It became evident today how a good or bad coffee shop can affect my mobile productivity. My partner and I walked into a local Starbucks and found it packed with customers. We needed a table for two laptops, some space for notebooks, and spots for our coffee/water bottles. The few electrical outlets were overloaded, it was loud, and kind of tense. We noticed it quickly. The place just felt ugly, so we did a 180 and journeyed to another spot I was sure had way better coffee and was less "blah". It took us 20 minutes to get there and an additional 5 minutes to find a parking spot, but the environment was more relaxed, the coffee tastier, and the furniture arrangement conducive to us accomplishing the work we needed to accomplish. It was worth the extra effort. To find a coffee shop that suits your needs, you'll nee to get used to giving up somethings in order to get some others. It should be easy. Most small businesses have way better coffee than Starbucks. It will take some trial and error to find out what your tastes are.
Starbucks, CoffeeBean, Panera, etc., they all sell quick cup of coffee, a variety of baked goods, and other types of foods. It makes sense for people who are on the run to stop in, grab their latte, a muffin, and continue moving. Most of them don't have time as it is and they come in flustered. I totally get it. What I don't get, is how some people can crash and park there. I've sat in a Starbucks and done my work before because I had to have a place that had decent tables, coffee, food, and a bathroom. It was hard working there for longer than two hours. The environment wore on me. It was like the stress these "fast movers" came in with stunk up the place. Those little instances where the woman decides to let the Barrista have a piece of her mind because they didn't put enough squirts of almond milk or whatever-just yuck. So I avoid hanging out or trying to work in the coffee chains. The biggest issues are the coffee and food, but they have one saving grace, their wi-fi is almost always working.
It has taken me a couple of years to develop an interesting array of Coffee Shop spots, but each place have discovered has it's unique charms. I've built up this personal java network out of necessity. I need space, an outlet, but mostly I need to be comfortable. I need a spot where I feel welcome; a place that I don't feel pressure. Vibe is a big deal with me. And so are free refills! IF the place is really comfortable and the coffee is that good, I won't mind paying for the 2nd cup. Not everybody does free refills, so be cognizant, and if you find a place, cherish the Unicorn that it is. There are most certainly some standards I have, but I have some things I'm willing to give up. Some amenities I'm willing to give up: a surgically-cleaned bathroom is the easiest sacrifice. The bathrooms only need to be decently clean for me. For the ladies, this could be a problem, but some places have clean bathrooms, they just aren't aesthetically pleasing. I think people are so accustomed to well attended movie/department store bathrooms. When the germaphobe-types see an old school, worn, and working bathroom, they get a little grossed out.
"Most small businesses have way better coffee than Starbucks."
The places I like to stay at, I can hang out comfortably for at least 3-4 hours. I don't need air conditioning, but air circulation is important. Sometimes it's too cold in a place, so I carry a jacket. A nice cold work environment is my favorite. One of my other favorite things is space. I need a little more than those single tables at CoffeeBean. I like to spread out a bit with my laptop, wacom pad, and notebooks. Electricity is important for anybody also, but only to an extent. If you plan ahead and have get good battery life from your gear you can manage. If I have my laptop charged up, I just work until it shuts off. My new laptop lasts a good 3 hours and I'm okay with that block of productivity. Some days, I run out of the house at 10% and I need the extra capabilities, so a place that has a lot of available outlets is another characteristic of a great spot. I'm always ready to adapt and usually carry a multi-outlet, three-pronged (grounded) extension cord. To make wrangling the cord easier, I use a large Nite-Eye's Gear Tie to keep it organized and tight. This enables me to make a single outlet into a multiple one and it also gets me "reach". A Cube Tap comes in handy too, especially when there are other mobile nomads on an outlet.
Another easy-for-me sacrifice I make is food. I'm not really into baked goods or pastries, so ditching those types of food is the easy. Some days I've already eaten breakfast and I don't need to eat at the place. So if they have great coffee, I'm set. If they have free refills, I'm loving life. If they have bananas or fruit, that is more than enough nourishment for me last while I'm there. Another thing I can give up is internet service. At two of my favorite spots, the internet is spotty and sometimes you have to ask them to reboot it. My phone has tethering capabilities, so in most cases I am able to get connectivity. With my hotspot, I am able to produce decent connectivity to handle some uploading and downloading of medium weight content. I'm definitely not going to attempt to watch The Dark Knight Returns on my laptop through my phone.
Do they have good coffee?
Do they have free refills?
So when you're out there hunting and taste-testing for your new favorite coffee shops, here are some considerations:
How far is it from your house and is it worth the drive?
Do they have air conditioning or fans?
Are the chairs comfortable? Do the tables wobble?
Do you need good internet connectivity or can you get by with tethering?
Do they have a ton of available outlets?
Is it kid/dog/handicap friendly?
Do they serve food; baked goods, pastries, fruits, salads, sandwiches, or breakfast?
The most important question of all, do they have good coffee and free refills?
Please share your thoughts and comments below. Share your favorite coffee shop spots with us!
-Digital Ninja® out.