolete. Better not do the work.
Fuck this. These are all just lies.
Once you address the emotional problem that lies at the heart of your procrastination you can work from anywhere. Some of that work will be good. Most of it will be bad. The same goes for every piece of work produced by every single other person in the history of work.
So stop convincing yourself to wait in order to do the work. Just start working, do a single Pomodoro, write a single line of code, put a single sentence down on a piece of paper, strum a single chord, take a single photo, drill a single hole, throw some clay on the wheel.
Whatever your medium is just do it, do a single increment of work and commit to doing it no matter the conditions. Don’t psych yourself out about the perfect environment, the perfect conditions and the perfect time. It doesn’t matter, these are just things you’re doing in order to avoid doing the work. Tell yourself instead.
I can work from anywhere.