Working from home not working

“I don’t know how you do it.”

That’s what most people say when I tell them I work from home. Their eyes get even wider when they see the size of my house. It’s not tiny, but it’s not big either.

For the longest time, it wasn’t much of a big deal. In January 2005, I turned in my notice at the TV station and took on a line of work that meant frequent travel. It also meant that I was a remote worker. That called for me working from home for sometimes weeks at a time. I set about building my home office with the latest in computer equipment, chairs, satellite television, and music. I had a look for aeron chairs on sale, chose a nice desk that would suit my needs, got everything organized and arranged. All the strange little details you don’t think of when you work in a formal office space became things to consider when making one at home. There are some sites you can find online, like Office Monster, that supply some items that are ideal for kitting out a home office or office spaces in general. It was a nice little office, but, let’s be honest. I rarely worked in there. There was something about it. I think it was too private. I ended up doing most of my work from my laptop in the living area of the house. As a side note, I am thinking of getting a new laptop for work – I might check out something like these windows laptops and see if anything takes my fancy. Nevertheless, I am well aware that doing work in the living area is not productive and not something I can keep up without being distracted. I have been looking into sheds for sale, because I’ve heard that many people convert these into offices. With access to natural light and plenty of space, there’s no reason as to why I wouldn’t fall in love with this office space.

My entire career has been spent in noisy places. In radio and TV, there were always people coming and going and they were always loud and in a hurry. It was a chaotic environment that suited my rather chaotic brain. When I moved into the poker reporting world, the environment didn’t change that much. It was always noisy and always busy.

Working from home wasn’t that hard either. When the boy was young, he was a lump of babbling flesh that didn’t require much in the way of conversation. Sure, I had to be attentive, but I didn’t have to explain the meaning of life, hook up the Smart Cycle, or explain what testicles are.

Things have changed. I suddenly feel more distracted than I have been in years. In the past I could focus on a project for hours at a time and get it done. Now, things are taking much longer. I can’t blame my family. This is their house, too. I can’t blame the dog for needing to go outside, my wife for needing help reaching something in the kitchen, or my kid needing help turning on his game. It’s their life. What’s more, in just a few months, there is going to be an infant sleeping in what was once my office. There won’t be a choice for me.

Now, you might ask, after so many years of working in chaos, why can’t you work in the chaos of your own home? Honestly, I think it’s because the chaos is not focused in the same place. Whereas the chaos of a poker tournament or news room is all focused on the same basic task at hand, at home everybody has their own agenda and it distracts me to the point of ineffectiveness.

And so, after many years of being incredibly efficient from my easy chair, I’m planning to start experimenting with working elsewhere. a few days a week. The only question is where I am going.

I have tried coffee shops and book stores. I always feel odd in those places. How much coffee am I supposed to buy to make up for camping at a table for four or five hours? What am I supposed to do when I go to the bathroom? I guess I could buy one of those cable locks for my trips to the head, but I still don’t know the java-per-hour rate. Plus, I’m definitely going to want some place with free Wi-Fi.

My wife has suggested the library. I have discovered it does have Wi-Fi, so that may work out for me. It seems a tad quiet, and I’m not going to be able to get much in the way of refreshment there. Still, it may be worth a try.

So, any suggestions out there?

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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15 Responses

  1. Dr. Chako says:

    Man, you’ve read my mind. I have the same problem – I’m too easily distracted. Because of my profession, my home computer is quite literally an ATM. Yet, when I tried making it a full time proposition, I found that I didn’t have what it takes to sit there for hours on end making the big bucks.

    It got to the point where I was looking at getting an office outside of the house. That seems a huge waste of expense, but I didn’t really see any other option. In the end, I didn’t get the office, but I didn’t really reach my full potential with the home computer either.

    The Wife would probably tell you to sit in front of the TV with the kids running around watching Avatar on the cartoon network. That’s what she does. Every night. Until like 2am.

    I am not her.

    The library sounds as good a place as any. Maybe you need to pick three or four different places and mix them up a bit. In medical school, we used to go to the student union of the local college (it’s how I met The Wife in fact). Are there any schools in the area? Of course, you’d look like a dirty old man amongst all the students, but you could probably pull off the distinguished professor look with a sports jacket.

    Good luck.


  2. Pauly says:

    Perhaps it’s not the locale, but you or perhaps the material you are working on? Or you might need to unplug everything and take off for a few weeks/months and go into seclusion to write. That’s where I’m at right now… I just can’t break the shackles of being plugged and my life/income solely dependent on the intertubes.

  3. Betty says:

    Hotel lobbies or hotel bars. I know you spend a lot of time in hotels, but during the days, the lobby of a posh hotel is a sweet spot and the bar is usually empty! Find one with an awesome leather chair and a view of something.

  4. April says:

    This, my friend, is what coworking was invented for. A quick Google shows one coworking spot in G-Vegas; not sure if there are others nearby. Some charge, some don’t. But they’re great b/c not only do you get the quiet of being in an office, but it’s the perfect place to network with like minded people. Comes in handy when you need help with some pesky HTML or can’t think of the right word or whatever.

  5. Astin says:

    Of course, there’s always the risk that whoever you share that office with will drive you nuts. Happened to a couple people I know, who decided to split an office space and now can’t stand each other.

    The beauty of Wi-Fi is that it isn’t restricted by walls. Find a park near the library, coffee shop, or happy mutant, and enjoy the fresh air while working. Or just go in your backyard. Of course, this doesn’t work so well in the chillier months.

    Find your nearest Apple Store and leech off their wireless from the mall if you want chaos. There’s that minor problem of loitering though.

  6. Alicia says:

    Hey Brad! I enjoy reading your posts. I had a tough time with a similar transition – moving from the chaotic environment of a newsroom to the quieter office environment of a PR firm. I’m always telling my coworkers that it’s too quiet in our office. While I might miss the chaos, I do enjoy having Christmas off.

  7. Bam-Bam says:

    Not just because I love saying it but, I’m with Betty. 🙂

    There are times when I actually have to leave the office to get stuff done. When those times come around, The Marriot lobby area with the pool, bar, very comfy seating and just enough distractions to make me seem nearly invisible to the masses, is the spot I run to.

    Good Luck!

  8. Drizztdj says:

    I’ve hit up a local sports bar.

    Plenty of action going on, fun to watch the suits crash and burn in their attempts to hit on the blonde by the Golden Tee machine, and one with decent food/beer selection is a plus.

  9. Mean Gene says:

    The brewpub near my apartment was perfect. I could walk there in a few minutes and they had free WiFi. I could almost always get a seat at the bar and they’d even let me plug in my laptop. The food was good, the beer better. I’d sit there among the folks there for a pint or a bite and feel surprisingly compelled to write. Since it closed I haven’t tried the other bars nearby, mostly because I’d have to drive there. And because I guess I feel some sense of loyalty and nostalgia for pubs gone by.

  10. MGM says:

    Is “adding on” an option? Moving? I have worked from home quite a lot over the years. I have a home office in the back corner of the lowest level of my home. Pretty quiet down there and minimal distractions, yet close enough to the activity should I be needed for something. Works out great. You may just need some bigger digs. Maybe not such a great time to be moving though, huh?

  11. Da Goddess says:

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  12. RickyBobby says:

    Don’t know if you are trying to spend a couple bucks or not but heres what a buddy of mine did. He got a nice shed stuck it in the back yard ran electricity to it, added a a/c unit like a window unit or stand alone unit, ran cable tv/internet out there and ding instant office outside the house.

  13. TheTrooper97 says:

    I’ve found that no one really cares how long you stay. As you know, I played online poker for months at Port City Java downtown. But that’s not to say that I have never concerned myself with the same questions of how long I will be welcome at a spot.

    In recent times, my fondness for starbucks has seen me subscribe to AT&T WiFi. Starbucks is a T Mobile hotspot but they allow AT&T subscribers to use it as well. You can subscribe to TMobile for $30 per month or AT&T for $20 per month. Obviously I chose AT&T. The main point is that I’m paying for the internet so I don’t give a crap what they think of how loing I stay and the particulat Starbucks I’m in now is open 24/7. I plug in the earbuds and no nooise bothersme and I get to see people in my peripherals, which keeps me stimulated for some odd reason.

  14. Gloria says:

    Is there a way to become a content writer for the site?