It can be tempting to sit in bed with your computer on your lap to work. But the reality is that working (whether for enjoyment or business) at home can be incredibly distracting. “I should really take care of those dishes…” and “Maybe I’ll just turn the TV on for a second…” can end up meaning you only wrote ten sentences instead of ten pages on that self-help book you’re determined to finish. Treating your home as a workplace, or your workplace as a home, can have some negative effects on your ability to rest and work.
This is where the idea of a “third place” comes in handy. The theory identifies your home as your first place, your work as a second place, and a third place as any community space in between those. For some that’s a coffeeshop or lunch spot. Or it could be a bowling alley or a barber shop. Ray Oldenburg argues that a third place should be somewhere with a regular community that is comfortable, accessible, and affordable. Finding your third place can do wonders for your home life, work life and personal life. You will develop a feeling of “belonging” when you invest in yourself by finding a third place. And your creativity and energy will be stimulated.
Here are three benefits of having a third place:
1. You will rest harder at home. Something changes when you treat your rest places like work places. All of the sudden–I’ve experienced this!–you start to carry stress and anxiety into your rest areas. Instead of fully unwinding when you sit at the table you worked on yesterday, you keep a little bit of that stress in your shoulders. Or instead of sleeping deeply with your work problems staying put in the office, you toss and turn all night. But when you choose to make a clear division between work and rest areas, you will start to find that you rest better. Seeing your bed and the color of your walls will become subconscious signals of peace. It’s kind of like when you hear an alarm, even if it isn’t yours, and tense up. Allow this space, especially and at least your bedroom, to become sacred and you will rest harder.
2. You will focus better. One of the benefits of resting harder is that your focus is stronger. But if you are keeping your work and rest separate, then you will find more energy at work. Instead of repeatedly turning towards things of home and rest–like Facebook, sweatshirts, desserts–keep your work space free from those signals. When you establish your work space as a pure work area, you will find that you are able to maintain your focus. Access to these comfort signals will split your attention as you, obviously, prefer the comfort. But instead you can free yourself of these signals and keep focused. It is still important, of course, to have some rest between the hours. But maybe try to make it something you only do at the office. Maybe you only read for pleasure at work, or maybe you only watch Friends on lunch break at the office. As long as it is distinguished from your rest signals it will be healthy.
3. You will become a regular. We all want to live in Cheers. And the reality is that it’s not that hard to achieve. If you pick a location that you will invest in, whether that be a Starbucks or a library, you will start to learn people’s names and meet fellow coffee/book lovers. After whatever level of investment is required, you will walk in and the barista will know you want a Venti quad-shot mocha. (For example! I’m more of a plain, black coffee guy, personally.) This adoption as a regular will help you to feel a part of your community and town as a whole. You will move from being invested in yourself, to being invested in a greater community. And that can be wonderful.
So, where is your third place?
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