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Working In Coffee Shops

A photo of a tiny circular Starbucks shop

My inclusion of Coffitivity is to add variety – this post isn’t sponsored.

Do you work well when installed in a chair at a coffee shop? I know I do. The sound of the drinks machine as it brews, the smell of the coffee in front of you, the taste of the yummy sandwich beside it, the sight of the somewhat sultry décor. And of course the ability to feel as though you’re being social whilst (sometimes) spending time by yourself.

Writing in a coffee shop is a preface for “I got stuff done”. There are few distractions unless you actively create them. If you have a notebook and leave your phone in your pocket there is no email or Twitter to interrupt you. Even if you take a laptop there’s this feeling that comes with being in public that makes you feel silly using the Internet for too long.

That feeling is surely paramount to the reason coffee shops are the perfect solo working environment. There is this urge to keep writing, coding, designing, so as not to look silly. If you look like you’re thinking, that’s fine – up to a point. You can’t ponder forever and expect people not to notice. You keep writing, you don’t stop because you know how it might look – you get stuff done. You’re forced to work but you put yourself in that position, so it works.

Coffee shops create a nice balance between noise and silence. Obviously if there’s a loud conversation at the next table, you’re better off working elsewhere, but a general hum is useful to many people.

I find I work best in coffee shops when I arrive with my plans already made, the list of what I want to cover in the full article prepared. Alternatively I can work on creating a plan from scratch – but I’ve not yet mastered the art of planning and drafting in one outing. That’s something I can only achieve at my desk. Often I’ll write posts at double the speed, but even if it takes longer I always leave having been absurdly productive regardless.

What happens when you need a change of environment but cannot find or go to one? You used to have to accept that you might not get anything finished. Recently I came across Coffitivity. It’s not the same but I feel it’s something a person can learn to ‘live’ with. The site hosts a sound-scape of a coffee shop that you can plug into whenever you need a different ambiance or if you’d prefer the sounds of distance chatter and crockery to your colleagues.

As for my local, they’re probably sick of the sight of me.

Do you find coffee shops to be a productive environment? If not, or instead, where do you like to go where your normal environment isn’t inspiring or working for you?



January 29, 2014, 3:44 am

I never really work outside of my house and I probably should sometimes. I feel very jumpy in coffee shops – I can’t ever concentrate. I think I would do better in a library or other public space.
Coffitivity is pretty interesting – I’m listening as I type this!

Tanya Patrice

January 29, 2014, 5:25 am

I wrote my dissertation in many outings to a coffee shop. And I still try to go once a week and get stuff done. I like the environment but all coffee shops are not created equal. It took some experiments to find one where I feel comfortable sitting for a few hours.

Brooke B.

January 29, 2014, 7:36 am

When I was in high school and college, I was able to work and accomplish a lot at the library, but that was really the only place I worked on things besides my home.

I haven’t actually blogged anywhere other than my home. I totally need to change that, though. I’m not sure why it had never occurred to me before, but I think a chance of scenery occasionally would be just what I need! This is a great post, thank you for sharing.


January 29, 2014, 1:16 pm

I don’t necessarily go to a coffee shop but I certainly find I get more work done in a public place. If I really needed to get some work done when I was at Uni I would go to the library. I should really start doing that again now!

Literary Feline

January 29, 2014, 3:28 pm

I like the idea of going to a coffee shop to work (in my case it’d more likely be to read–I use my computer when I write), but I would find it too distracting. I would rather be home, where it’s quiet and I have more control over the sounds around me. Also, I feel too self-conscious in public places.

I realize coffee shops now sell more than just coffee, but not being a coffee drinker, coffee shops are rarely my first thought of somewhere I want to work if I am going to sit and work/read in public.

That said, the in-person book group I used to attend met in a coffee shop. I always felt obligated to buy something to snack on or sip during the meeting, and the background noise sometimes got in the way of hearing the discussion. It’s just not my kind of environment, I think.

Jenny @ Reading the End

January 29, 2014, 7:45 pm

I love working in coffee shops, and I like Coffeetivity! That level of sound is perfect for me, but I feel guilty going to actual coffee shops and spending the money on coffee every day. It’s a lovely pleasure, though, and I do like to do it occasionally.


January 29, 2014, 8:02 pm

I like coffee shops, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a work at home in jammies kind of writer. Whenever I try to work in a public place, I get too engrossed in the people around me and find myself making up stories in my head about them.

Katie @ Doing Dewey

January 30, 2014, 1:23 am

Although I love the idea of working in a coffee shop, so far I’ve not found them to be a good place for me to work. Even when they’re quiet, just the number of people coming and going is often too much of a distraction.


February 2, 2014, 7:51 pm

I find it can go either way, sometimes I just get incredibly distracted and then other times it’s really helpful for inspiration.

Honestly though, and this is a little embarrassing, I prefer not to go there incase I need to go pee (which would happen a few times knowing me) and I wouldn’t be able to leave my laptop and I’d have to take it into the loo….. I have problems


February 27, 2014, 10:18 pm

Anbolyn: Coffee shops are pretty different to libraries so I can see what you mean. The site’s great, it’s just a pity they don’t have many tracks. I think they used to have more but then got an unexpected amount of traffic and had to change things.

Tanya: That’s awesome, I can’t imagine having written a dissertation anywhere else but a desk – I’m envious! Agreed. They have to have an atmosphere that works and that’s going to be different for different people.

Brooke: I think there was less choice then, even a few years ago there weren’t so many coffee shops etc about. Oh give it a go, definitely! It’s good for inspiration. Glad to help :)

Jessica: Interesting, especially as coffee shops are the first place I’ve been able to work – to me working in a public place is so foreign! (Though I wish I could do it.) If it worked then you should try it again, yes :)

Literary Feline: Ahh, but you can use the self-conciousness to your advantage, that’s partly what the ‘must actually write or people will notice’ idea is about ;) Though sometimes quiet is neccersary.

True. I’ve not been drinking coffee all that long, compared to tea, and I would’ve been dissuaded before so I know what you mean.

Yes, there is the expectation to buy something. You can opt out, especially if your friends are buying, but it can feel awkward.

Jenny: Yes, there is that issue. Here coffee’s pretty expensive for what it is, and whilst that can make you make the most of it it does limit the number of times you go, and also how long you spend there!

Terry: My reasoning for jammies is time. Getting dressed is a good few minutes you could spend writing! The people are good for novelists, I think yours is the one occuptation where you can say that relaxing in a coffee shop is truly work!

Katie: I understand that entirely. Before it ‘happened’ I wouldn’t have imagined I could do it. I reckon it can be ‘learned’ but it does take time and as Tanya said you’ve got to find the right one.

Alice: Oh no, that’s a good point. I take my notebook so that’s always been ok, but sometimes working on the computer is easier.



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