Finding a place where I can truly be alone with myself, my work, and my thoughts is tough. Everywhere I go there always seems to be a noise or distraction somehow. It might be quiet for awhile but never complete uninterrupted silence. I guess that’s just one of the things that comes with not living alone. My need for silence and solitude stems from my incredible inability to stay focused on a task at hand for more than 30 minutes at a time. It’s mainly due to the fact that it takes me awhile to get into the zone and have a complete takeover where I’m just pumping out work like nobody’s business.
The struggle is being able to tune out all of the outside noise and just focus on the work in front of me. Coffee shops are good for ambient noise but sometimes they are so loud that it breaks your concentration. So I’m trying not to rely on them all that much even though I thoroughly enjoy hanging out at them. I find that working with a bit of constant noise is good, so long as its around long enough for me to get into full on work mode.
Music, at times, is a good solve but not always. I usually listen to music when I’m excited about something I’m working on or if I’m doing a mindless task that doesn’t require much concentration. But it still doesn’t solve the need for silence. My mind works in such an odd fashion that music can work just as good as silence, but then there comes a point where I’ve had my fill of music and take off my headphones. The problem there is when I take off my headphones, I’m usually thrown into an environment that is rather noisy.
I’ve made it this far in my career as a designer and creative that I can obviously function in almost any work environment. But what I’m getting at is much more than just work environment. It’s realizing that true silence and solitude is actually really hard to come by. Well, for me at least. If I’m home at any given point in time, there’s usually something going on like my sister and her husband hanging out playing Nintendo Switch or watching a movie in the living room, which is conveniently located right outside of my room. Either that or my dogs barking for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
This isn’t me so much complaining about having a noisy household. It’s more about me stating the challenges I face when trying to finding a meaningful and quiet place to get some work done. When I’m not working on stuff that requires lots of intense focus, like writing does, all of that household noise is 100% fine with me. I’ve gotten used to it. But the problem here is not being able to rely on having a constant and readily available place I can go to whenever I need silence.
I have, however, found a solution to this problem. I sometimes go to great lengths to be able to get what I want and need and my need for silence and solitude is really important to me. So much so that my solution is waking up at 5am, or sometimes earlier, and using the time where everybody in my house is still fast asleep to get some important work done.It’s literally what I am doing now in order to write this whole post.
This morning I woke up at 4am, which is usually an hour earlier than normal. I considered sleeping an hour longer but I knew that if I rolled over to go back to sleep, it would be much harder to get up an hour later. So I got up, got ready, made coffee, sat down and looked at my to-do list I prepared last night, and picked a topic to write about this morning and got to work.
This isn’t something new to me though. I’ve been doing this exact thing for almost 10 years. Waking up super early to work on personal projects is something I started doing when I first started working as a designer at an agency 30 miles away in Venice Beach. If you know anything about the Los Angeles area and the insanity that is everyday traffic, you’ll know about the dreaded 405 freeway. Every morning I would have to make the drive to work and hope that I would get there before 9am. Early on, that never happened and it slowly started driving me crazy because I would be spending at least 1h 30mins or sometimes 2h in traffic. After a while of figuring out timing, I realized that if I wanted to spend the least amount of time in my car, I would have to leave my house at 6:30am. Which meant I had to wake up at 5 or 5:30am.
And so that became my new normal. Waking up super early to get to a place way earlier than I needed to. I was arriving to Venice at around 7:30-ish every day, which was about an hour before anybody ever got to the office. So that’s when I started my habit of working out of Starbucks and coffee shops really early in the morning. Mainly because I had nowhere else to go and needed to kill time. Luckily, during those early days, I was able to begin building the foundation of my work-ethic of getting work done while most people were still sleeping. That mentality gave me a boost that said I can use this time I have every morning to work on my personal projects and do something more with myself instead of just eat, sleep, work.
That foundation I built of getting up super early was one I was thrown into and had no other choice. I’m glad I did it but I feel it came with the consequence of always craving time for myself to work in peace. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword because I can get a lot of work done in a fairly short amount of time if I am alone and have no interruptions. But when I don’t have that luxury, getting the same level of work efficiency is harder to achieve. It’s all about finding a balance an pushing through the hard times. I find that a lot of my complaining about not being able to concentrate is just me trying hard enough to get into the zone. Sometimes when I’m at work and can’t focus on the task at hand, try to snap myself out of my own procrastination and jump right into the very thing I am holding off on doing. And then majority of the time it turns out that I get that thing done a lot faster than I previously thought and then I jump right into the next task.
Regardless, all of this is all in my head. My dream is to one day, finally have a place of my own. Be it a house or apartment. But most likely a house, eventually. Ideally, so I could work in silence and solitude whenever I need to. Everything I am doing now is being done with my end-goals in mind. Being able to earn money with my work and the content I create is something I hope will eventually lead me to finding that place I can be in that will multiply my output exponentially.