Optimizing Work From Coffee Shops – A Primer

As a digital nomad, I always prefer to work from a coffee shop, rather than from a coworking space. I don’t have anything against working from coworking spaces, to be honest, and, sometimes, I go test a new space or I try to participate in the events organized by them. It’s just that working from coffee shops gives way more diversity to the entire process.

It’s not only the space that changes almost every day, (if you work every day from different places, which I try to do as much as I can) but also the people who are there with you, the vibe of the place, the coffee taste, and, alas, sometimes the internet connection, which, every once in a while, decides to just go away. But, in all honesty, this is a minor inconvenient nowadays, with the ubiquitous coverage you get from mobile operators and the falling price of mobile data. If you plan your mobile subscriptions well, you’re properly insured.

But, as divers as this process may be, it is also quite hectic. Its mere diversity makes it difficult to formalize it, to put it in a predictable structure. So, the challenge is to keep the freshness high, while lowering the entropy.

Optimization to the rescue!

What follow is a primer I put together for those who are preferring coffee shops over coworking spaces. It’s just a rough draft, so if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments.

1. DYOR – Do Your Own Research

This phase can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending on the city you are, what type of work are you doing and your budget constraints. But it’s a very important stage.

At this level, you’re just trying as many places as you like and try to understand how it is to work from there. By trying I mean going there at least 3-4 times, so you can account for as many situations as you can.

At the end of this process, you should know a few basic things about every place you visited, including (but not limited to):

  • price for a coffee and a snack
  • power outlet availability
  • staff attitude and service quality
  • internet connection quality
  • overall specific of the place (see below, number 3).

2. Plan The Week Ahead

It’s important to have at least some basic idea where are you going to work this week. You’d want to make this schedule based on coffee shop opening hours, your workload, current available budget, and so on.

You can perfectly go without a plan, and that’s sometimes very exciting, but if you go without a plan too much of the time, you may start to experience the downside of diversity, which is fatigue, lower quality of your work or budget imbalances.

3. Mix, Match And Adjust To The Specific Of The Place

That’s probably the thing I like the most about working from coffee shops. Let me give you an example: I may start the day in a coffee shop owned and managed by a German lady, where the service is impeccable, the internet stable and the power outlets abundant, but after lunch I may decide to go to an Italian place, where the attitude is more outspoken, the coffee better and the interaction more fulfilling. And I can go on with this mix and match for ever. The “adjust” part is related to your work constraints, which you should take into account when doing this. For instance, if I know I’ll have a lot of calls, I will choose a stable internet coffee shop.

This kind of diversity and richness in choices is very hard to find in a coworking place (which, like I said, still has its own advantages).

4. Budget Mercilessly

That’s something that you should really watch when you work from coffee shops. I’ve been guilty if ignoring this part in the past, with annoying consequences. It’s so easy to get caught into the stream of “needs”, like “just one more cupcake”, or “it’s safe to have a beer now”, that you hardly notice your budget is exploding.

My rule of thumb is that what I pay while working from coffee shops should never exceed what I would pay on a full subscription in a coworking place. If I go over this budget, I simply stop working from coffee shops and work from home – which is something I’m not very fond of, to be honest – until the budget is balanced again.

Also, another rule of thumb would be that financial discipline should be an ongoing activity, and not only related to the choice of the place where I work from.

Well, that was my primer. Feel free to add your own suggestions, critiques or improvements to this article.

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