My co-workers never quite believe me when i describe the state of disorganization in my home office in the same way that I don’t think any of my friends comprehend what a micro-managing clean-freak i am at work.
A typical day of work starts with my desk completely bare except for my water bottle and two pens (one blue, one red). The only disorder in sight is a few scant papers in my inbox; each of my projects lives in neatly color-coded folder organized by priority.
I start and end each day by writing down the next steps on each of my projects in my notebook. The sorting of my email is completely automated; my inbox has less than four messages in it at all times. I log every phone conversation into a tiny steno book so I can remember what I promised to people, and what messages I need to respond to.
A typical night in my home office starts with my searching for something through three layers of desk (and sometimes floor) detritus: a top layer of recently discarded guitar paraphernalia, a middle layer of mail that i have yet to sort or read, and a bottom layer of things that are on my desk because they have nowhere else to go. There are approximately five square inches of visible desktop, and typically no less than a dozen guitar picks, two ties, and three glasses of water.
I start each night futilely trying to clear a workspace and end it when I can’t think of another website to visit. My inbox is currently hovering near 700 messages, post-spam. I am famous for my call-screening and reluctance to return messages.
At work I hardly ever leave with a task left undone, and at home I barely complete one to-do a day.
Why the contrast? Is it the difference is the organizational tools provided for me at work, or the structure of arriving at a specific time and adhering to a certain dress code, or the hustle of other people working around me?
Today I spent a few hours working from home, and it was a strange dichotomy – my messy desktop combined with my well-pruned work email, my guitar within arm’s reach compared to my rapid response to voice mail. Even with my familiar distractions abounding I switched into corporate-mode without a blink.
When my work-time ended I promptly sat on the floor and fell asleep, face pressed against the crack beneath my door to catch a cool draft from the hallway.
Maybe the difference isn’t anything about the environment, but about how much easier it is to sustain effort without dozing off.