Unless You Possess Extraordinary Discipline and Clear Productivity Goals, You Shouldn’t Be Doing Work in a Coffee Shop

In order to properly gauge how much work you will actually get done, and for what actual purpose you are going to a coffee shop for, consider these three Rumsfeldian factors:

There are the seen seens. These are the times when you’re doing work in a coffee shop in order to be seen. You want to run into someone, or perhaps you just need a little human contact or inspiration. Generally, this means that you’re sitting in a high-traffic area, you’re not wearing headphones, and there may even be room for other people to sit at your table. GSD (Getting Stuff Done) Scale: 2/10.

There are the seen unseens. That is to say that people may see you, but you are controlling who you interact with. If you’re wearing ear buds, sitting in a low-traffic area, and only making eye contact with people you want to talk to, this is a seen unseen. You might engage in a conversation with a client if they happen to walk in, but you will avoid a social interaction with your body/tech language. GSD Scale: 5/10.

Finally, there are the unseen unseens. That is to say, you actually want to get some work done and you have no other choice but to do it in a public space. Perhaps your office is flooded or infested with rodents. Maybe a family of raccoons moved into the bathroom. I don’t know. The point is that if you really must get work done, don’t do it in a coffee shop. However, if factors force you from the office, your body and tech language is important. Essentially, this means you’re sitting in a low- to no-traffic area. Your back is to the door that most people enter (if that’s safe). You’re wearing gigantic, ear-muff-style headphones that shut out the world. I call these “don’t talk to me headphones” — they’re a not so subtle hint. You also don’t look up from your work, lest you be interrupted. Ever. GSD Scale: 8/10.

The most important practice is to assess the reason I’m going to do my work at a coffee shop and adjust my goals for productivity accordingly.

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