It’s 73 degrees this morning.
This came as a shock. It feels…cold. 73 degrees should not feel cold to a guy who is from Upstate New York. But the Washington, D.C. area has had over 100 days this summer with highs in the 90s. We’ve probably had a dozen days with highs in the triple digits. Day in, day out, morning and night, it’s been hot, stuffy, and more often than not, humid.
Then, all of a sudden – BAM! A gorgeous morning. It’s not even supposed to break 90 today.
A drastic change in weather, the subtle shift in the angle of sunlight, subtle shifts in barometric pressure – if you’re paying attention, all of these have perceptible affects on one’s state of mind. It’s a feeling, however understated, that change is coming. That Autumn is on its way. If you have a whole slew of positive memories and emotions associated with a particular season (like I do about Fall) then these little shifts can significantly reorient your frame of mind.
I’ll never forget the way I didn’t get this feeling when I lived in Arizona. There were changes – it’d get cooler, there would be some occasional rain – but by and large the view out my living room window looked the same on Christmas Day and the 4th of July. There was something monotonously brown about the whole experience, and it numbed the parts of my brain that start firing excitedly when I sense something different afoot. Unfortunately, those are the parts of my brain that provide me with my strongest sources of inspiration and best work. Lack of change kills my muses, as it were.
I see a similar effect on Fridays of late. I recently worked out an agreement with my office that allows me to work remotely on any Friday where there isn’t an essential meeting or project that requires my physical presence. This saves me roughly 1.5 to 2 hours of commuting, and lets me choose my optimal environment. I usually go to Starbucks, grab a coffee, hook into the WiFi and start pounding out work. Not being at the same desk with the same lighting and the same distractions makes a difference. Not being at home also helps. Let’s face it: human beings are creatures of habit, and those habits form ruts if we do them long enough.
I have work habits and home habits but I don’t have Starbucks habits. At least not yet. I have noticed that I tend to order the same thing, sit at one of two tables that I like, always face the door so I can see what’s going on outside and who’s coming in, and so on. So far, these habits aren’t counterproductive. They don’t waste time like water cooler conversations do, and the environment doesn’t make me feel trapped in the same old same old like work and home often do. If it starts to feel that way, I’ll probably have to find somewhere else to make the magic happen.
All I know is that change really does do you good. I think more clearly, I work more efficiently, and I feel less bound by my usual constraints. If you don’t do this once in a while, try it out. If your workplace doesn’t have a telecommuting policy, do it when you’re brainstorming something else. Are you a writer? Get away from your usual workspace and bring your work with you. Are you a designer? Go look at the work of others. Walk into a comic book store. Go to a museum. Are you stuck trying to think your way through a complex personal/financial/logistical problem? Go find somewhere beautiful that you haven’t been in a while (or ever) and spend some time there.
It may very well surprise you how much it will help.
Steve Skojec is a storyteller, writer, blogger, photographer, designer, and sci-fi fan. He is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. He lives in Arizona with his wife Jamie and six of their seven children.