Escape from the office!

I was very lucky when I was going through my program. I had an office (at least most of the time, there was one semester of transition where I worked out of the conference room).  But the point was, I had a home base.  I had a place where when I got there, I knew it was time to work.  And it was wonderful, most of the time.

There was one slight problem.  This office was a windowless six feet by twelve feet, and I shared it with two other people, plus who ever had stopped by to hang out or for tutoring.  If someone was meeting with one of the other GAs, I was in the way. I was distracted.  I couldn’t get my work done.  So, office or not, I had to find another location. It turns out, it was one of the best things that happened.


Even if I had been alone in “The Bunker” as we called it, I still would not have been as productive as was necessary sometimes.  So, what’s a deadline-pending grad student to do? Unless you’re running code or models and just HAVE to have your office computer, escape.  Now, I know not everyone has an official office.  But everyone has SOMETHING that is their office.  It’s where you do most of your work. It may be a spare bedroom, a corner of your bedroom, or your kitchen table. The principle is still the same. Change your surroundings.

It doesn’t have to be drastic. Sometimes, I’d go use a study nook on another floor of my building.  Our library had some pretty nice study rooms that I frequented quite often.  But even if your school doesn’t have those resources, there are alternatives.

There are very few college towns I’ve seen without a coffee shop. Milledgeville was actually one of them for a long time, but that has long since changed.  Now, in the downtown area, there are three different ones and another on the north side of town. My personal favorite (yes, I’m giving them a free endorsement) is Blackbird.  It’s small, local, and was the first to venture downtown.  As such, it’s a staple of downtown culture. They have a bit of everything, from students, professors, administration, to other downtown merchants. They have caffeine.  They have comfortable couches.  They have free WiFi.  What more could a nerd want?

There is one other place that I really enjoyed escaping to for study time, or now, research and grading time.  I am obviously a self-described nerd.  But sometimes, I feel the need to get outdoors. When this happens, I head to the local park.  The Oconee River Greenway is along the Oconee River, has walking trails, and plenty of tables and benches to sit and read.  On thing that is missing at this park, and most parks, is WiFi.  But with 3G technology becoming more and more popular, it’s becoming less of an issue. My netbook comes with 100 MB per month free.  Now, that’s not a lot.  But WiFi is so popular, I don’t have to use my 3G that often. Most of the time, I just venture to the Greenway when I have something printed that needs to be read.

I know every situation is different, but this has worked for me.  I used these escapes to be able to refocus on my work, instead of people constantly stopping by to talk, or for tutoring (after I completed my weekly hours, of course).  It was also amazing how many times an new location provided a new perspective on whatever was my task for the day. Sometimes a quick lap around the building, downtown, or the Greenway got the blood flowing again, woke me up, and gave me a chance to thing about what needed to be done without a blank screen glaring at me.

1 thought on “Escape from the office!

  1. I agree there is a recurrent theme of graduate students seeking an escape from the pressures of university life. Of course, my friends who were already working would sarcastically ask why a student would need to escape from something that was not considered “the real world.” At UM we had several smoothie bars and Duffy’s sports bar (plenty of televisions, cheap beer, and cheeseburgers). The most important feature for an escape location was it’s ‘cool’ rating. I do not mean where all the “kool students” congregated. What was important was that the venue had cold air conditioning. Of course we had the usual library study rooms but if we desired a more through re-charge then a short trip off-campus was necessary. Coral Gables has miles of great bike paths. One short ride through old trees and mangroves ended at Matheson Hammock. Students could cool off in its man-made lagoon. Swimmers who were fearful of the little fish called Jaws frequented it. Students would not only take their books but mosquito repellent was mandatory. No, no sunscreen. Another popular escape, though much further, was over Rickenbacker Causeway; pass Hobie Island Beach to Crandon Park Marina. If a fellow student was lucky enough to have the keys (one key to open the cabin and another to start the engines) we could motor to Biscayne National Park. Believe it or not, parents may offer a cabin key but seldom offered the engine key. Even docked, completing homework while sitting on an old Hatteras sport fisherman – priceless. Lesson: some of the best memories from college may come from beyond the classroom.

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