It's a strange thing, but sometimes being given a smaller space, more people nearby, and less convenience helps workers get things done at a coffee shop, restaurant or other spots. The Atlantic offers four key theories on why that is.
Conor Friedersdorf cites primarily writers in his overview of out-of-house productivity, but finds some common threads among those who choose to do their work in the public eye. Coffee shops, he writes, provide "Just Enough Distraction" — more than a dead-quiet office, but not a rock concert's worth. They also lift the mind from thinking it's on a deadline (even if it is), and can often make work seem more fun. But, citing an MIT study on Wi-Fi workers, Friedersdorf hits on something this Lifehacker editor has always understood, without putting a name to it:
...when we are alone in a public place, we have a fear of "having no purpose". If we are in a public place and it looks like that we have no business there, it may not seem socially appropriate. In coffee-shops it is okay to be there to drink coffee but loitering is definitely not allowed by coffee-shop owners, so coffee-shops patrons deploy different methods to look "busy". Being disengaged is our big social fear, especially in public spaces, and people try to cover their "being there" with an acceptable visible activity.
Bingo. I actually relied upon the implied scorn of other coffee drinkers to keep me on-task while working on my book, thinking of how I feel when I see others in coffee shops spending seemingly hours on Facebook. Do you get a similar motivational boost from working out and about? Photo by HeatherHeatherHeather
Working Best at Coffee Shops [The Atlantic]