How Do You Work Best?

The other week, I went to a book reading by Kate White for the release of her new book, Eyes on You. She’s pretty amazing and the Q&A section after was full of inspiration and great tips. I’m always too afraid to ask questions at these sorts of things, so I’m glad the audience asked things that I was wondering too!
One of the questions asked was how Kate White works best. This book is her first book that she wrote as a full-time author so finding time to write– and how she wrote– was different than ever before. Even though she’s a night-owl, she finds that she writes best when she starts first thing in the morning. With a big table and space to write. Wearing comfortable clothes that can transition to a lunch meeting if one pops up. Listening to a wonderful symphony over and over.
I love hearing how people work. It’s kind of like the “What’s In Your Bag” thing where it’s a bit curiosity and a bit nosiness. And also I love seeing if there’s new things I can practice myself.
What I liked about Kate White’s explanation was that she admitted to making changes and figuring out what really worked best for her. Having gone through a few life transitions (high school – college – full time job – self-employed), it’s been interesting how my working style has changed as well! Even day-to-day, it changes per specific tasks.
Growing up, I used to need complete silence. Mostly in elementary and middle school. I really do mean complete. In second grade, when I started a new school, there was a lot more homework than what I was used to. I swear, my mom made me do homework all set up in my bathroom because it was the quietest spot in the house. And in high school, I always needed to work at the bar in the kitchen because of all the space to spread out papers and textbooks.
College was the first big change. A) the work was really hard and B) the library and all the various floors can be daunting. Dorm rooms were out of the picture because there was always too much going on. I did finally find some of my favorite spots in the library, a community (loud) floor and a semi-quiet floor. The good part about college studying, however, was it did get me used to working with noise. Background noise of people or music from headphones. It didn’t happen overnight, but I have to say, it’s a lot easier to work now that I don’t need complete silence.
At my job, I would get to the office a few hours before everyone else so I could get some of the more intense parts of my work out of the way. The office was always really, really loud. An open floor plan, a group developers with playlists for every day, and a whole lot of questions to answer. The disruptions made working difficult and kind of impossible at times. I had to really figure out a way to make it work for me, including finding a space in the office where I could work uninterrupted (even if it meant forgoing a desk) for a few hours and making myself available for questions at other times.
This is how I work when I’m sick! On the bed with my laptop and Teddy by my side!

Now it’s a whole new ballgame. I try to start off my mornings at my desk with a clear desk, a good station on Pandora, and just run through the to-do list. But… Sometimes my apartment is too quiet and I put on Netflix just for background noise or I’ll move to a coffee shop if I’m going stir crazy. If my day is filled with meetings, sometimes I have to work extra late into the night and I’ll sit on my couch with my laptop. It changes day by day and task by task. 
I’m dying to know how everyone else works! Has your working style changed at all? Music or no music? What kind of desk set up do you need?

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I HAVE to sit at a desk. I cant work in my bed. I just don't function!

Also my fiance made it a rule that we have no electronics in the bedroom and I'm really glad for it now since we're so attached to our phones all day.

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I am the worst. I have to work on my bed. I need complete and utter silence. If I hear a conversation, it's over. My concentration breaks. I always work at the very last minute. "I work better under pressure" is cliche, but if I start working too early on something, I overthink it. The time crunch forces me to just put my ideas to paper (or keyboard…). My ideas just flow more naturally that way. And I work best either late at night or early in the morning. The rest of the day is virtually useless.

Not ideal, but it hasn't failed me yet!


I used to be able to study/work no matter how loud the room may be. However, as I've been getting much too close to 30 I've found that quiet is working a lot better for me. If I need some noise, I use my Noisli app–it's free and provides a variety of white noise such as birds chirping, wind blowing through the leaves or waves. It's been wonderful for my concentration! I also found that working late (11 pm-3 am) and standing at my kitchen counter really helps.

Courtney Kincaid

I feel like I always have to have noise on in the background. I'll put on a TV show that I've already seen or music because I can't focus without it. If I don't sit at my desk, then I won't get my work done. If I'm studying for class, I can't be around other people because I'll just end up getting distracted!

Odds & Ends

Natalie Harris

In order for me to get any work done, the area around me (which usually means my desk and bedroom) have to be somewhat picked up and organized. If it's not, I won't be able to work on the tasks at hand because I'll be too distracted by the surrounding mess.


In middle school I would do my homework on my bed, which was a bad idea because I would always fall asleep! In high school I forced myself to sit at my desk and if I was feeling extra unproductive I turned off my phone. Now, I find coffee shops to work best! There's something about the atmosphere that makes you feel like you want to be productive.

Lattes and Lilly


so fun to read! i've gotten used to working with background noise as well – i just put on a random classical music mix and get working either at the library, cafe or at home 🙂
xo, cheyenne


Very intersting post! 🙂

I need a big table to work on, just like you when you were in high school. When I had to write reports or now my master dissertation, I need space to lay out journal articles, books etc. Also I need white paper, so that I can take notes of what I want to write later on or also what other things popped up in my head ("look up the weather for next week"), this helps me stay productive until I take a break. I prefer silence but a little background noise is ok as well, just not too much.

Amber Lee Rosenzweig

I have a similar situation right now. I go from the 'too quiet' apartment to needing some background noise and popping out to a coffee shop. Then on occasion they get loud and I pop my headphones in. I was really having trouble focusing this Spring for a bit and finally invested in a pair of Bose headphones (the noise cancelling kind). If for whatever reason I can't get into the zone these things do the trick – them and a good Spotify playlist!

These are my favorite tricks :

Fiona Heath

I don't mind where I work too much, lessons learnt from student housing and overfull libraries. But I do like a space with good lighting, as much desk space as possible, near a window so I can get distracted for a second when stressed. To make sure I know it's work time I always have my to-do list visible and my coffee ready.

I also love blogging on the sofa in my pyjamas.

Fie x Coffee & Confetti

Nicole Harris

The Explosions in the Sky Pandora station is my number one secret. I cannot recommend it enough. It keeps my mind on something, but still allows me to focus. Also, the only way I can get readings done for class is to take my iPad or book to the elliptical otherwise I'm bound to fall asleep.


It's so interesting to read about how other people function/study best 🙂 It depends on what kind of work I'm doing. If I'm making a model for my architecture classes, some "clubbing"/high energy music is great, but if I need to read, I find something quiet is better.

If you need some background noise like a cafe/coffeehouse kind of vibe but don't want to leave your house, you should try this website which plays recorded background sound of a cafe — so the mumble of conversations and chairs moving etc etc — which could help in concentration 🙂 >>

Hope this helps! Your blog is amazing Carly 😀
x Michelle [michalogy]

Elena Gabriel

I also love learning how others work. I'll try what they do and see if it works for me! I start my work at my desk in my room, usually. I'll start quiet but eventually I need a little background noise so I'll put on an episode of Friends or Will & Grace. I can't put on anything that I haven't watched a million times before otherwise it distracts me. Around lunch, I might move to the kitchen table and at night I'll work from the couch occasionally.

If you're interested, read the book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. It's all about the different work habits of writers, artists, and musicians!

Thanks for the great post, Carly!


Ashley Vickney

Learning how other people work gives me inspiration to change things up a bit when I don't have something that's working for me! At school I definitely need some sort of noise because I lived by myself. But I like a clean desk and room to work. At home I generally work on the couch unless it's something I really need to focus on!


I like working at tables so that I can spread out. I'm used to noise coming from a large family but I need to work in the mornings/early afternoon because I read better then.


I love this post! I'm a student at SCAD and a lot of our buildings are 24 hours, some students will practically live in our computer labs or design studios, but I really do better working from home. It's been a process because when I'm in class, a lot of times I don't work as efficiently or I can't come up with what I want to do. Then I go home and I do so much better! But I do like having other people around to bounce ideas off of or just to talk things through with, so it's a balancing act. I think the key for me will be to work with a small design firm that's casual, so I get a working from home vibe, but have other people around. Fingers crossed that I can make that happen!



Great post! Even though college helped to get me used to working in a louder environment, if I'm writing, I still prefer complete silence if possible. I do a lot of writing from my iPad and enjoy just sitting on the couch near the picture window, but there are times where being in my home office is more preferable.

Elizabeth Mata

I definitely need a clear desk area. On my desk, though, I need to have one cute item, like my vintage teacup. I just like looking at it and it gives me a little bit of inspiration oddly. I like complete silence or soft classical music playing in the background. I can't have upbeat/dance music because then it will just distract me. Great post!

Emily Woodard

When I'm working really hard on a paper or something, I have this weird thing that I do where I sit with headphones in, but I don't play any music. They aren't even noise cancelling! I don't know why, but it makes me feel more focused.

Amber Hillis

I definitely like a desk set up with soft music in the background when I am working. Since I go to college and work all day I like to do my homework while laying on the floor or my bed.

Zoe Diaz-McLeese

I'm the same way – I need to be able to spread out! I have all my notes everywhere, textbooks, to-do list, and my computer. I feel like I've always needed to have background noise, like a documentary on Netflix, or a good Pandora station. But, at my internship, the office is really quiet and I've started to enjoy the ambient noise of the workplace.


Woman Child

Sometimes the best way to stay focused is by taking a break to laugh too hard. You deserve it. The laughs are coming soon @

*mic drop*

Keating-Mariee Bartlett

I love this post! I too am always curious as to how other people work and get things done. I'm the type to need as much space as possible.

ENVIRONMENT – I have to be able to spread out so I actually took the time to create an office in my home. It's a work in progress but so far, it's awesome. I also love working in coffee shops but only when the only thing needed is my computer. I hate toting things around. Like I said, I like to be able to spread out. You can only spread out so much in a coffee shop.

NOISE LEVEL – I like having the window open so I can hear everything going on outside or have a Spotify playlist going. Either way, I like a little background noise. It's rare that I want 100% silence. There's also this awesome app called Coffitivity that I'm in love with. It gives you the background noise of a coffee shop (might sound odd, but I love working in coffee shops so it's nice to have when I'm at home).

TIME OF DAY – I also tend to work best at night. My husband is in the military and currently works night shift so it works out perfectly. We can work at the same time and not miss out on time together.

OTHER DETAILS – Most times I need to be at a desk. If I have a lot going on at once and need to spread out, then I'll use the floor of my office. I also have to be dressed. I can't wear pi's or "comfy clothes" while working. Nothing gets done. It just makes me lazy and then nothing gets accomplished. I also MUST have a cup of coffee. Most times this has to be a caramel iced coffee.

Now that I type this up, I feel picky. But I'm earning my bachelor's degree online and am always working on my blog, so having the perfect balance of everything is super important in order to be productive.

xo, Keating

Ellen Borza

I usually need background noise while I'm studying, believe it or not! I like to work with the TV on. Luckily, I'm still able to focus, and I feel less isolated. Also, I have to do studying and serious work earlier in the day. You definitely won't find me pulling an all nighter. I just can't function past 10.

Great post!

Ellen | A Pop of Pink


I agree that I need total silence! It is something that I could never get over until college. And now working in coffee shops with a little background noise is good for me. However, I still have the tendency to eavesdrop because I just can't help myself, I'm nosy.

A College Confession

Mana Smith

I work best on my couch with some kind of show on the t.v in the background or curled up in my bed listening to spotify. And always with Howl nearby. He's my sounding board, if something's not sounding right in my head I'll read it to him.

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