I used to work at Amazon. When I worked at Amazon, I got to walk to work. Walking to work is amazing. I think it has spoiled me to the extent that I cannot imagine ever having a job which required commuting via car or public transit.
Now I work from home. This is, in theory, an even better commute than being able to walk to work. In fact, my walk to work is approximately ten seconds long.
Before I started working from home, I did a lot of research about how to handle it. Most of what I read stressed the importance of constructing barriers between your office and your home:
- Only ever work from one place in the house;
- Force yourself to dress up every day;
- Establish routines and schedules.
I disregarded most of these:
- I regularly work in sweatpants;
- I work on my couch;
- I’ll sit at my ‘office desk’ to watch football or drain my Pocket queue.
I did take one piece of advice seriously, though — and I think it’s the main reason I’m in the best work environment of my entire life.
At the end of every day, I go for a walk. I go for the same walk every day: 1.3 miles up 16th Avenue until I reach Louisa Boren Lookout Park.
It takes me around twenty-five minutes to reach the park. On the way, sometimes I listen to heavy podcasts that require attention and consideration, when my brain is still hungry from the afternoon.
Sometimes, I listen to softer ones — weekly ones, things where I can zone out for a little bit.
On the really demanding days, I just listen to music and let my brain turn off completely.
The walk to the park is pleasant. I see dogs. I see the leaves change. I see some neighbors. Mostly I’m not paying attention — I feel on autopilot, commuting through Capitol Hill.
Then I reach the park. The park is very good, though it’s less a ‘park’ and more ‘a couple of benches with a very nice view’. Here is a picture of Louisa Boren Lookout Park:
Even when its dark or rainy out — which is often in Seattle at 6pm — you can make out Lake Washington, and the beautiful vista on the other shore. The picture doesn’t do it justice; even one visit to the lookout doesn’t really do it justice. The view from Louisa Boren is best appreciated like a really good album, where you have to give it listen after listen after listen to really appreciate what it’s offering you.
Then I walk back home. Another twenty-five minutes listening to something of varying intensity. Sometimes my walk back is a little faster, sometimes it’s a little slower.
I get back home and I take my shoes off. It feels good. I make some dinner or pour a drink or take a bath. I am now done for the day, and I can move onto more important things. Whatever work was still on my mind at the beginning of the walk has vanished until morning.
My vision of working from home was originally renegade and chaotic: afternoons spent in bars and coffeeshops. Freedom was the operative word: freedom to work whenever and wherever and however.
Now that I have that freedom, I realize the importance of routines and constraints by which I can mentally organize my day.
My walk home lets me be a little more mechanical — which lets me be a little less mechanical. For that, I am very grateful.