I value working from home more than money, prestige or a fancy job title. That’s because it’s given me something far more important – the freedom and control to live on my terms.
Ever since I was a kid collecting and reselling balls at the Mt Martha golf course, I’ve valued running my own show. Self-direction and personal responsibility matter to me. I feel so strongly about it that, today, I filter every major decision through one simple question: ‘Will this choice enhance my freedom or push it further away?’ Most choices will do one or the other.
But what kind of freedom am I talking about, and why is it so important to me? To explain, let me share a typical day with you. This one happened last autumn, and while it might seem exceptional, it happens like this more often than you’d suppose.
At 5:30 am, most people in my neighbourhood are still asleep. Years ago, I’d have been one of them. But on this day – like most days, now – I’m already seated at our dining table with my favourite cup of Assam Bold laced with Manuka honey. Through the bifold doors, I see the pre-dawn colour filling the sky, its reflection echoed in the pool just beyond the deck.
This is a good way to start the day. I’m up because I want to be up, and I’m working on something I care about in an environment I love, and at a time of day when I’m most effective. It’s freedom, but with structure and purpose behind it.
Twenty-five years ago, my idea of freedom was entirely different. I imagined flitting around the world in a private jet and bathing in a tub full of money. I just assumed you had to be rich to be free. I believed that if I was free, I’d do whatever popped into my head on the day, and I’d do it with a permanent smirk on my face.
However, after a few breaks from work, (and subsequently doing whatever the hell I wanted), I felt aimless and unsettled. Anxious, even.
It turns out that unstructured freedom isn’t as great as you’d think. Instead, having control over how, where and when you work is far better. My wife feels the same. Granted, we’re borderline workaholics, but we’ve learned that ‘usefulness’ beats an unstructured life hands down.
So getting back to my typical day…
The first rays of sunlight through the dining room glass are tantalisingly warm – perfect in fact, for a drive in the countryside. And after knocking over my number one task for the day (a key benefit of starting early), I decide I’ll do exactly that.
By now it’s 8:30 am. I walk my son to school (for me, the number one benefit of working from home), I throw my laptop in the car, peel back the roof and head off to a lake about half an hour from home.
On the way, I’d ponder the details of a forthcoming meeting and extract my ideas to my phone’s voice recorder app. I’ve done this for many years, and it’s incredible what you can achieve when allowed to think freely and record ideas on the fly. So even while I’m wafting through the countryside, I’m just as productive as someone stuck in a city office. More so, I expect.
The spot I choose is dead in the middle of the week, so I soon find a shaded picnic table in front of the lake, remove my laptop from its bag and get right back to work.
As I tap away, I bask in the music of the local wildlife – the hundreds of ducks on the lake below and a lone magpie chortling overhead. I look up over my screen to drink in the view and remember a conversation I had with a friend a few months before.
His family has done well over the years, and his father’s been contemplating the purchase of a luxury sports car – perhaps a Ferrari or Maserati. But as we sit in a restaurant at a delightful vineyard, he turns to me and says, “You know, my dad could never do this. He’d be too stressed about what’s happening back at the factory or out on the job sites. This – what we’re doing here; this is true wealth – not a bloody Ferrari.”
He was right. All the money in the world can’t make you happy if you don’t have agency over your time. Likewise, a Ferrari can’t bring you joy if your life is so complicated you can’t go out for lunch on a Tuesday without feeling anxious about it.
The truest expression of freedom isn’t wealth – not when it’s packaged with fear, worry or anxiety. Freedom is being useful, on your terms, and having control of your schedule. Because your schedule is your life – metered out one day at a time.
After five hours of work in the beautiful autumn sun, I return to my home office, satisfied that I’m living this day exactly as I please – producing great work on terms that suit me. On the drive home, I’m struck with a revelation, an idea that will alter the course of one project and give rise to an exciting new one. OfficeAnywhere is that project.
It’s a reminder that great ideas don’t happen in a cubicle. They happen when you’re inspired, and where you’re inspired. For me, that’s on the open road or out amongst nature. It’s what works for me and therefore, for those I serve.
I arrive home in time to collect my son from school. The air is turning cool as the sun tracks low across the sky, and Tommy and I laugh about random nonsense as we walk the five minutes back to the house. Around us, other parents bundle their kids into SUVs with the same urgency as they ejected them seven hours earlier. Within ten minutes, all the cars are gone; their hurried lives transferred to another location – perhaps football practice or dance class, or back to the office.
We enter through our squeaky front gate (I must lubricate that thing sometime) and decide we should kick a ball around the backyard for a while. Later, Tommy does his homework, and I retire to my garage to enter what I call ‘phase 2’ of my day – another round of creative work but aided by a glass of red.
It’s a simple life – nothing fancy – but it’s exactly the way I want it. By the time I walk back into the house, I’ve done around 12 hours of real, uninterrupted work. That’s far more than most office workers accomplish – especially with all their meetings, email alerts and socialising in hallways.
According to a recent study of nearly 2,000 adult office staff in the UK, most workers are productive for only three hours a day.
I reckon I achieve more in one day than most achieve in three. And given my few distractions, I’m able to engage in deep work – something that’s almost impossible in a typical office setting.
Working from home is the best work/life decision I’ve ever made. And this example of intentional, productive living hasn’t cost me a thing. I don’t have to be rich or semi-retired to do it, either. Nor have I forsaken my responsibilities to satisfy a personal whim.
Deciding where and how I work amplifies my creative abilities and productive output, while simultaneously bringing peace and balance to my life and my relationships with those who matter, like my son.
In my view, this is what true freedom and happiness are all about.
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