How to Get Things Done When Working from a Coffee Shop
How to make the time spent in a coffee shop working actually productive
The way global business is conducted nowadays has given rise to a trend of working from home. The web and the papers are full of articles on how to set up a home office, listing privacy, and the ability to work at peace as some of the greatest advantages of working from home. Cubicle walls have pretty much the same role, since it seems that the golden goose of the workspace is peace and quiet. Seclusion from the rest of the world seems to be the ideal for many workers and entrepreneurs, so it comes as a great surprise that a novel social workplace trend has picked up: working from a coffee shop.
Yes, you have read correctly both the title and the previous sentence: people actually want to go to a crowded public place like a coffee shop to complete important tasks. If you are wondering 'why aren’t they distracted by the crowd,' and 'can a cup of coffee in public really be that powerful,' here are a few hints what lies behind this phenomenon and how might you one day sit at a table in a café, open your laptop, and start writing that report that is due for tomorrow.
Dealing with the noise
The first thing that comes to a person’s mind is the high level of noise present in any hospitality service building. In other words, isn’t it too loud to be able to concentrate on work inside a coffee shop? Strangely enough, it isn’t. When you come to think of it, when was the last time you experienced a high level of noise inside a place where people drink their coffee? Admittedly, there are always going to be a few rowdy individuals or an entire group, but in general, partygoers to give cafes a wide berth and rather choose to enter pubs and nightclubs. Most of the clientele of coffee shops just like to sit at their table, drink coffee, and chat quietly if accompanied by someone.
Even when a cafe gets really loud during rush hour when the business people pour out from local offices, you are still left with options to cancel all that noise around you. Headphones are an ideal solution for such a scenario, but not just any headphones. Although they are high-end and a bit more expensive, noise-canceling headphones allow you to isolate yourself while surrounded by others. Whether you choose to plate Bach or Megadeth, the effect will be the same: complete isolation from the outside world and the ability to focus on the work ahead.
Time to gear up!
Apart from good-quality headphones, you really ought to have a few more gadgets to help you work more efficiently. The first on our lost a reliable laptop that can have any preferences you like (and can afford), but when it comes to putting in long hours at the coffee house it needs to have a respectable battery life. This feature that will come in handy if you forget to bring a power adaptor for the laptop, which is really coffee shop office 1-on-1.
A durable bag
You can avoid this scenario from happening over and over by placing the adaptor inside the laptop bag and storing it there for good, only taking it outside to plug in the laptop. Speaking of plugging into electricity, you should choose where to seat based on the layout of power outlets, so you are never too far from at least one of them. If it’s not your portable computer, then it is your smartphone that needs to charge, so having a source of power nearby is always handy.
Since you are going to open and close the bag you carry your laptop and other high-tech gizmos inside a lot of times, it needs to be made from durable materials. This is one bag that was not designed for showing off but for a very practical purpose. Furthermore, the fabric it is made from should be waterproof so your laptop doesn’t get damaged by water during a heavy shower when you are forced to run from the cab or the office to the coffee shop.
Old school gear
A laptop coupled with a power adaptor, and a durable bag are a must but there are gizmos that will additionally ease your pseudo-office life. It is always useful to have some low-tech utensils like a pen and paper or coloring pens and a notepad (a real one, not the software). You should also pack a few highlighters, plastic folders, and a couple of USB flash drives for backing and transferring important data. Finally, you could tuck inside the all-purpose bag your favorite book or a magazine you can leaf through while taking a break.
What if you have to go?
Since your workbag probably contains items more valuable than a simple laptop, it is not smart leaving it out in the open when you have to go to the bathroom. Sometimes you will come with a friend and they will look after your things, but what if you’re alone? Choosing this same coffee shop every time you want to work might be a smart thing to do because over time you will get to know the staff better and they will agree to look after your stuff while you’re in the bathroom. However, sometimes even the staff cannot be trusted so you’ll have to come up with an alternative.
The most obvious solution is to sacrifice your place at the table or the bar by taking all your possessions with you. This is the safest method but it does come with a lot of inconveniences since you need to pack and unpack several times over. Finally, you can decide to take the risk and go to the bathroom leaving your stuff unattended. To be totally frank, this is not the best of options but you can minimize the risk if you sit next to the bathroom, effectively decreasing the time while your way and getting the opportunity to take a look at your valuables from time to time.
It can be hard at times trying to focus on work with all the noise around you but at least you know what to order in a coffee shop. We feel compelled to write this because many “coffee house workers” decide to bring their own drinks and sneak them in, trying to avoid ordering anything or even worse, sipping a glass of mineral water for three hours. This will not score you point with the staffs and you’ll miss the opportunity to experience new coffee flavors.
We presume that you have your favorite coffee, whether it is the foamy cappuccino or a caffeine-loaded cup of black coffee. After a while, you will grow tired of ordering the same coffee brand day after day so you why not put to the test those fancy Italian coffee machines that baristas love to play with. Pick up the menu and order a different coffee each time you sit down to work. Who knows, you could end up creating a mixture of your own.
The expected etiquette
Ordering a drink is the tip of the iceberg of the things you are expected to do if you plan on spending half of your day inside a coffee shop. Firstly, you should know that it is OK to be a slow drinker, as one hour is more than an acceptable time window to finish drinking your coffee.
If you wish to stay longer, then order something else, like a club sandwich (yes, you could eat lunch here if they offer meals), a cupcake or a glass of orange juice. Don’t worry about the looks the waiters might give you because it is in their best interest to be full at all times, and since you will visit during the off the peak hours, you are basically an advertisement for their business.
Befriending the staff
Speaking of the staff, you might have figured out by now the waiters and waitresses that serve you will bring you more than one benefit. Even if you’re not a people’s person, just being polite and leaving a hefty tip will get you far. First of all, they will greet you on the door and show you the most favorable seats that are presently available.
Once you start chatting to them and they realize that you come to their coffee place to work, they will do their utmost not to disturb you and prevent the other guests from bothering you. Finally, if you keep coming in long enough, you might get a complimentary drink as a token of appreciation from the staff. All in all, you have more to gain than to lose if you ask the waitress that brings you coffee how was her day.
Do not disturb (other people)
Finally, if you do not wish to be interrupted by others while at work, ensure that you don’t bother other people, to begin with. You need to be courteous to everyone, because you are neither inside your home nor are you inside your office building but in a public space. This means that your hones should be silenced down and notification sounds for messaging apps and social media off.
Keep track of the loudness of music in your headphones because if the person at the next table can recognize the performer and the track, then you are playing the music too loud. Needless to say, don’t bring any woofers or use the speakers integrated inside your laptop, especially when you’re talking to someone over Skype.
The Pomodoro method
If you still haven’t heard of the Pomodoro learning technique, here’s a crash guide to it, since it’s perfect to be used when working from a coffee shop. It states that you should work for 25 minutes non-stop and then take a 5 minute break to clear your mind. The accent is placed on the quality of the pauses, so you can take a short walk (perhaps use the loo) or just take a look around you.
We hope that by now you have a better understanding of the people who go to coffee houses to work. In fact, you can become one of them if you have a solid laptop, like drinking coffee for hours, and won’t disturb others.