The extent to which you are able to focus your mind on your most important work and studies depends not only on your own mind’s capacity to focus but also on how well you chose your work environment.
During my school days and for a large portion of my life after that, I used to only study and work within the confines of my own bedroom. It was so convenient! You’d roll out of bed and your desk is right there with all your gear ready to go.
Although working in your own room (or another room in your home) may seem the best location to do your work, I’ve experimented and found that nothing takes your concentration and quality of work up a notch than leaving your home and finding some other place to study.
This idea forms the basis of this post.
Where are the best places to study and work for maximum focus, efficiency and effectiveness?
As I’ve already outlined I’ve found that for me that the best places are away from where you spend the majority of your time.
In this post, I’ll cover some ideas and help you find the best place for you to do your most important work. I’ll also cover the best place that works for me and how I get the most out of working from my favourite place.
Your Ability to Focus & Study Depends on Your Chosen Place of Study
I’ve often struggled with focusing on my studies (in my earlier years), work and getting things done.
Since I’ve come to a realisation that I have struggled, I have begun to pay attention to methods and strategies I can use to learn to become more efficient and effective during the times that I have set out to work.
This is not about cramming in and doing as much work or stuff as much as possible within 24 hours, but rather, learning how to focus more intensely during a work session.
The result of this will be that you will get more done, but you’ll also be able to schedule fewer hours of work time because you’re more effective overall.
I believe the environment you choose to do your work in will play a large part in your ability to achieve high levels of focus and how ‘deep’ you work.
This statement is obviously nothing new nor ground-breaking but it is something that people who are unable to focus may need to pay more attention to.
Why the Best Place to Study is NOT at Home
In my opinion, the worst place to study or work in is your bedroom or any other place where you spend most of your time (for example your kitchen or living room).
However, I am not saying that you should never work in your bedroom or home. Often if you have small simple tasks or only need to spend 10 minutes doing something your bedroom will be fine.
On the other hand, if you want to be able to access greater creativity and focus more deeply on your most important task then I’ve found its best to find some other place to work.
There are several reasons why I think this is true.
The ‘Right’ Mindset
To focus deeply on your work you need your mind to click into a ‘study’ mindset where it can remain in that mode for enough time to get your work done.
The problem with your own home is that your mind subconsciously associates other activities with that location, rather than doing work.
For example, if you are studying in your bedroom and you tend to spend a lot of time playing video games there, it is harder for your mind to get into work mode because currently, your mind associates your room with ‘fun.’
By moving to a new area outside of your home you can teach your mind to associate that new area with such terms as focus, concentration and work.
Fresh Air, Fresh Mind
The other reason why I think it’s important to work outside of your home is that by travelling to your new location to work, you get to move your body, breathe in fresh air and get some natural sunlight onto your face.
This provides an often overlooked and invigorating experience that will leave you fresh and ready to get on with your work once you arrive.
Clutter-Free Work Areas
Not everyone has a clutter-free room or home, and if this is true for you, then in most cases the clutter will spill over onto your work area. This can be problematic because working in a cluttered area is generally not conducive to highly focused work.
By leaving your home you can take advantage of locations which can provide a large and clutter-free work surface for you to use.
What About a Home Office or Home Studio?
This can work too.
Not everyone is able to easily pack up their work or study materials and just leave their home. A lot of people need large screens, printers, specialised devices and other large and advanced tools to do their work which they cannot take to their local study place.
The best thing to do is to make sure your place of study in the home is kept only as a place of work and not for other things such as watching TV or playing online games.
I do feel though that you miss out on the mental and physical ‘reset’ you get from heading for a location outside of your home, however having your own home office is certainly a good thing because going out all the time to find someplace to work is not always possible or the best action to take.
Some Study Places to Try
Here are some places that you may want to try out.
Not all of them work for me, but I wanted to get as many ideas as possible because different places work for different people and not everyone will have easy access to all the places on this list.
Most people will have access to a park or some open green area.
If its nice weather and warm enough outside, the park can be a great place to study or work and give you a fresh supply of oxygen to stimulate the mind. One of the best things about the park is that its free also.
It does have its downsides, however. For one, it’s not really a suitable place if you have a lot of tools, devices and books. It’s best to work sitting upright with good posture at a desk with a large surface area for your things such as your books and laptop.
For the most part, you’ll either be working on the floor in a grassy area or on a bench which isn’t the best environment for this type of work.
I wouldn’t recommend the park unless you have one or two books maximum or are doing something simple such as note-taking or reading.
If you belong to a school or university many times you’ll come across an empty room that may be available to study. They can work well as they are quiet, spacious and have large desks.
Working in an empty classroom has never appealed to me as I always feel like a class of students or a janitor could walk in at any moment possibly interrupting your study.
Personally, I could never feel relaxed in this type of working condition which is why it doesn’t work for me but could be worth trying if you have never tried doing it.
If you have a library close to you then that could be a good option to study.
I find that working and studying in libraries can be a bit hit and miss depending on what your local library is like.
Personally, my local library is not well suited to my needs. It has all the attributes of a location that would be great for studying. It’s bright, modern and recently refurbished, however I find that no matter how hard I try I cannot sink into a state of deep focus. I’m not sure on the precise reason for this but I feel it could be down to the type of desk and chairs that they use. My local library has only a few desks available and most of them resemble the experience of sitting on a stool at a bar.
The point I am trying to make is that if you find that you cannot work to the best of your ability at your local library, then don’t sweat it. If you’re lucky enough and live in a busier location, there may be more than one nearby. Switch it up until you find one that you like.
The advantage of studying in a library is that they are mostly free to use, quiet and have spacious desks.
Coffee Shop: My Favourite
Personally, I do a lot of my most important and creative work at my local coffee shop as I find it works best for a number of reasons.
If you’ve never considered studying in a coffee shop then it may be a location worth trying out. I don’t always do all my work in a coffee shop but tend to switch it up depending on my work and how I feel.
In this section, I’ll outline a few reasons why it works for me, as well as some of the disadvantages.
Advantages of Studying at a Coffee Shop
There’s a lot of coffee shops – Coffee shops are plentiful and are literally popping up everywhere.
I live in a small town with one high street and I can think of four different coffee shops I could potentially study in. All have different atmospheres and I’ve managed to find one that fits my needs.
On the other hand, libraries tend to be more spread out and can vary in how comfortable they are to work in. As I mentioned before, my local library did not work for me, which is why I switched to doing my work in a coffee shop.
Short Travel Time – Along the same lines as above, if there’s a lot of choices then there’s usually a coffee shop nearby. This reduces the travel time required to get to your place of study. If there’s one within walking distance then that’s even better.
My chosen coffee shop is around 10-15 minutes walk away from me, which is perfect so I can get some fresh air, light exercise and movement in my legs before sitting down to focus for a couple of hours.
Atmosphere & Energy – Research has shown that low ambient noise can improve brain function and cognition. In a coffee shop, this would be the low murmur of other peoples conversations, the noise of the coffee machine grinding away or the low volume Jazz music playing in the background.
In addition, there is a special type of energy that a well-chosen coffee shop can emit which helps fire you up or inspire you to increase your creativity or focus.
A lot of people who work from home, full-time bloggers or entrepreneurs are often at these places quietly working away. Some individuals, such as myself, can feed off this energy and act as a reminder that there are other people who also have important work to do. This is something that you will not get from working at home.
It’s a Reward – Studying and working in a coffee shop which is comfortable, has a great atmosphere and is somewhat luxurious can act as a subconscious indicator to your mind that you are doing important work. In many ways, you are rewarding yourself for putting in hard focused work.
Contrast this with working in a dingy, uncomfortable and cold library and it may feel like you are punishing yourself for deciding to do your important work or studies.
Disadvantages of Studying at a Coffee Shop
Like all other places, doing your work in a coffee shop comes with some disadvantages which I will cover here.
It Can be Considered Expensive – If you’re going to work in a coffee shop then you’ll have to buy something.
Drinks from coffee shops are known for being notoriously expensive even if they do taste great!
If you’re a student or looking to save money this is going to be one of the largest barriers to working in a coffee shop on a regular basis. This is a major advantage most other locations have over a coffee shop.
One option to try and get around the expensive prices is to buy something on the cheaper side such as a bottle of water (which can still be overpriced) or a small pastry. Another smart way could be to plan to have either breakfast or lunch at a coffee shop rather than buying lunch somewhere else and buying additional things at the coffee shop just so you can work there.
I have weighed up the trade-off between the cost and using a coffee shop as a place of work and find that I am willing to pay the price of a small coffee to work there because I get so much good work done there.
In addition, I reward myself with a nice coffee at the same time for all my efforts!
Some Noise Can Be Distracting – I find that I can work well with background noise and may even work better with it than none at all. If you’re someone who loves working with ‘white noise’ then the coffee shop should work well for you.
There are however occasions where the type of noise in a coffee shop may change to such a degree that it becomes distracting.
For example, there may be the odd occasion where two mothers bring their rather loud newborn babies to the place where you’re working.
This is one of the major disadvantages of a coffee shop.
For a large part, if you have chosen your coffee shop well, you will pick a quieter one where this type of situation occurs less often.
Strangely enough I find that I can work well in situations like this, however, I am always prepared and carry a pair of noise-cancelling headphones should this happen (more on this later).
This means I can pop on my headphones and listen to focus music whilst I work should a particular noise distract me.
Best Practices for Studying at a Coffee Shop or On-the-Go
Studying or doing work on-the-go requires much different preparation than if you were working in your own home.
There are certain tools, gear and security issues you’ll need to consider to make your studying away from home as hassle-free as possible.
This section will outline some best practices and tips for being productive in your work whilst at your favourite study location.
1. Get a Good Bag & Keep it Organised
You’ll want a strong and secure bag to store all your gear. It should also be comfortable to wear so that when you are going to do your deep work your bag feels like a luxury rather than a chore.
If you have a laptop then get a backpack which has a special section for it to slide into where it will remain protected and separated from other materials that may damage it.
Always keep your bag packed with the basic items (e.g. pens & notebook) you need so you can easily grab it and leave your home without having to spend a long time packing it every time you want to study.
The quicker it is to take it and leave your home the less likely you are to procrastinate and abandon your plan to do work.
2. Your Chosen Study Place Should be Close By
A good rule of thumb of a good study location is for it to be close by. There is nothing worse than having to go on an hour train ride every time you want to study or do some work.
A location that is within walking distance is the most desirable in my opinion.
If the walk to your study place is also calming and refreshing such as by a river or through a green area then this is a plus as this should also improve your mood and help with cognitive function.
3. Have a Quality Set of Headphones in Case
Some people like to listen to music as it helps them to focus better during their work or help block out unwanted sounds.
I used to listen to special focus music but now rely less on this tactic as I find that ambient ‘white noise’ (such as natural coffee shop noise) works well for me.
In any case, I do have a good pair of headphones and earphones should there be a type of noise that I find particularly distracting.
If you study out a lot or rely on music to help you focus then it’s worthwhile getting a pair of headphones that are noise cancelling. These special kinds of headphones reduce unwanted outside noise by producing an opposite sound which ‘cancels’ out the intruding sound.
The result of using this type of headphone is an enhanced listening experience where all outside noise disappears and only the music can be heard.
I have two of these type of headphones the Bose QC35, which go over the ear, and the Bose QC30, which are in-ear.
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These types of headphones are not cheap, however, if you are serious about producing good work or use headphones a lot, a quality pair of headphones can make a great deal of difference by blocking out distracting noises whilst you work.
4. Be Respectful to Others
We just discussed using music and headphones whilst working which brings me conveniently to the next point. If you do use headphones make sure that they aren’t so loud that everyone else nearby doesn’t become distracted by the noise of your headphones.
In addition rather than having all your gear, bag, books and coat sprayed out across numerous desks only take up the space you need.
5. Tools & Gear
Your bag should be packed with the essentials you’ll need almost all the time. This could include several pens, a notebook, a spare charger for your phone or laptop.
These are items that you don’t want to have to pack every time especially chargers for your phone or laptop.
Invest in getting additional chargers for these items so that they specifically live in your work bag 24/7. The worst thing that could happen is you arrive at your study place and realise you only have 10% battery left on your laptop and you forgot to bring your charger!
6. Decide What You’re Going to Do Before You Go
It’s always best practice to have in mind the work you are going to do before you arrive at your destination.
It is not a good idea to simply arrive then decide what you’re going to do when you get there.
By planning your work beforehand you can head to your workplace with focus and a goal in mind rather than arriving in a state of confusion and uncertainty.
7. Leave Internet Heavy Work for Home
On the same note as above, the best type of work to do in a public workspace should be one that does not rely too heavily on a secure and fast internet connection.
It’s no secret that most free public wi-fi networks are useless and unreliable. Therefore if your work requires you to watch instructional videos, rather than stream them over public wi-fi, find a way to download them beforehand.
Similarly, if you need to do video chats or Skype calls, save this kind of work for your home.
The less reliant you are on a good internet connection the better. Work such as reading notes, writing in an offline document or low levels of internet research is best.
8. Internet Security
Using a public wi-fi can be unsafe at times so make sure to take the necessary precautions to keep your operating software up to date on your computer.
If you don’t need to use the internet then there’s no reason to connect at all.
You can also take additional steps such as using a VPN or firewall.
Furthermore, if you are doing work that is private or contains sensitive data make sure no one is looking over your shoulder!
9. If You Need to Pee – Take Your Stuff with You
If you need to get up and go to the bathroom then its best to pack up all your valuables and take them with you.
There’s no point risking leaving your valuables (such as a laptop) out even if you are only going for a couple of seconds.
If I ever need the bathroom I close my laptop, slide it into its sleeve and take it under my arm with me.
I would also advise against asking a stranger to watch your stuff whilst you go to the bathroom too. There’s a strange trust mechanism we have where we somehow trust the person sitting next to us for no apparent reason especially if they were there before we got there.
It may be inconvenient to pack up your stuff every time but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you are that lazy then at least take your most valuable things with you.
Test Them Out & Find Which Place Works Best For You
You and I are different in may ways, including our study preferences.
Some study places work for others and some do not. If you know people who study in a library and seem to get a lot of work done, but you find that this is not the same for you, then don’t feel bad you may have to try somewhere else.
One very important point I want to make is that you do not have to have one study place that you must study in.
You can have more than one and switch them up. In fact, this is a fantastic tactic especially if you have to work for long periods of the day.
By switching up your locations, often times the short travel time between them can act as an effective reset from your work and you can feel fresh for your next work session.
In addition, I want to emphasise that working from home or in your room is not a bad thing but you will likely get best results if you leave the work that requires the most focus for outside of your home.
If you have simple admin tasks or ‘fun’ work this can be saved for home. Remember that different kinds of work will be best suited to different locations.
I myself will go to a coffee shop for a maximum of 2 hours in the morning to do my most important focused work and then I’ll go home and do ‘easier’ work, or work that requires a large desktop screen in the afternoon. You do not need to spend all day at your chosen place of study.
There’s so much to write on how to focus and concentrate, I could have written for a lot longer! If you are interested in reading more you can also read my article on how to concentrate on your studies.
Either way, never give up and try new places all the time to keep things fresh and find what works for you!