Today is the third day of our “Share your Workspace” GradHacker photo contest. From now until Nov 21st (11:59 pm EST) you can submit photos of your workspace(s) to win one of five fabulous prize packages from our sponsors. Winners are selected based on number of public votes, so be sure to share your workspace with friends and colleagues.

Photo of doorknob with "Do Not Disturb" engraved

Kelly Hanson is a PhD candidate in English at Indiana University, Bloomington. You can find her on Twitter at @krh121910.

It seems Virginia Woolf was right, again: to write productively, I need a room of my own. While everybody works differently and is able to be productive in different types of spaces, I have found the most important factor in my writing is having a private space in which to write. Being able to control the noise, temperature, light, and furniture allows me to construct a positive and productive space away from meetings, talks, teaching, and the distractions of everyday life in order to focus on my work for a few hours a day. Having a quiet, consistent space where you can work is crucial to helping you set up a daily writing schedule.

How to Create a Room of One’s Own

While some people can work productively in the library, at a coffee shop, or on their couch, not everyone can be productive in spaces that are both social and work-related (like a coffee shop) or that are both personal and work related (like your bedroom). The key is to figure out how you relate to your writing space and how you can make it a comfortable, private, and productive writing space for a few hours each day.

Begin by focusing on the physical space in which you work. You might take a picture of your writing space or spaces (most of us have several) and think about how you feel in relation to this space. How do you relate to your workspace?

Next, think about how this space can work to promote privacy and focus when working. A private workspace should take advantage of your spatial preferences, but it should also help you put on your blinders: shut the door, sit down, and work.

Finally, think about where you work compared to where you can set up a private workspace. Think especially about which workspaces you can commit to being in during your dedicated writing times, and which spaces you have control over. If you have a crazy schedule, you may only need to find time to be in the space for a few hours a day, or on certain days of the week.

For guidance, I’ve compiled four types of private (or semi-private) workspaces available to (and I think ideal for) the graduate student work process:

Room of Your Own #1: Use Your Office

I am lucky enough to be in a  program that offers graduate students shared offices. This may not be an option for everyone, so if this doesn’t reflect your situation, skip ahead to the next section! For those of you who have the luxury of an on-campus office: consider using it for writing and research, and not simply for office hours. Many students don’t take advantage of the office space on our campus, because it isn’t centrally located or might be in an uncomfortable old building. However, I’ve found the office’s privacy-in small, concentrated doses-extremely productive and helpful, and this outweighs all other issues that might arise.

Room of Your Own #2: Create a Home Office Space

For grad students without the luxury of a private office space, your house or apartment will likely be the next best option for creating a private writing space. If you live with others, a room where you can close the door is ideal in this regard, because you can close the door and work for a few hours. If your room is a place you feel comfortable working, using it as a writing base can dramatically boost productivity (as opposed to, say, working on the couch in a common area, where you can be interrupted or distracted or develop horrible posture and back problems). The key with the home office is to have a place where you can shut the door and focus, and that may be your bedroom, a separate room, or even a repurposed walk-in closet.

Room of Your Own #3: Rent a Space

If your university does not provide you with office space and your living situation is not an option for a private writing space, you might consider renting a desk or workspace in a shared work area. Many of us already do this when we work in coffee shops or cafés: you pay for your use of the space by purchasing an item.

Rented workspaces may include a library carrel (usually free) or finding a rentable office or desk somewhere in your town. Websites like Sharedesk and Liquidspace seem aimed at companies who want to maximize profits by renting out unused space, but for our purposes, these websites offer the opportunity for you to search for a comfortable, semi-private co-working space where you can go and write. In our small college town, there are two or three shared workspace areas which can be rented on a daily, monthly, or weekly basis.

Room of Your Own #4: Make a Public Space into a Private Space

If you have multiple roommates or officemates, or don’t want to pay the big bucks for a private room, consider investing in earplugs (disposable or reusable) in order to carry your own private space with you. If you can’t shut the door, you can at least shut out the noise. Earplugs help minimize distractions, especially in louder public spaces like coffee shops. Even in already quiet places, like a library, they help create a small bubble of private space in the middle of the public sphere.

What about you? What type of private working spaces do you prefer? How do you make spaces private, quiet, and productive?

Do you have a room of your own to showcase? Submit a photo via Facebook or share a photo on Twitter, or Instagram using #GHspaces to enter our GradHacker workspaces photo contest. We’ll be awarding five prize packages including items from some great online retailers to help you set up your workspace (see the contest page for more information). The winning entries will be announced here on the blog, this Friday, November 22.

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