A change of routine when you need to work or study is a good thing. Hell, I’ve even recommended changing your clothes to get into study mode. The more traditional approach to shaking things up is heading to a coffee shop to get stuff done, but there are a few things you should keep in mind when selecting one (besides that the coffee is decent and the wifi is fast).
Look for a slightly noisy coffee shop
The first thing you want to look for is just a skosh of noise. When you’re trying to study for retention, noise is a no-no, but when you want to work on tasks you understand and get the creative juices flowing, it’s a … yes-yes.
Research shows a little ambient noise is helpful for your brain if you’re getting into the zone, so look for a place that’s got a little activity—but not too much. A Starbucks where commuters are dashing in and out between 7 and 9 a.m. isn’t ideal, but a spot where the employees always seem to be grinding beans or local moms are catching up at a nearby table is just right.
Make sure you bring along headphones in the event that the noise level gets too high, but don’t be afraid to let the white noise of other people soothe you into finally sorting through all your emails or working on a slide deck.
Stick with the same place
Although my Manhattan neighborhood is bustling, I live in a coffee shop desert. The local Starbucks has, like, three tables. I’ve never been able to connect to the wifi with any of my computers or my phone at the independent joint on the corner, which the employees have told me for years is just my problem, since “no one else has an issue with it.” There was a great coffee shop/bookstore two blocks away for a while, but they inexplicably stopped providing wifi altogether, I’m told because they wanted to foster human connection (and tank their daytime revenue). Another place down the block closed last year, which devastated me and made sense all at once, as I was literally the only person in it any time I went. I’ve tried them all—and that’s the problem.
Ideally, you want to find a place you can frequent so you build some familiarity and start associating it with getting work done. You want to get a little bit of human interaction there, get into a consistent flow, and be comfortable. While it’s good to get out of the house or office and work somewhere new, it shouldn’t be new every time. Even if you’re the opposite of me and have dozens of locations to pick from, avoid the urge to go to a new spot every day and instead focus on building a routine at a shop that will come to symbolize “work” in your mind.