Tuning it out: How to work from pretty much anywhere

In the last two months, I’ve worked in every place you could imagine; busses, airplanes, airports, the back seat of a car, coffee shops, pool decks, hostels, bars, ski lodges - you name it, I’ve probably been there with my laptop. Since I started working for myself, I’ve found that having the ability to work anywhere, no matter the environment, is an extremely useful skill to develop. I make my own schedule, so work days aren’t always 9-5. I work whenever and wherever I can in order to meet deadlines and maximize my creativity. Sometimes it’s catching up on emails for an hour while getting my tires rotated or sending off that last project at the airport before boarding a 10-hour flight. It can be extremely difficult to tune out the noise and excitement of what’s around me, so I’m sharing a few tips.

  • Noise Cancelling Headphones: This seems to be the universal symbol for “Please Do Not Disturb.” Listening to music helps me focus and tune out the noise around me, but it also lets people know that I’m hard at work and not looking to be active in a conversation. When working around groups of friends or fellow travelers, it can be difficult not to engage in what’s going on around me, but this is a passive way of excusing myself from conversation.
  • Politely Ask People Not to Disturb You: I’m not a confrontational person, so I’ve found some careful and polite ways to ask people to give me space to do my work. A lot of times, people ask what I’m working on, which often leads to a longer conversation about my work in general (which I love talking about). Other times, people simply don’t understand that I’m working and not just killing time online. In either situation, I explain that I’m working to meet a deadline and ask if we can catch up later when I can give them my full attention. I always keep it lighthearted and say it with a smile so that they know I really do want to speak with them, it’s just not a good time. 
  • Think of the world as your office: When you don’t have office walls, you have to change your mindset about your work habits. When I had a 9-5, I had the mentality that I could only be creative while I was “in the zone” at my desk in the office. I had to have my dual monitors, the perfect music, my favorite sketch pad and markers, a clear workspace. Now, I’ve learned to type on any surface I can find to set my laptop, to sketch or brainstorm on whatever notepad or scratch paper is at my fingertips and to be creative whether or not I had a mouse or extra monitors. It’s helped me immensely to become more flexible and knock down the roadblocks of workspace mentality.  
  • Knock out “Busy Work” in high distraction scenarios: If I’ve tried everything else and I still find myself feeling distracted, I try to cross off items on my list that require minimal focus. Thing such as production work, checking on invoices, sorting emails, etc. That way, I am at least taking care of business even if it’s not the heavy creative stuff.

    Does anyone else have any good tips on how to work from pretty much anywhere?