As a graduate student living downtown Toronto and commuting to school, I am no stranger to the panic of finding a place to get work done. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind commuting the hour it takes to get to York University from where I live. In fact, I quite like it. The morning subway ride gives me time to get properly caffeinated while listening to my latest podcast. My evening ride gives me time to decompress from the intensity of graduate work before I go home and have to deal with domestic duties.
But some days even I, a simple mortal human being, am overtaken by commuter fatigue and just need to be able to role out of bed and hunker down to work.
I have curated a pretty great list of study spots downtown and as you will see, I have gotten creative. I hope this list gets your creative juices flowing. May these locals help you get that word count rising like your supervisor’s mounting pressure to get your chapter in.
- Early Bird Coffee Shop (613 Queen Street West)
This is the only coffee shop on my list, and for good reason: they make damn good coffee. But I choose to go to Early Bird when I want to get some serious work done, because although it is a public space, everyone who is there is really focused on their work. Therefore, you’ll get at Early Bird what you won’t get at many coffee shops: quiet. Even people there for business meetings speak in hushed tones. Go for the coffee, stay for the quiet.
- Jack Astor’s
This might come as a surprise to you, but I have slayed some serious word count at Jack Astor’s. I learned they have WiFi when a few years ago I was trying to get work done at the Starbucks next door and experienced a serious blood sugar level drop. You know that feeling, when you can actually feel your brain shutting down. So I headed to Jack Astor’s for some fuel when the server saw me pull out my books and she told me they have WiFi, and I was elated. You can spread out in one of their giant booths and write notes on the table with the butcher paper and crayons they provide. The servers are happy to keep refilling your soda or coffee to a quiet student rather than turnover the table to a rowdy group of people. It’s a win-win for everyone. Order the chicken fajitas, they’re great.
- Harvest Kitchen (124 Harbord Street)
I like to go to Harvest Kitchen in the summer and do work on their tree-shaded rooftop patio. It’s the closest you can get to working outside without having to hunch awkwardly against scratchy tree bark while fighting off fearless squirrels. The patio is peaceful and provides a great atmosphere for deep thought in the fresh air while soaking up some vitamin D. The garlic fries are a wonderful accompanying snack to that creative breakthrough you’re about to have.
- Insomnia (563 Bloor Street West)
I have been going to Insomnia for years, and no wonder. Like Harvest Kitchen, it’s a super popular place in the city for brunch and dinner. During the daytime, Insomnia is populated by those with their laptops looking to stay awhile, and folks dropping in for a meeting or a quick bite. Their cinnamon spiced coffee is truly one of the best tastes in the whole world, the service is great, and their Charlotte is the best smoked salmon benedict in the city (trust me, I’ve tried them all). But the icing on the cake is that they offer a twenty-percent discount to students. Just make sure you bring your student card!
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I actually love working from home. I know, I used to doubt my ability to work from home as well. It is a challenge. But I have come close to perfecting the curating of a productive at-home work environment. For me, this requires a bit of maneuvering. First, I need my workspace to be cleared, and this means de-cluttering the kitchen table. Then, I need a lot of lighting, so I bring my night table lamp onto the table. Then I am required to get dressed. Not all the way so that I’m wearing a full on underwire bra and shoes, but a notch above wearing pajamas so that I am in ‘work’ mode and not ‘relaxing’ mode. I then light a candle to center my focus and Voila! I get work done. Try it. I believe you can make your home a work-able environment.
Happy working. And remember: put the page numbers on your word documents unless you want your supervisor to shame you!