By: Jared & Lora Stayton
Freelancers have a reputation for working from quaint corner cafes, ear-phoned and typing away on MacBooks in jeans and sneakers. Is it the attraction of a constant caffeine supply, or the free wifi that makes independents and other creative types turn coffee shops into their home away from home?
It turns out that freelancers may be onto something. New research suggests that the link between creativity and coffee shops runs deeper than you think, and here are three reasons why…
1. Background Noise
You’d think that your quiet home office would make you more productive. Not so much! A study published in The Journal of Consumer Research found that the level of ambient noise of a bustling coffee shop enhanced creativity, compared with a quieter level. Quiet makes you focus on any creative task because “distraction caused by a moderate (vs. low) level of noise will induce processing difficulty, leading to abstract processing and, consequently, to greater creativity.”
So, What that means is: when you’re mildly distracted, all the judgmental, analytical, orderly parts of your brain are quieted so that out-of-the-box, unfiltered ideas can float up into your consciousness.
2. Out of Your Comfort Zone
Your mind is literally wired to turn off repeat input and only focus on new information. So trying new things, seeing new faces, and visiting new places stimulates your brain. There’s a reason that famous authors, for centuries, have sat and watched people pass them by and then went off to invent/write brilliant things. Ok, there were probably a few steps between those two things, but you know what we mean!
You can’t take in all the things that are happening in a coffee shop and be productive simultaneously, though; too much stimulation is distracting. Try sitting for a while, looking around and enjoying the sights, and then focusing on your work. The bustle of others in your peripheral vision is the kind of low-level distraction that makes you creative but productive.
3. The faint whiff of history?
The final reason you’re more productive in a coffee shop is not based on research, but on personal experience and group behavior.
We’ve all seen the movies and other cultural images of the Faulkners or Fitzgeralds smoking and looking smart and sloppy in Paris cafes. Younger generations were raised with the knowledge that J.K. Rowling, summit of all things brilliant and wonderful, wrote the first Harry Potter books in a sleepy Scottish coffee shop.
As a result, there is an inexplicable sensation, upon walking into a wood-paneled, dimly lit, neighborhood coffee shop (eh-ham…Brickhouse), that you’re somehow part of a grand tradition of independent-thinkers. It’s just a little bit exciting.
Do you work in coffee shops? Do you feel more productive?