General Journalism / Natasha Slee

Those who say they work best in cafes are lying. By Natasha Slee.

In the last few weeks I have come to the conclusion that I’m just not very good at working in cafes. The idea is all very romantic: an everlasting mug of peppermint tea, comfy leather sofa and the blossom of creativity and productivity from social interaction. The reality in fact is terrible tea, screaming children, and dodgy Wi-Fi.

I have been doing a lot of trying to study in cafes recently because I have been spending each weekend working away from home. Say Fromage, the photo booth company I work for part time, often hires out photo booths to brands for promotional events. The make up brand Smashbox has, over the last few months, had a photo booth in a different shopping centre every weekend. Two weeks ago I was in Dudley, last week it was Sheffield, and today I am in Southampton.

I stay with the booth for three and a half days, providing ‘technical support’. This means I am  ‘on call’ and able to go away and do what I want, as long as I check on the booth every few hours.

At first I thought this was amazing: being paid to do nothing/get on with Uni work without the distractions of home.

I very quickly realised this was not the case. Did I really expect myself to sit for up to 12 hours a day in noisy cafes working solidly without interaction from friends? I found myself getting frustrated by my inability to concentrate, which made me angry with myself, and everyone around me, innocent children especially. I was lonely and bored and spent an unforgivable amount of time wandering in and out of shops. I came to despise shopping centres.

Once the working weekend ended, and I came back in London, I would have an intense few days at Uni, cramming in library time as well as missed social time, before heading off again. A term that began with excitement for the final year and final push has all too quickly become stressful and overwhelming. I am blissfully ignoring my backlog of dissertation reading, unable to find somewhere quiet to study whilst away and becoming too distracted by the much more interesting Final Major Project when I do. And with that I am concentrating too much on the end product, the magazine, and ignoring all the boring statistical research and SWOT analysis I have to do right now.

Although I love to be busy, and hold down a part-time job for that exact reason – because I believe I work better when my time is constrained – I hate feeling overwhelmed. In a tutorial last week I squeezed back tears, unable to take in all the very helpful advice my tutor was giving. (Although that may be due to the four hours sleep I had the night before – where else do I fit in a social life?!)

After finishing this post (sat in Southampton Pret) I intend to type up my backlog of dissertation quotes (I have a bizarre excel system where I type up all useful quotes and reference details – very time consuming but satisfyingly organised), and after that I may tackle the five feature pitches for the Final Major Project Proposal, the 60 minute transcription from a focus group, the many many emails I need to chase, and some extensive Mintel research on teenage girls. Plus I feel I need to address the space in the back of my mind that thinks constantly about graduate jobs, possible internships, and the likelihood of getting some journalism work at Glastonbury in exchange for a ticket.

Flat planning my magazine.

If you, lovely reader, have advice for any or all of the issues above, please share now. For example, I have found that Daft Punk turned up loud through headphones is very good at blocking out the noisy of whining children.


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