Working at the Beach
It’s true: There is a strange tribe of people, myself included, who can and sometimes even do work at the beach. It’s mostly writers, true, but freelance professionals of many stripes can make it work. It helps to have a good smart phone… a sand-resistant laptop with a bright screen… and access to a flat space to set up shop. One of the beaches near my house has these great concrete picnic tables and a small burger cafe nearby that keeps me supplied with french fries and coffee.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek just ran an article about people like me:
While you’re Dilberting away in your cubicle, there are people taking conference calls in board shorts and flip-flops. While you’re saving your two weeks of vacation to hit the sand, they’re getting paid to be there. There are people—even respectable people—who have somehow turned a folding chair into a place of work.
Aided by technology, pioneers are now converting the beach into a fully functional office. People who work from the beach in non-hotel, non-burger-stand, non-pot-dealer capacities are still rare enough that no agency tracks the phenomenon. Brooks Brothers does not yet make a three-piece bathing suit; Herman Miller doesn’t sell an Aeron chaise.
It’s not like these beach workers are slackers; they just don’t like being controlled. It’s the same reason why we TiVo shows or e-mail and text more than call. When you can work from wherever you want to be—especially if it’s the place where everyone wants to be—work isn’t so bad.
Now, just to be completely honest about this, the beach is not really an optimal place to work. Truth be told, the WiFi reception can suck… monitor brightness can be a real issue… and sand really isn’t great for electronic technology. Plus, there are many distractions… bikinis or no.
Still, for the right type of work… certain kinds of mindless or repetitive tasks… working at the beach can be perfect. I was inspired by a story that human potential guru Tony Robbins once told. He came back from a business trip and was exhausted. He was greeted with an enormous pile of phone messages — and answering phone messages was the last thing he wanted to do. As a result, he decided to turn lemons into lemonade. He got into his hot tub and proceeded to answer all of his phone messages that way. Sitting in his hot tub overlooking the Pacific, he turned an act of work drudgery into a kind of celebration. With every returned call he made, he said, he felt how incredibly lucky he was to be able to live that way.
I like to do the same thing. I actually write far less on the beach than I do other administrative tasks, especially phone calls. When I was promoting a recent book of mine, I insisted on doing all of my radio interviews via cell phone — and usually at the beach. I get a little nervous doing radio interviews and I found that sitting at my favorite spot on the beach, talking to a talk show host in New York City or Chicago or some other place, really relaxed me. After all, how horrible can it be? Here I am, sitting on the sand and watching the waves, sitting my cafe latte, and talking to radio listeners a continent away.
In any event, I heartily recommend a similar strategy for all freelance professionals, especially writers. Working from the beach isn’t something you can do all the time… but it definitely helps you keep work in perspective and can turn some less pleasant work tasks into real celebrations.
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