Being a freelancer and solo founder rocks. I have no boss, call my own shots and set my own schedule.
But it also sucks. I hate being alone all day, stuck at home with no one to talk to but people on the interwebs. This is of course a very well known problem with freelancerdom
, felt by those on all walks of freelancing life. It’s seen its fair share of discussion elsewhere
, but it’s one thing to read about it and quite another to experience its harsh reality.
I have, of course, had a previous experience as a freelancer of sorts, back when I lived in Oporto. But here in Lisbon it’s different. I don’t have quite the same network of friends and clients with whom to get my socializin’ on, so for most of the day it’s just me, my mac and my cats. So when my girlfriend gets home she’s like “how was your day” and I’m like “meh”.
I’ve known since I first laid hands on a laptop that my best possible work environment if a coffee shop. I’ve spent the last three years actively trying to find out why. Which is harder than it seems, because I tend to get so carried away with all this being myself that I forget to do any significant observations on my own behaviour. I guess this is why time, exercise and expense trackers are so popular. It takes an objective third party for a human being to be able to accurately measure his or her own behaviour. So I got a time tracker.
All this fascinating research led to the observation of a few patterns;
- The amount of actual work I do per sitting is two to three times greater when I’m not at home versus when I am.
- Even at home, I tend to do more work and less fooling around when there’s no mouse. Having a mouse to rest my hand on seems to encourage random browsing and clicking.
- Remove the laptop’s power cord and suddenly I do even less procrastinating. Something about that power meter going down really gets my code flowing.
- Sit on the floor, an uncomfortable bench or just work standing up and I’m focused like some sort of hacking laser.
- Noise plays a big part in my productivity. Ambient music is great as long as there’s no discernible lyrics. Strangers talking among themselves is fine. Throw someone I know into the room and suddenly I’m hung on their every word.
- Complete loneliness leads to random procrastinating. Having people in the area makes me feel some sort of obligation to be doing something useful and serious with my time.
I guess these patterns explain why I do so well in cafes.
But woking at a coffee shop all day has its drawbacks too. First, it can get expensive. Second, snacking all day long is unhealthy. Third, avoiding problems #1 and #2 by snacking less can get you booted (or at least given the evil eye).
That’s where public libraries come in.
Yes, libraries. Filled with books, those adorable artifacts from the dark ages, but also sweet wi-fi goodness. And a very faint ambient noise. And people whose presence makes you feel part of a living, breathing world, but who never bother you. And, in many of Lisbon’s excellent public libraries, you can also take a breather from time to time, walk up to the interior garden and watch the amusing wildlife doing their animal stuff.
I’m in one such library right now
. I don’t have to order another cup of coffee every hour, I haven’t spent a cent, I’m getting work done like a maniac and, when I’m in need of some distraction, there are fucking peacocks
Public libraries rule.