Optimal working environments?

I have a feeling my optimal working environment is the one I had during my undergrad – in third and fourth year I rarely did work alone, unless I was up in the weird hours of the night. Instead, I worked either in my room with one or two friends, or in someone else’s room with one or two of us in there. And in fourth year we decamped to the college library, where we either worked in the quiet space at big tables where we could make faces at one another and share coffee, or in the study rooms, where we’d be able to talk occasionally.

And I got lots of work done.

Now I work under library conditions, and I end up talking to the internet a lot. Except today I ended up in an entirely different place, and knocked out about two pages of thesis and some tutorial readings in the company of one of the MDST undergrads, and, later in the afternoon, her regular study-buddy. We had that fantastic study-conversation thing going which sounds like a dialogue until you tune in and realise that one half of it consists of, in this case, mutterings about Norse vocabulary (was it a sent message, or a foot-message? As it turns out, it was a foot-message) and the other bitchings and moanings about Chrétien de Troyes.

I got a remarkable amount of work done. And I was cheerful while doing it! So, I think, was my temporary study-buddy.

This is weird, because I know from experience that I can’t get much work done at home, even when my housemate was here working on her honours thesis from home. I can get teaching prep and marking done (this involves a lot of muttering  and is best not done in silent spaces) at home, and even thesis readings, but not writings. So it can’t just be that I work better in the company of other geeks – my housemate is pretty geektastic, after all. But maybe I should look into finding regular study partners, and also somewhere to work that isn’t a library…

Tell me about your working environments? Are they productive ones? Why?

[Ed: and this evening, O Internets, I got lost in Central Station. I’ve only lived here for seven years!]

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6 Responses to “Optimal working environments?”

  1. Chally Says:

    I’ve lived here three times as long as you have and I get lost in Central Station!

    I usually need absolute silence and alone time to work effectively – but when I’m in a distractable mood, sometimes it helps to have someone to IM to keep me on task. I prefer working at home.

    • highlyeccentric Says:

      I used to be really good at working from home – I mean, I worked in my college bedroom as well as slept and procrastinated and had my social life there! But it just doesn’t happen anymore 😦

      Absolute silence freaks me out. *Clings to her headphones* And… yeah, actually, even under silent library conditions I prefer to have people around me. My friend V and I did a fair bit of work opposite one another in the BL in London; once I moved to a different room I got zippo done.

  2. T Says:

    I can’t study in silence. Right now I’m in my uni office (better described as a cave) and so far I have struggled to read one article, had a nap on the floor, and now I’m reading your blog.

    I find the best study environment for me is a cafe, somewhere with a hum of activity and no pressure to leave after my coffee. As long as other students don’t sit right next to me and start discussing their sex lives/views on torture porn/arguments with their boyfriend/girlfriend/parents, I usually get quite a bit done. Actually, I should probably go there right now.

    • highlyeccentric Says:

      Silence is baaaad! Especially in libraries. Any good Dr Who watcher knows what happens with silence in libraries.

      As long as other students don’t sit right next to me and start discussing their sex lives/views on torture porn/arguments with their boyfriend/girlfriend/parents, I usually get quite a bit done.

      Be glad you live a long way from me and my brother! Although I don’t think we’ve pontificated on the subject of torture porn in a cafe recently… the rest of it, well, we make it our business to traumatise assorted cafes every so often ;).

      Hope your thesis is coming along well!

  3. Jonathan Jarrett Says:

    I can’t really get the hang of working in cafés, partly because of tuning into other people’s conversations but mainly because these days paying someone so that I can work seems the wrong way round. I work in one of three places: at home, with music on unless I’m composing, which has the disadvantages of ready procrastination via housework and Internet but the advantages of proximity to notes and most of my books; in the office, which really I mainly use for administrative and computing stuff (as right now) as it is not especially comfortable for reading, taking notes means somehow sidelining the computer peripherals or working off a coffee table; or in libraries, which is ideal as long as I’m only reading—can’t write in libraries, too much uncontrolled noise—but means I am persistently afraid of talking to myself without noticing. Also, chatty staff. I miss Cambridge UL’s Reading Room which is apparently the quietest library space with people in it known to man.

    I think what we learn from this is that the physical space and ergonomics of my environment are more important to me than most other things about it and that tea is not necessarily a force for productivity even though it seems so.


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