Can working in a coffee shop boost my productivity?

I bet we’ve all heard what JK Rowling said of beautiful Edinburgh when she accepted the award of the same name in 2008. She described the city as being “… the place where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in coffee shops.”

Listen on Spotify.

And it’s not just JKR. Many other spectacularly creative people have chosen to work in coffee shops, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso and Bob Dylan.

It got me wondering. Is there’s something about the ambience and feel of a coffee shop that inspires people to be more creative and productive? Soon, we’ll explore how the buzzing atmosphere of a good café can help motivate you.

First, it’s time to answer the question.

Yes. Working in a coffee shop can boost your productivity. Research suggests the ambient noise and variety of visual stimuli on offer, can help you solve problems, get into a focused state and unlock your creativity. Moreover, working in a new environment — around others doing the same— can help satisfy our natural appetite for novelty and give us a fresh sense of purpose. This can motivate us and may lead to an uptick in our efficiency — both when working alone and as part of a team.

Of course, as with most things in life, working in a coffee shop may turn out not to be for you. Still it’s worth exploring this more before dismissing it, right?

 Let’s find out more together.

How can the bustling air of coffee shops motivate you?

I’m convinced the bustling atmosphere of a coffee shop could encourage you to work in a more efficient way. Here’re 6 reasons I’m persuaded that the working in a café can help get you going.

  • A study into the effects of ambient noise  on human creativity found that having about 70 decibels of noise around you — the noise level in a typical coffee shop — affected productivity levels the most. 50 decibels was too quiet to promote happy work, whilst 85 decibels was too loud.  
  • The mix of noise, small crowds and having a variety of pleasing things to look at seem to make coffee shops a great place in which to unleash our creative energy.  Coffee shops may offer the ideal amount of distraction so that are brains become tired. Thus we’re able to focus more easily and do deep work well.
  • This ability to focus can boost both your creativity and efficiency.
  • A change of environment also helps satisfy the brain’s thirst for novelty. Novelty itself play a big role in motivating us by providing us with a new arena in which to practice our autonomy, get better at what we do, and give ourselves a fresh sense of purpose.  
  • Research suggests that being able to have autonomy within our lives, master a skill and possess a sense of purpose, boosts our mood and makes us happier.
  • Being happy makes you more productive and getting things done helps to motivate you. Before you know it, this turns into a virtuous self-perpetuating cycle.

Later, I’ll share 6 tips to help you develop a fab café-based work routine. For now, let’s look at some other ways coffee shops can boost our efficiency.

How can working in coffee shops increase your productivity?

There’s little doubt that coffee shops can help you get into a state of flow. But how else can coffee shops help you work smarter. Here’s what I’ve found.

  • Working in coffee shops can help you plan, prioritize and set goals.
    • Entering with the intention to work gives you a sense of purpose.
    • If you go in there to do just one thing — in this case, work — it’s easier to figure out how to prioritize tasks. As we know, good prioritization and time management help increase your productivity.
  • You could find fantastic opportunities to bounce your ideas off of others in coffee shops.
    • Having other people around you to offer you inspiration, new perspectives and maybe even fresh ideas, can itself improve your efficiency.
  • Coffee shops provide the perfect level of distraction.
    •  A review article — written in 2019 — discusses various theories used to explain the phenomenon of ‘stochastic resonance’.
    • This is the phenomenon in which having just the right about of noise around us helps to sharpen our senses.
    • It’s worth noting that each individual has their own ideal level of background noise, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you try it out and find you can’t focus and be creative as well as productive.
  • Interacting with others every so often may also help you make the most of your time.
    • That way, your brain can enjoy micro breaks that you would experience in an office over the course of a typical working day.
    • One example of a micro-break might be when you look up from your tablet or notepad to thank your server for bringing over your order.
    • If you see others around you working and putting effort into whatever they’re doing, encourages you to do the same.
    • The general feel of camaraderie and informality may help you collaborate more effectively with others. Bear in mind then, you don’t have to work alone in café’s. If you meet with colleagues in a coffee shop, the bustle around you may even boost your — and your team’s — collective productivity.
  • There’s plenty of visual stimulation.
    • Sunkee Lee’s research suggests that being in a place which offers lots of visual stimuli can improve your ability to problem-solve.
    • Remember, though, this boost may only happen if the problem has a solution that you can arrive at by thinking outside of the box.  
    • That said, being able to work through even a limited number of problems more easily may cause an uptick in productivity.

It’s time for me to give you some tips on how to master working effectively from a coffee shop.

6 ways to maximize your productivity when working in a café

You now know the potential a thriving coffee shop has to boost your efficiency. It seems right that I give you some tips on how to build the perfect coffee-shop-based work routine.

  1. Choose the right café for you.
  • Ensure that they welcome workers, provide comfortable seating and a strong internet connection and the atmosphere of the place is likely to help you work better.
  • It might be good to try a different café from time to time so that you can enjoy more variety.
  • It’s always a good idea to ask staff if they’re happy for you to sit and work there for a while.

2. Be a good customer.

  • This doesn’t mean you have to buy three cups of coffee in one session. Rather, be aware of what’s expected of you as a customer.
  • This may be as simple as buying a coffee, being polite to staff and other customers, keeping quiet and making sure you don’t leave a mess in your wake.

3. Arrive with your ‘work head’ on.

  • This one can be as simple as following your usual morning routine and making sure that you look presentable. That way, when you get to the café, you’re ready to dive straight into work.

4. Pick a seat and do your best to keep your things tidy.

  • Be considerate of others around you and avoid getting in their way.
  • This could be ensuring you have a socket next to you if you need to plug in your laptop.

5. Plan and set limits.

  • Plan what you want to get done in the time you have, but start with smaller achievable goals.
  • By setting yourself smaller goals, you’ll likely still be able to reach them, even if the café you frequent is busier than expected, for instance.

6. Take breaks.

  • Taking short breaks every hour helps combat fatigue and therefore increases your productivity.  
  • If you have a short chat with people around you during these breaks it may give your brain a break from work too.

Summary

Now we’ve investigated the benefits of using the buzzing, vibrant atmosphere of a thriving  coffee shop  as a place of work, perhaps you’ll start searching for you own seat at the table. If you follow the tips I’ve shared, I’ll bet you’ll soon find that you start to power through tasks and unlock your creativity. If you build the best routine you can, you may even develop the ability to focus for more easily and tackle deep work effectively in half the time. Who knows? You might even create the next cultural phenomenon or come up with the next big business idea!   

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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