May 10, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Concentration is essential when your writing your thesis -- so much so, in fact, that many PhD students find that their usual study spots may not cut it when it comes to facilitating complete and total focus. Whether you’re just starting to write your thesis, midway through it, or in the home stretch, finding a place that supports your productivity can be a liberating part of the process.

Wondering where to begin when it comes to finding your own special spot? We’ve got four options, along with tips for turning your own space into a writing-friendly retreat if you can’t get away.

1. Places of worship

Did you know that you can book a stay at a convent in Europe or a Buddhist monastery in Asia?  Sure, these accommodations are usually Spartan with strict rules and regulations regarding silence and technology, but couldn’t that be exactly what you need to focus on the task at hand? You may not even have to worry about what you’ll eat as many monastery lodgings offer communal meals as part of the lodging fee. Some monasteries are even designated as retreat spaces for writers, such as Yankton Benedictines Sacred Heart Monastery in South Dakota.

An added bonus? Many monasteries are situated in remote locations and surrounded by nature -- which research has linked to significant positive psychological effects, including 50 percent more creativity. If you do venture outside, make sure to note the curfew. Most monasteries lock their doors at night, so you may find locked out if you’re not paying close attention to the time.

Thinking a stay at a monastery may be just what you need to get your creative juices flowing? Check out this roundup of the 10 Top Monastic Guesthouses in Europe.

2. Island escapes

When a member of the PhDStudies.com team was writing her thesis, she used to escape to a family-owned island off the Norwegian coast. There, she enjoyed a rustic, distraction-free existence with (most) of the comforts of home. Today, she recalls, “It was the perfect kind of isolation for concentration and productivity.”

While most people may not have access to their very own islands, an away-from-the-mainlands excursion may be just what the doctor -- and by “doctor,” we mean your PhD advisor -- ordered. In discussing her own escape to the uninhabited Bleaker Island in winter for six solitary weeks of writing, aspiring novelist-turned-memoirist Nell Stevens said of her quest, “I find myself pining for empty, remote places: snow plains, broad lakes, oceans, wherever there is more nothing than there is something.”

3. Resorts and hotels

If you prefer your islands of a more tropical nature (and you’ve got the budget to spare), a getaway to a sunnier location may be a better choice. Think of it as an investment in your future: After all, completing your dissertation is a necessary part of completing your PhD, and your PhD will open the door to many exciting new opportunities.

Another benefit of working on your thesis at a resort destination? When you need a break, you’ll have your pick of entertainment options. Of course, if you’re the type of person who is too easily distracted, a resort destination may offer diminishing returns when it comes to productivity.

4. Libraries

If your budget skews more towards “free,” a library may make more sense. But we don’t mean any old library. Instead, take time to find a library that truly inspires you. The good news? The world is full of them. But don’t take our word for it. Instead, check out Travel & Leisure’s catalog of 20 Libraries So Beautiful They’ll Bring Out the Bookworm in Everyone.

And while writing your thesis in a library may not give you the most exciting stories to tell, it will help you get a giant step closer to your goals.

One last thing to keep in mind? If you can’t pull off an actual escape, you can create an escape of your own at home. Turn your living space into an appealing study spot by designating a comfortable working space (with plenty of natural light, if possible) and setting a fixed schedule with time for work and time for “play.”

And remember: Wherever you may be, writing your thesis doesn’t have to be a chore -- especially when you’re doing it in an environment that’s conducive to inspiration, creativity and productivity. 

(Self-care is also important while you're working on your PhD. Be sure to check out How to Stay Healthy While Finishing Your PhD for tips.)



Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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