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Natural Element: Away from My Desk

Where people go to get stuff done: it's not the cubicle.

Where do you go to do your best thinking? In most people's minds, productivity takes place at their desk. But for some, it's good to get away once in a while. Even corporations are catching on, giving workers the freedom to set up shop wherever they can get the most done, be it a colleague's cubicle or a city park. PT talked to three workers about the spaces that work best for them.

Center of the Cyclone

Brett Nomberg, a senior partner at Brand Brand Nomberg & Rosenbaum law firm in Manhattan, works 12-hour days on particularly tough cases. When he needs a change of scene to refocus and clear his head, he moves to an empty conference room and closes the door. In this new space, without the distractions of phone calls and coworkers disrupting him, Nomberg can look at the case with fresh eyes. "Bringing work to the conference room provides me with more space to think and to mentally recharge," he says.

Change of Scenery

As a freelance book publicist in Minneapolis, Chelsea Brennan worked industriously at her desk in the quiet and comfort of her apartment. But when she occasionally needed a spark of creativity, she headed to a local coffee shop called Urban Bean. Spread out at one of the library-sized tables and surrounded by freelancers and students, Chelsea would feel stimulated. "For creative work, I need to mix up my surroundings in order to think about things differently," she says.

Forage, Then Focus

Judy Schachner, author and illustrator of the wildly inventive children's book Skippyjon Jones , searches for ideas in her environment—while riding the train, browsing in bookstores and art museums, shopping, and even moving furniture around her house in Pennsylvania. But while her surroundings inform her work, she channels that input best when hunkered away. "Nothing is better than being locked away in my studio," she says. "It's where I can get into a zone, and it's in that space where I feel totally inspired."