My study ‘spot’: Exclusion criteria for thesis writing

Earlier in August, Cally Guerin penned an interesting post about where she works best. I’d been thinking of writing something about my working environment, so I was delighted to read her post.

The title of this post is a (slightly adapted) reference to The Big Bang Theory, where one character – Sheldon Cooper – is notably possessive over one seat in his flat. It’s the perfect seat for him. It is where he rests, and is very different to where he works (his desk). The concept of eating at his desk or working in his ‘spot’ is completely alien to him.

The ‘spot’ I refer to in the title is my equivalent of Sheldon’s desk, which may be confusing. It’s where I work, but it’s not a desk. Honestly, I don’t work well at desks.

Rather than talking about where I do study well, it works better to describe where I don’t work well. Call these exclusion criteria, if you will…

  1. Somewhere without a power source for my Macbook
  2. At a desk
  3. Somewhere extremely noisy (but much worse is the following…)
  4. Somewhere with lots of people, but total silence
  5. Somewhere where I am likely to be interrupted

So what do we have there? The power source criterion is fairly self-explanatory. I work well at a computer, and I need it to stay alive. The desk thing is just me – I have always loved to work on a sofa. Cross legged, with a computer on my lap, is perfect. High noise levels aren’t really a problem for me, unless they’re really high. But low noise levels drive me crazy. If I’m alone, that’s fine. But if there are lots of people around, ALL BEING QUIET, that pushes some buttons for me. Mainly, I think it’s because I’m happiest in casual situations, where I don’t have to worry about doing something wrong. The fear of coughing, or having to unzip a bag is too great for me to work well in these situations. And as for the interruption – I expect this is common to most people doing jobs that require sustained thought.

Where can I work? Not the library, that violates criteria 4 and 2. Not our school computer lab (we don’t have offices), as that’s criterion 4 out of the window. Cafes are my friend. As is my study at home.

I’m lucky enough to have a study (or as I like to call it, a room with a sofa, a piano, and lots of books I have yet to read. There’s not even a desk anymore). And it is the perfect place to work. No-one interrupts me (I’m working with my other half on that one). There’s no oppressive silence. I have, like, 8 power points. And there’s a beautiful, comfy sofa.

Even better (this is a plus), I have an extra computer set up, connected to an external monitor, where I often play music or episodes of TV shows (this helps me focus more than almost anything else – a post on this will appear at a later date).

So that is my ‘spot’.

What are your exclusion criteria for a productive working environment? Have you found your study spot? Let me know in the comments!



  1. Hi! Thought this was a great post and something I have been thinking about lately as I have recently discovered I work better in a cafe than a library (after years of silent working!). My key exclusions are:

    1. Silence (completely ugh now)
    2. No one else working there! I need to see other eager beavers to get myself motivated.
    3. No windows: I have to be able to stare off into space occasionally (while I gather my thoughts, think about lunch, plan how I will spend my lottery winnings…)
    4. No powerpoints. I tend to work in my college cafe at the moment and there’s only two power points so I charge in early to grab myself one.
    5. Earl Grey isnt available! Tis my work juice!

    Beth :)

  2. I am totally the same way about quiet but densely populated spaces! I’d much rather there’s a bustle going on around me if there are other people. It gives a sense of peace because of the anonymity!

      1. I tend to work in silence when alone — if you don’t count the obnoxious noises my cats make while trying to get my attention that is. It really depends on the task though. If I’m doing conference admin stuff, I like to have music or even TV. If I’m researching or writing: silence or white noise.

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