*Note from Diane: The flexibility that can come with the life of a consultant can be wonderful, but can also present unique challenges. Julie offers us a great, honest perspective on those challenges in her latest blog post to give insight for potential consultants and camaraderie of experience to fellow consultants. I would imagine that for employed grant writers, many have also faced similar work environment issues when working away from the office or sneaking in some laptop time while on a vacation or at a conference.
This past February, I put to test one of my grant consultancy objectives. I want a business that is more dependent on my skills and my tools than on my physical location. Part of my goal in establishing my own business was to embrace a healthier work/play balance.
As you may remember in my post about generations and the differences in grant seeking, I have a family spanning multiple generations. I learned through travel to joyous events such as graduations and weddings, coupled with fast-changing events like medical emergencies, that I didn’t want a job at one location anymore.
So, I did it. I took my laptop, smart phone and grant skills from my home office in Minnesota to my parents’ home in Arizona. My parents live in a RV retirement resort that is beautiful with sunshine, cactus and swimming pools. I’d visited there before and knew that their home was small, but they had built a bunk house in hopes that I could spend more time with them.
I faced trouble the first day as I worked at their kitchen table. The immediate presence of the television and its coverage of a notably bizarre election year coupled with my dad’s stress-filled comments did little for my ability to concentrate. What to do? It was colder than normal in Arizona, and the low temps ruled out a patio location.
For day two, I changed my tactic. I rose early, packed my laptop and quietly walked up to the community center for its 6:00 a.m. opening. The custodian and I worked quietly for three hours until activities started gathering momentum. Truthfully, I worked under a lack-of-caffeine angst. I could see the glow of a Coke machine outside, but I only had $20 bills on me. Do you coffee drinkers feel my pain? Day three, began with cowboy coffee in the bunk house before working at the center.
For the afternoon, I logged in and reserved a study room at the nearby public library. Unfortunately “study room” seemed to imply large, rowdy groups separating their noisy selves from the greater library. Although the walls vibrated, I focused on my work.
Eventually I could work as dreamed on the patio with a warm breeze. As I was deep into the multi-topic thinking of a large research project, a friendly neighbor stopped by and said, “Drinks and snacks on our deck in 10 minutes. Are you coming?”
Being surrounded by retirees was a challenge that I never imagined facing. I felt like I was on an island alone in an alternate universe. I witnessed a visceral change in all those around me. Even though they had put in their decades of service, “work” was no longer a concept that they understood. One day I met another Minnesota daughter who worked at home, but had flown to Phoenix for business. We almost fell onto each other with glee because we both still understood the daily demands of work.
Will I continue to meet my objective to work anywhere in order to maintain better work/play balance? Yes! Without a doubt. But when I rework my business plan for year three, my work anywhere plan will include a room (portable office) of my own. And always, access to good coffee.
How do you handle days or weeks when you are on the road or choosing to work from a different location than normal, whether an employee or a consultant? We’d love to hear your solutions – share them with us in the comments section on the website, via social media, or drop Diane an email at diane @dhleonardconsulting.com.