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Obervations on Working Environments

Morning was in full swing. Cars and trucks were rushing in all directions, but I was semi-insulated from the traffic noise by Dido's "White Flag" as it played on the Tungsten E tucked inside my coat pocket. I was feeling good as I walked home, because I'd managed to do a good bit catch up on some things while at the local café.

You see, I meet my friend Randy at Caribou Coffee every Thursday at 6:30am. We like to meet there to catch up and have discussions while enjoying a cuppa coffee. It's a nice routine; something I look forward to each week.

But beyond this get together time, I'll often bring along my Tungsten E, AlphaSmart Dana or Mac Powerbook to read or get some work done after Randy leaves at 7:30. I found this time at the café to be very helpful, because for whatever reason, I tend to become very effective while I'm there. I've always found that intriguing.

Today, I had the Powerbook along, to catch up on my personal emails. Sometimes when I'm at my home office I just don't have the desire to reply to personal emails after a day of work on the computer. So, non-urgent messages tend to get stale in the inbox.

At some point the amount of emails growing moldy reaches critical mass, and I just have to deal with the replies. Usually I do my replying at home in the later evenings, but today I came to the realization that the café works even better for this task, since I can really focus and get through many email replies pretty quickly.

I think the atmosphere of the café is suited for working and thinking. Of course there are people sitting around me talking when I work, but their discussions are just one part of the "buzz" in a café. Their voices blend with other discussions, orders being taken, the background music, the grinder pummeling beans to dust and the espresso machine cranking out shots and frothed milk. That's what I mean by "buzz" (not to be confused with the buzz from caffeinated coffee!).

Being away from the "normal" is also helpful for any kind of work like email, because the usual walls, sounds, atmosphere and smells of the office or wherever are gone. I can especially sense this, because my home office has limited natural light, while Caribou's walls are 90% open windows. I feel as though I'm free to think with all that openness and light, which may fuel creativity and writing.

Now I'm not saying my home office is like a dungeon because it isn't. It's more that these once and a while café visits seems to spark my creative side: sketching, writing and designing. If I spent every day at the café it's likely that it would become the "normal" place and would lose its positive effect.

What's interesting to me is, I know the library or the bookstore both have different effects on my mindset than the café does. I can also say that there are definitely different senses of atmospheres in different places. For instance, a train and an automobile have very different atmospheres, just as the woods and a lakeshore do.

Do you have a favorite place to "be" when you read or think or are creative? I'd love to hear about your special place and why it helps you do whatever you do there.

Reader Comments (1)

Kyle, the Dana is mainly a writing tool when I want to write either without the distraction of the Powerbook or I need better battery life than the Powerbook. Because the Dana is a "writing machine" it gets used for that quite a bit and because it has great battery life, I'm not worried about the juice dying, or if that dude over there will move so I can plug my Powerbook into the outlet. ;-)
December 5, 2003 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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