The smell of fresh grounds.
The presence of other people quietly conversing or tapping at their laptops.
The stimulating energy of a common gathering place.
What’s not to like about settling in to do some work at a coffee shop?
Many people take advantage of a local coffee shop to meet up with a colleague or to get away from the office to do some focused work. But coffee shops can be distracting too, so here are some tips to help you be more productive when you decide to go grab your favorite cup of Joe with laptop in hand.
Block off times in your week for working out of your normal office. Have a specific task or two in mind that you will be focusing on during those blocks of time, and perhaps even add notes to your calendar appointment to remind you of those tasks.
Pick Appropriate Tasks for the Environment
Decide ahead of time what kinds of tasks best match the coffee shop atmosphere. Does it inspire you to do creative work such as writing or graphic design? Is it a great place to catch up on professional development reading and courses or to schedule social media posts? For example, I find that preparing material (i.e. social media images) for client social media libraries or working on writing projects work better for me than administrative work such as appointment setting or email communication, which are best done at my office. It’s a good practice to routinely do the same types of tasks in this familiar environment so your brain can more quickly make the connection and tell itself, “Okay, I’m here to write.”
Expect to be Distracted
Whether by conversations around you or just the normal hustle/bustle of a popular coffee shop, you are not guaranteed the quiet you might get at a library or your office. This may be fine, depending on the type of work you are doing. Just don’t walk in there expecting everything to be quiet and perfect for your work (and be prepared not to get your favorite table every time.)
Create your atmosphere
My coffee shop bag includes ear phones, an pouch designed to inspire creativity, a coaster, an imitation candle, and a large scarf that can act as a shawl or lap blanket. These don’t take much space but help me create a mini oasis of inspiration for the time I will be there, which often is two hours or more.
Allow Yourself Time to Ease in
Hopefully you are planning to purchase something to eat or drink (don’t be a coffee shop squatter.) It gets a little cumbersome to type, sip coffee, and eat a bagel, all at once. So allow yourself a little time to enjoy your snack while you do something such as reading to ease into work mode. Then freshen the coffee and get to work!
Jot a Schedule or Use a Timer to Keep Yourself on Track
It’s easy to fritter away time scanning social media, watching videos, or even reading helpful material. Use a timer app to keep you on track, allowing intervals for each task you want to accomplish. Work in some “cushion” time for breaks, a phone call, or that routine trip to the rest room that will take a few minutes.
Enjoy the Unexpected
You may run into a friend or business colleague at a coffee shop, or strike up a conversation with a stranger. Maybe you’ll notice someone who needs a little encouragement or decide to discreetly pay for the meal of the next person in line. Don’t miss out on the little serendipitous opportunities that may spring up. Sure, you’re there to get things done, and that’s important. But so are people.
Here’s to productivity and coffee!
For more tips to help overwhelmed professionals excel, visit my blog.