Cafes are a great place to get work done. They’re different to a home office, regular office or even a library. Maybe it’s the cliche, the idea of an artist grinding away in a cosy little cafe, typing away at what will become their bestselling debut novel, or laying the foundation for a blog that is about to go viral. A cafe is where you go when you really need to focus, and home just isn’t doing the trick, or when you simply need a change of scenery or a good cup of coffee. I could probably write an entire article on why I love writing in cafes, but that wouldn’t do either of us much good right now.
Because in a lot of places, cafes are currently closed or challenging to reserve a spot in. But that isn’t the only reason that we should learn how to make our home cafe because there are more moments when we won’t be able to go to a cafe. Such as when we need to budget, when we’re feeling under the weather or when something requires us to stay in the house. So we need to stop depending on the concept of a cafe for productivity and learn how to achieve that same utopian benefit in our own homes.
So let’s break it down and discover how we can achieve that cosy cafe vibe without even opening our front door.
This may come across as super random, but I wanted it to be my first point as it has been a complete gamechanger for me in terms of heightening productivity. I love writing with sound in the background, even songs with lyrics, but for some reason, I was really struggling to maintain focus at the start of working from home. I was experienced with writing for periods with music playing, but suddenly I had all day and no other sound. Having earphones in just made music too distracting, and playing it from my laptop in front of me just felt offputting. I couldn’t put my finger on the issue, why the music in a cafe felt perfect whilst at home it felt like an attack on my focus.
Then I tried to use an external speaker, just a UE Boom that my boyfriend had lying around. I only realised how poorly the sound from a laptop is when I used this speaker. I put it on the bookcase to the right of my desk and played my music through it. And it was perfect. It was calming music that wasn’t coming from the instrument I was using to write; it wasn’t a direct attack but rather an external experience. It was like being in a cafe, having music that calm you but doesn’t steal your focus. I cannot recommend using an external speaker to play your music enough.
Want to take a step further? You can find videos and songs that include cafe background noises to set the scene truly. The clatter of cups, the gentle buzz of conversation, the grind of a coffee machine… can all be the music to your ears.
This really depends on personal taste, I know people who can’t write to music that has voices singing, I know people who love techno or classical, and others who simply play the Top 40 radio. I work well to general music, but it has to be songs that I know well enough, so they don’t distract me. I almost find it motivational to have such familiar voices around me, as if they’re a symbol for working hard and achieving. However, I get bored quickly; I can’t just play the same album.
So what I finally did is create my own playlist, complete with the creative title of ‘Writing’, and I added any entire albums that I liked. Whenever a new song or album is released that works for me, I just add it. It is currently 30 hours and 28 minutes long. Anyone else looking at the playlist would be confused by how random the songs are and the artists I chose. But it works for me; it’s my own soundtrack. I want to listen to Taylor Swift but also The Weeknd, Fleetwood Mac followed by Charlie Puth. Design your own playlist, and save yourself time each time you write. It’s too easy to let choosing music be a subtle form of procrastination, so instead have a go-to playlist (or even ones for specific tasks/moods) and just open it. You can always skip a song that you’re not keen on, but guaranteed once you’re in the flow of things, you won’t even feel the need to.
It also works through the aspect of creating a routine. When the playlist is on, it means writing time. As soon as you take a break or do a different task, you pause the playlist and wait until you’re ready to return to writing.
I’m going to confess, something that may cause you to think differently of me…
I am not a fancy coffee person.
There I said it. I am not a coffee snob, I don’t buy fancy beans, I don’t like espressos or taste the difference between Starbucks and a local coffee place. I like cappuccinos and lattes, and I get them with oat milk whenever possible. But despite this, when I started trying to recapture the cafe aesthetic at home, I decided I needed to make coffee a part of it. I still use a french press, as I love them and find it works well for me. But I added to my collection by purchasing a milk foamer. I figured that if I was going to be stuck at home, I needed a frothy cappuccino to make it better. I’ve used it plenty by now, and I really appreciate the added flair it brings to a simple coffee. When I’m working for my day job or grabbing a quick coffee, I just add my milk in au natural. But when I’m sitting down for a writing session, particularly on a weekend when I’d rather be chilling or when it’s pouring with rain, I can gift myself with a frothy cappuccino in my favourite mug.
Don’t underestimate the effect of such small touches. Of having a nice warm drink to sip whilst you type away or do your research. We need such small joys, those little pushes to keep going, and it is a great and easy way to bring the cafe to your home. Even once cafes are open, it’ll save you a lot of coffee money to just have semi-decent coffee and a milk foamer at home!
Being in a cafe is about having a spot that you have labelled as you’re writing/working area. Often, we consider ourselves to work better in cafes, and so we do. You can think of it as a fulfilling prophecy, as you believe you’ll perform better there and so you do. You just need to have a place in your home that is provided with the same level of efficiency.
If you have a home office/study, that’s great! You can create a space that is solely about working, no social media or goofing around occurs in this area. I have a home office, but sometimes that doesn’t work for me. Being in the same space all day limits me, so I’ll also create my ‘cafe’ on my dining room table or the couch with a laptop folding table. You just need to have a space that works for you and is granted that privilege of being your cafe. If you want to watch videos or go on your phone, leave the area, don’t allow yourself to associate it to anything but working hard.
By treating it like a place that will make you productive, your mind will follow swiftly. Mind over matter. Don’t tell yourself that you don’t work well at home; make yourself work well. There are always complications and limitations, and I’m not claiming that it will be easy, I’m merely saying that it is possible and you’re the only one who can make it that.
What do you need in your designated space? You need minimal distractions, whilst also retaining some inspiration if possible. I have a bookshelf in my office as it doesn’t distract me, but seeing all these published books reminds me why I’m doing this. I have brainstorms for my current project on the wall. But I also have plants, as they make me feel calm and give me a pleasant sight. The question is what you need in your cafe, what do you notice most in the cafes you go to? Is it sitting on a comfortable chair, or having a notebook set beside you? Recreate it using the tools you have.
Working in a cafe isn’t just about practicality. I like to think of it almost as a practical treat for ourselves. It’s taking the motivation to work and get things done, but also providing a softer touch with a warm coffee and cosy atmosphere, easing yourself into productivity. Don’t forget that gentle touch in your home cafe. And this can be well combined with training yourself for productivity. Many of the best writers have a ‘ritual’ that makes them work, something that signifies it is time to be serious and gets words onto paper. It could be a specific playlist as we mentioned, or a cup of coffee in front of you - making good use of that milk foamer! What really helped me was a scent. I had one of those infusers that you light a candle for, and it would burn away at the top of my desk. The gorgeous scent that fills the room calms me; it gets me focused and deep into the zone. Then once my session is done, I blow out the candle, signifying that end. Consider adding a candle or scent diffuser to your home cafe, or something else that gets you feeling both ready and comforted.
This is quite a general tip for working from home, but I feel it rings especially true when it comes to constructing a cafe at home. You probably wouldn’t go to the cafe in those sweatpants and stained jumper? Getting dressed can signify to yourself that you’re entering a work mode, that it is time to get serious. I’m not saying that you have to wear makeup, and definitely no need to wear a bra. Be comfortable, as you also would focus on that for a cafe session. But getting into proper clothing gives you a sense of normalcy, the determination to get things done and not just slouch around on Instagram. It’s a chance to feel good about yourself, feel confident in yourself. Not feeling your best, feeling insecure in your skin, isn’t an excellent mindset for trying to write and believe in yourself. Remind yourself of the difference between chilling at home and starting your cafe by dressing in that way.
When you’re heading to a cafe to work, you probably go there with a specific intention. A deadline is looming over you, a chapter you really want to dig into, some creative space for brainstorming. You should enter your home cafe with the same intention. Don’t come in, set up and then decide what to do. Instead, you should have everything planned before. I like to plan my to do’s the evening before or before I have breakfast. Then I have some time away to mull over it, start generating ideas and getting in the mindset. This replicates the thinking time you have on your journey to the cafe as well as the determination to get started.
Once you’ve created your cafe space, it is time to treat it with respect and let the work start. Don’t put all your energy into perfecting that space, as you’ll end up using it as a form of productive procrastination. Set aside one session, two maximum to work on creating your home cafe. To order the items that you need, do your rearranging and brainstorm what a cafe represents to you. After that, it is time to get down to business!
I’d love to hear why you choose to work in a cafe, and what the biggest appeals are for you!
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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