Mixing it up

January 8, 2023

What’s better: always working in the same space on a schedule or always working in different places at irregular times?

On the one hand, I remember reading—was it in the book Daily Rituals?—about a writer—was it Haruki Murakami?—who was incredibly prolific by sitting down at the same desk at the same time every day and writing whether he felt like it or not.

On the other hand, when you go out there and expose yourself to new environments, new people, and new ideas, you just might think of a better way to get your boss on board with your proposal. Or of a fabulous natural experiment for that paper you’re planning to submit to the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

A week and a half ago, I started my new life as a digital nomad. I started in Berlin and will now be in Istanbul for a few weeks. I plan to get lots of work done here, including recording a video with a major sponsor. Can I be as productive as I was at home—or even more productive?

I’m about to put this question to the test.

And I should be more specific: I’m about to put this to the test for me right now. For Today Peter. Because let’s say I find that I’m more productive in random cafés in Istanbul than I was at home. That wouldn’t mean working on the go at different times is the right choice for you or even for me in the future.

In fact, have you tested this for yourself recently?

Not everyone has the luxury to work at different times or in different places. But some of you do. And others might be able to at least change when or where they work some of the time.

For example, I recently worked with a psychiatrist who needed help getting his email inbox under control. I advised him to batch-process his email at specific times during the day or week, rather than checking his email whenever he has a chance. Now what if he makes a little ritual out of this? He could go to a coffee shop for an hour or two every Friday afternoon, just to clear his inbox before the weekend. It would get him out of his office and that might just be a wonderful boost to his motivation to blast through his emails. (And who knows, maybe there’s a cute barista or fellow regular patron there too, for even more motivation.)

Of course going to a coffee shop might not actually boost this man’s productivity. He won’t know unless he tries! And you won’t either. So how about you run your own little experiment?

If you normally work in the same space all the time, work somewhere else. Or if you’ve been roaming around a lot, create a dedicated place: a home office, a desk at a coworking space, even a specific corner of your favorite café. How does that affect your productivity?

Do report back. :)

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