Saturday, December 17, 2011

How do you work best?


"Strangely enough, my imagination works best when I am sitting alone in a large assemblage, when the tumult and noise require a substratum of will if the imagination is to hold to its object; without this environment it bleeds to death in he exhausting embrace of an infinite idea." -Søren Kierkegaard

I stumbled across this quote by danish philosopher and granddaddy of existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard, in the book Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit, and couldn't help but feel an absolute sense of agreement. In college I always loved doing my work in a bustling coffee-shop (side note, why can't I find any place as cool as Stella's in DC?), and even now I've got Pandora cranking out the tunes all day as I work to liven up the office ambiance. To me, there's something about the struggle to stay on task when so much is happening that allows me to focus in a way a quiet room never could. As Søren explained in his journals, you can focus on what you're actually doing as you block out the layers of distraction rather than focusing on being isolated from the distraction.

Of course, I know plenty of folks who tell me they need polar opposite conditions to get anything done (the boyfriend for one). In fact, sometimes I can't help but think perhaps there's something wrong with my choice of work environment... is it because I can't handle the quiet? Do I have a need for continuous distraction because I watched too much TV as a kid? It's secretly nice to know my need for a bit of chaos isn't solely a result of growing up in an era of over-stimulation - something tells me that Kierkegaard's quiet, 19th century Copenhagen upbringing didn't over-saturate him with Sesame Street.

Another quote plucked from Kierkegaard's writings for Solnit's book was so sweet I had to share:

"This very moment there is an organ-grinder down the street playing and singing -- it is wonderful, it is the accidental and insignificant things in life which are significant." How perfect a sentiment for the start of the weekend. Now go out and see how many significantly insignificant things you can experience.

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