Since I am fortunate enough to work in different settings as a freelancer, there are certain places where I am more productive than others. At times, I am not always able to work in those locations. If I'm in a coffee shop that is normally quiet and I find other people who are there to work too, I can fly through my work. Other times people are there for leisure purposes and don't necessarily realize or care that someone is trying to work. I get it, but I also need to avoid these disruptions. They have the right to do that but their conversation is too loud, they cough a great deal or try to meet people that aren't interested in making new friends.
When this happens, I can usually combat these types of disruptions with headphones or a side eye, so I can continue to work smoothly. If you are working somewhere that isn't the ideal setting, here are some tips to minimize distractions to keep working.
1. Plan ahead when choosing a seat
Sit where there isn't much foot traffic. I made the mistake of plopping my belongings down on a long table right near the cash register at an area coffee shop. Big mistake. Not only did I hear every order being placed, it seemed to be an open invitation to have anyone sit near me. Another big mistake. It's harder to set boundaries with others when you're stuck sitting somewhere that makes it easier for people to talk to you, especially if you are really trying to complete work and dodge all types of social interactions.
Though I had on headphones and physically positioned my chair a bit to face away from the people at the table that ended up sitting near me, I got stuck in a verbal headlock with a man who frequented the coffee shop on a regular basis and knew everyone. He asked me what I was writing about and then started mentioning topics I could cover, etc. He didn't take any of my non-verbal cues to stop talking to me, nor did the short answers I gave deter him from continuing the conversation. I ended up leaving and just made a mental note to not sit at a long table in a coffee shop.
2. Create a better atmosphere
Though you might have a favorite coffee chain, co-working space, library or home office, they can all have their own set of unique challenges when it comes to completing work. While I get a great deal of work done from home, I sometimes get antsy and need a change of scenery. If I know I can't leave due to a commitment or hiccup in my schedule, I often set up shop in a different room. The dining room isn't the ideal space but I can spread out needed material easily.
To create the same vibe as the coffee shop, I started listening to instrumental music on Google Play to mimic what I would hear there. The music options change throughout the day but I try to remember (even screenshot) the names of the music compilations that I like. There's one called "Focusing (No Lyrics)" that includes classical music, acoustic guitar, jazz and other genres. They are geared for better concentration. I think the one entitled "Your Morning Coffee" works well for all times of day, though you might have to type it in to search once afternoon hits. I like "Jazz for Reading" under that section. The descriptions reads," Looking to relax, but not get so mellow that your book will fall out of your hands?" In my opinion, it's pretty accurate. I also haven't heard any music that sounds as though it's only appropriate for a funeral.
3. Keep other places to work on your radar
Check out other coffee shops or work-friendly spaces in your spare time to get a feel for the environment before going for work purposes. Sometimes the Starbucks chains that are attached to Target can attract people who just want to grab a quick coffee before or after they shop and then leave. I visit one that barely has patrons that actually sit. At times, I have the place to myself. I also just like to get the lay of the land to know what I'm in for if I have to work somewhere that isn't ideal. Sometimes I know that I can at least write a to do list, read an article about improving my invoices or catch up with promoting on social media if I have to switch gears because of disruptions.
The Bottom Line
Unless you're able to hide in a closet or set up your work space in a tornado cellar, there's only so much you can do to minimize distractions. Think about using some of the ideas listed above to work more effectively in different settings.
3 Tips to Minimize Disruptions and Work More Effectively in Different Work Settings was originally published on Due Cash blog by Karen Cordaway.