Like me, I imagine many of you are feeling stir-crazy after 4+ months of quarantine. As someone whose home environment can be noisy, I miss the freedom of heading to the nearest coffee shop for some quiet studying.
But what if there were an option for outside-the-house, peaceful studying, even during lockdown? This “office” is completely free, comes with a nice view, and allows for safe social distancing. As you can probably guess from this article’s title, I’m talking about the car office!
Here’s my current quarantine routine: I start work at 9, so I try to wake up around 7:30. After washing up, I’ll hop in my car and drive to a local park (in my area, there is a string of connected parks, which we call the “Green Belt.”) Once there, I’ll read, maybe go for a brief walk, and then head home. Sometimes I’ll do the same in the evening after work.
Here are two reasons why this strategy works for me.
#1: It’s Nice Being Outside
As someone who works from home, I spend a lot of time at my desk. And while I’m a self-proclaimed introvert, the monotony of hours upon hours in the same spot can feel constricting, even for me. Reading outside is a welcome change of pace. It’s nice to roll down my windows, breathe the fresh morning air, and see the sunlight filter through the trees.
Sacramento summer days are harsh, so reading in the mornings lets me take advantage of the brief window when the weather is cool. Engaging with God’s creation, even in this small way, helps me to be more cheerful in the Lord.
#2: It Takes Advantage of Environmental Context
In his series on Atomic Habits, Professor David Murray writes about how one of his mentors had a dedicated personal devotions chair.
He found that if he sat in his desk chair, his mind was distracted and pulled towards the work that he he had to do that day. He could get no peace to settle on seeking the Lord for his own soul. He therefore got an armchair for his study and always uses that for the one purpose of personal devotions…when he sits in that chair every day, all the sensory cues prompt him to get into personal devotions mode. There is no internal argument or discussion. The chair “automatically” puts him in the mood and mind for this indispensable foundation of personal spirituality and ministry faithfulness.
Why does dedicating a chair for personal devotions seem to make reading and praying easier? Murray cites the importance of having a clearly defined environmental context:
“Habits thrive under predictable circumstances…Focus comes automatically when you are sitting at your work desk. Relaxation is easier when you are in a space designed for that purpose. Sleep comes quickly when it is the only thing that happens in your bedroom. If you want behaviors that are stable and predictable, you need an environment that is stable and predictable. A stable environment where everything has a place and a purpose is an environment where habits can easily form.” (Atomic Habits, pg. 90)
Something like this happens when I read in my car in the morning. On the one hand, there are less distractions — I have no Internet, I’m away from my computer, and I stow my phone away safely in my backpack. But not only that, I’ve associated the habit of driving to the park with morning devotions. So that, when I park my car, I don’t have to muster up my determination to start reading. The habit of reading flows naturally from the environmental context.
A Few Tools
A Steering Wheel Desk
When I first thought of this idea a few years ago, I experimented with this Steering Wheel Desk. It’s relatively cheap and works well if you want to type on your laptop or eat a meal in your car. It also doubles well as a hard writing surface for my next suggestion.
An iPad Tri-Fold Case
This was a more recent discovery. I use this tri-fold case for my iPad. I’ve been using my iPad for devotions and reading (a discussion for another time). Recently, I discovered if you fold the tri-fold case behind the steering wheel, it will suspend itself. I’ll then use the steering wheel desk as hard surface and jot down thoughts in a notebook.
Until next time!
I’m starting a recurring series of outside-the-box productivity “hacks.” These are meant to be helpful but also a little silly, so don’t take them too seriously! Let me know if you try any of these or if you have any odd productivity tips and tricks of your own!