I used to work for a management company as an administrative assistant. There were a bunch of us, underlings, who were assigned to different managers (who were in charge of fancy condos and gated communities). I started off as a temp downstairs, but as often was the case, after head honchos figured out I could do more than massive amounts of filing or data entry, I was offered a permanent position.
She’s not as daft as she looks!
So for this particular company, I was moved upstairs away from my beloved Cindy who was the oldest out of us foot soldiers, who always looked a bit disheveled but managed to pull off looking more bedhead sexy rather than bedridden sick, who I adored for her wisdom and wit.
Instead, I was placed among my younger cohorts where, for a time, we enjoyed an open office space before plain partitions were erected and cube farm warfare was instigated. But I thrived here because I was a social animal at the hip and happening water hole. But when my egotistical manager wanted both of her toadies to be in line of sight, next to her office, I was put in a corner facing a window. And I hated it. Not too longer after that, I quit.
According to Tony Robbins, there are five different types of working styles: independent, cooperative, proximity, supportive, and big picture. A proximity’s working style is somewhere between independent and cooperative, and I think the rest is self-explanatory. I’m an in-betweener. I can take up the leadership or follower role with equanimity. I’m such a homebody that I use work as a social outlet so working too independently is just too much of the same thing for me.
Of course, these days the traditional work environment has been flipped upside down. My friends back in the States love working from home and plan on doing it indefinitely. It’s hard to know what the future will entail but since our entertainment and lifestyle is primarily tied to technology, I won’t be surprised if there’s a rebound, especially for folks like me who need some sort of social collaboration and interaction – and most importantly, boundaries from work and home.
That desk move taught me the importance of environment. Many would love a window to look out of, but not me. I stared out of it watching the cat across the street. I daydreamed and wished I was somewhere else. I felt cut off from my friends, even though I could have (and did) easily walked over to chat or ask a question. It took an introverted person with a tendency towards melancholy and gave her the space to explore and really stretch out those lonely feelings in overcast Portland, Oregon.
Naturally, I tried to convince my boss not to move me, that I was plenty happy where I was, but Denise wanted the world to see that she was the only manager that had TWO paper-pushers, as opposed to the standard one. Plus, she needed me to track down her other worker bee, Mary, who was almost always hiding among the filing and boxes having a tearful conversation with her boyfriend.
Ah, those were the days, walking around the dark warehouse hissing, “Mary! Mary! Where are you? Denise is going to have your head on a spike. I swear!”
Right now my biggest struggle with doing mostly my own creative work at home is focusing on just one thing at a time. When I’m lesson planning, I so badly just want to get it done that I keep my head down and focus. It’s not an ideal situation as I’d rather prep at school, but I’ve had to do both throughout my years teaching. And now I teach online, too.
But ever since I watched Cal Newport share the significance of doing deep work on TEDx, I’ve been hyper-aware of my propensity towards opening tabs, checking social or email when I’m, say, writing in my morning journal or even reading something online!
When I’m editing or writing, I’d rather do deep work. I’d rather not skip around in some sort of Tasmanian devil whirlwind, but maybe I’ve convinced myself that this is part of the creative process. Sometimes it is good to get up and take a mental break, after all, sitting all day in front of a glowing monitor is not my idea of a good time.
There was another assistant (for the powerful Claire, who made smaller men and walls shook when she walked), who didn’t sit near the rest of the gang. Only Dave could be hers. He was tall and smart enough.
Dave adored his hermit space where he listened to podcasts, but he welcomed visitors, too. He was newly married and hid his handsomeness behind black-rimed glasses. We suspected (gossiped) he didn’t really need them but because he was so striking, he used them as a distraction. You think I’m exaggerating but when he took them off to clean them one time, I gasped (hopefully not out loud, Lani, you idiot). Yes, my mouth hung open as I had never seen that kind of chiseled Superman transformation up close ever before, nor since.
Sorry, what were we talking about?