A networking event the other day – hosted by the amazing and wonderful Barbara Breckenfeld – she asked us to indulge her for a bit at the beginning and participate in her “little woo-woo exercise”, I think is how she phrased it.
And then she took us through a brief meditation. (You would probably recognize it: “Put your feet flat on the floor, feel your breath, now imagine roots extending from your feet into the Earth…”)
This simple act brought us all together in the room, cleared the noise out of our minds, and got us to un-distract ourselves from everything outside that space.
We then had an amazing workshop!
But it also forced me to open my eyes and realize I had been trying to be productive in a Half-Working State.
The Forbidden Topic
My office is wherever I am. Usually, this means at my desk, in my bedroom, sandwiched between the dresser and the bed.
I know we consultants are supposed to be all mystical about our “office” and meet in coffee shops, and never admit that once our laundry is done we tend to fold it on our “office desk”.
But the fact of the matter is that many of us (most of us?) work out of our home, and have varying degrees of separation between our home life and our work life. I understand author Neil Gaiman has a gazebo or shack out in the back yard of his house where he does most of his writing. Another author I greatly admire – Adam LeBor – works from an actual office in downtown Budapest that he rents with a couple of other journalists.
But my office is in my bedroom. There. I said it.
My Commute Is The Problem
In the morning I would roll out of bed, tap the space bar on the computer, type in my password, and then go off to the bathroom and take care of the morning ablutions.
I would then return to my bedroom and check to see if there were any urgent issues that needed my attention while still in my sweatpants.
Sometimes it would be HOURS before I got away from the computer and actually put on real clothes, took the dog out for a walk, etc!
The whole morning I would be switching between checking business emails, personal emails, social media, news, To Do lists (yes, several of them), downloading software updates, researching a new invoicing or time-tracking tool, etc. Oh, and doing a little client work in there somewhere as well.
By the end of the day (usually about 10:PM) I would find myself in the same position (albeit dressed, and having taken the dog for a walk once or twice during the day), but with a general feeling of malaise, and a lack of clarity on what I had actually achieved during the day.
What had I done? Was I productive?
The Half-Working State
At Barbara’s workshop, after doing the meditation exercise, I realized why I had that feeling of malaise: I had been in a Half-Working State the entire day!
In that state I had never focused on any one thing in particular. I had never taken care of myself personally (where IS my glass of water?), and I had not gotten “in flow” or produced fabulous work for my clients.
I had never drawn a line and actually started working!
Part of why I work for myself is because I greatly enjoy what I do. But recently I had not been enjoying it as much. I felt a bit disconnected from my clients and their passions.
Experiencing that meditation – drawing that line between “not working” and “working” – was what was missing. In that simple act, Barbara got us out of our “outside” heads and into the room together, ready to participate. It was very effective and we had a really amazing workshop.
I Know It’s Soon, But…
The next day after the workshop I began setting my alarm 1/2 hour earlier, not waking the computer until I was ready to work, and AFTER I had sat and meditated for a bit to clear the head and focus on the tasks at hand.
The effect has been profound. Things that I checked compulsively before, distractions that took an inordinate time away from my work, all seem to have lost their importance in the face of doing what I really enjoy doing, which is helping my clients!
Regardless of whether you are a consultant, employee, or unemployed, it is important to work with intent. Draw a line between the thing you were just doing, and the thing you are going to focus on now.
Your work – your life! – will be more satisfying. I can vouch for that.