Doing Your Best Work – at the Coffee Shop

Okay, so I live in Seattle and maybe this coffee shop thing is a bit more of a phenomenon here than elsewhere. But you can’t walk into one of the Seattle area’s four billion coffee shops these days without seeing a whole passel of people working. And I mean working — heads down, computer keyboards clicking, papers spread out.

Our coffee shops are conference rooms, study halls, and strategic planning retreats. They are places where people get praised and reprimanded, construct PowerPoint presentations, and do some of their best long-term thinking.

Makes me wonder how the soulless cubbies of many companies, set up to eliminate distractions, are actually robbing us of our shared pulse.

My official office is at home. It’s quiet — the kids are long gone, and my wife has her job to go to early in the morning.  It’s an organized, comfortable environment.

And yet, almost every day, I bundle up papers, or reading materials, or spreadsheets, or laptop, and walk the three blocks to my unofficial office — the local coffee haven. Why in the world would I do this? After all, it takes time to get there, there’s the packing and unpacking, and it’s a lot more distracting and noisy than my home office.

What I trade for the comforts of home is the energy of the place. Even though there are distractions, there’s something about the dynamic flow of people, commerce, and chatter that actually helps me focus. I just can’t walk into a coffee shop without a pad of paper because I almost always do my best creative thinking there.

Strange. Makes me wonder how the soulless cubbies of many companies, set up to eliminate distractions, are actually robbing us of our shared pulse. Maybe some of us need to hear the heartbeat of others, perhaps even the annoyances of others, in order to get into the best thinking mode.

YOUR PATH FORWARD: Ask yourself, “Where do I do my best thinking and my best work?” Location is critical. For some of us, maybe it is a quiet mountaintop. Some of us do work best in a place where we don’t have to tune out the buzz. But we are intensely social creatures. Just maybe, a room full of human energy will bring out something wonderful. Maybe there’s a kind of joy in being with others that makes us want to do our best.

Wherever you see yourself on the spectrum, consider adding variety to your location routine.  Maybe you’ll discover sparks of energy and creativity you didn’t know were possible.

About the Author

Jim Hessler
Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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