I’m writing this while sitting in my favourite coffee shop, on my second cup of coffee, having crossed off most of the items on today’s to-do list. It may be obvious by now that I’m a freelancer, which means I mostly work from home.
While I’ve found several ways to maximize productivity at home, when I’m faced with a tight deadline and really need to buckle down, you’ll usually find me sitting right here in this coffee shop.
This may sound counter-intuitive to some, but working in a cafe can actually be less distracting than sitting in the comfort of your own home. In fact, research shows that it can make you more productive, which is why I gave it a try in the first place.
Let’s take a closer look at what the research has to say.
According to recent statistics, I know I’m not alone in freelancing or teleworking. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics states the number of people working from home has increased 10% in the past 15 years. So how do other people stay productive when freelancing?
Turns out, the answer could be working amongst other people. The results of a recent study suggest that mental exertion is contagious and being around other people working hard makes you want to do the same.
Armed with that knowledge, one fateful day, when the sun was shining, and my cabin fever was at a dangerous level, I packed up my laptop and headed to a coffee shop, determined to be more productive. It ended up being the solution I was looking for, and there are several reasons why.
STIMULATING YOUR BRAIN
Science tells us that our brain is wired to turn off repeated data and only focus on new input. Therefore, you, and your productivity is stimulated by visiting new places, seeing new faces, and trying new things.
The key is to let that low-level stimuli boost your concentration, as too much stimulation can be too distracting. What works for me is to take a break once in a while, soak up the sights and then get back to work. The bustle in my peripheral vision is just what I need to maintain productivity.
Another way working in a coffee shop gives your brain a boost is endorphins and coffee. Endorphins are what make coffee taste and feel so good, so enjoying a cup of your favourite beverage floods your brain with mood-lifting endorphins, giving you the push you need to get through the mid-afternoon slump. Caffeine will not only energize you, but it also assists in healthy digestion and has a positive impact on your mental and physical health.
HUSTLE AND BUSTLE
Just like visual stimuli can increase your productivity levels, so can the ambient noise found at most coffee shops. The Journal of Consumer Research published a study that showed a 70-decibel ambient noise enhanced creativity more so than quieter environments.
Apparently, it means that when your brain is somewhat distracted, all the orderly, analytical, and judgemental parts of your brain are silenced, so creative or out-of-the-box ideas are dredged up from your subconscious to your conscious mind.
COFFEE SHOP RULES
You may think that working in a coffee shop is as simple as just walking in, plopping down on the first empty seat, and setting your laptop on the table. While this is true, I’ve found out that there are some unspoken rules that all freelancers should adhere to. I’ve committed my fair share of faux-pas, but you don’t have to.
- Pick the right working coffee shop
While you won’t get outright kicked out if you pick the wrong cafe, you might get a few annoyed looks. A good rule of thumb is to meet your friends in coffee shops where others are chatting, and work in a coffee shop where you see others working.
There will be some cafes where you can do both, but after trying out a few different places, you start getting a feeling for the cafe’s vibe, and which won’t frown upon you working there for a few hours.
- Adhere to an acceptable sitting-to-ordering time ratio
Don’t be one of those people that orders a small coffee and nurses it (or keeps it at their table long after it’s gone cold) and stays at the coffee shop for hours and hours. An acceptable ratio is to order one drink around every couple of hours, and some food if you’re there at lunchtime. If you plan to become a regular, a good tip also goes a long way.
- Variety is the spice of life
Different cafes have different vibes, and as I mentioned before, getting out of your comfort zone gives your brain a much-needed boost. Therefore, don’t stick to your favourite, but instead, mix it up. I admit that I am guilty of having my go-to coffee shop in heavy rotation, but depending on the sort of inspiration I’m looking for, or what mood I’m in, I also have a repertoire of four other coffee shops.
- Choose your seat wisely
Once you get to your chosen coffee shop, take the time to scope out a good seat, as it matters where you sit down. Humans crave familiarity, so you may want to always choose your regular place, and this is fine, just make sure that you’ve selected the right position.
First off, you need to be near a power outlet, or you’ll be panicking whenever the battery icon reaches critical levels, but it’s also recommended that you sit with your back to the wall. You’ll get some of that visual stimulus I was talking about without feeling removed from the action.
As with everything, there are some downsides to working in a cafe. You will need to get dressed for the outside world (I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found a coffee shop that’s so relaxed no one will bat an eye if I turn up in my pyjamas), there is a commute involved, and it’s more expensive. However, the increase in my productivity and my levels of sanity are worth paying a few extra dollars for a couple of cups of coffee and a sandwich.