Coffee shops and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly. But you gotta have a coffee shop writing routine that keeps you on track, lest you squander your writing time with distractions.

a wooden table in a coffee shop with a mug of coffee, glass of water, and cookies and the text "The Productive Coffee Shop Writing Routine"

Every once in a while, I think going to a coffee shop is a great idea. I pack up the laptop and my planner, and drive to the nearest local place.

But if I’m being honest, it isn’t always a good use of my time.

Are coffee shops good for writing? That's a loaded question. Click To Tweet

Are Coffee Shops Good for Writing?

This is a loaded question.

For me, they were pretty good when I was younger. As a college kid, I was better able to tune out extraneous sounds. Everything around me was constantly chaos, so working in a coffee shop wasn’t that different from every other aspect of my day.

Plus, you just feel so cute and bookish when you’re sipping a latte and doing homework.

But now, I don’t do coffee shops easily. In fact, I can barely take my laptop to another room in my house and be productive. It’s weird.

I respect those who have a coffee shop daily routine, but my daily routine is in my office. And without that location, my productivity generally doesn’t happen.

There was a time where I really liked the idea of late night coffee shops, or the 24-hour coffee shop. But that was back when I thought I could trick myself into being a night owl. That isn’t who I am, and I don’t try to fight my obnoxious morning person tendencies anymore.

I will admit that I use them for the occasional afternoon writing retreat, or even an urban writer’s retreat.

So, for the most part, I don’t do anything at coffee shops anymore unless I absolutely have to. But if I do, I have a plan for making it worth my while.

The Productive Coffee Shop Writing Routine

If you want to make coffee shops work for your writing, then you’re going to need some supplies and tips to keep you on track. Here are the things I recommend.

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001: Find a quiet corner.

The quieter the spot, the better. You’ll still have the sound of the espresso maker and the light chatter of the people in the shop, but you won’t have the loud gossip or the clatter of the front door to distract you.

And a corner makes it all the better, just because you can put your back and one side against the wall. This cuts down on external stimuli, and you won’t have all the sensations of people walking past you from all sides.

And bonus points if that corner happens to have an outlet so you can plug in when necessary.

002: Make sure to bring your headphones.

Headphones are great for two reasons. You can drown out the sounds of loud people when it gets too noisy in the shop, and they deter strangers from striking up a conversation with you.

For me, I need my headphones to help me focus. I like to listen to music without lyrics or Ambient Mixer to help me block the sounds of the people around me.

I exclusively use the big can-style headphones. They’re more comfortable than the janky earbuds that come with your phone, and they keep out sounds better.

003: Be realistic about your goals.

If I’m working at a coffee shop, I know that I’m not going to be as productive as I would be at home in my yoga pants.

I’m a soft clothes girl. But if I’m out and about, I’m probably wearing real clothes, and slightly uncomfortable simply because I don’t normally wear them. Plus, the environment isn’t as quiet and I may not be able to charge my laptop when I need to.

For all these reasons, I keep my work goals low when I go to a coffee shop. I know I will never get as much done in the shop as I would at home. But even so, it’s a great place to work on specific things, like my weekly newsletter or scheduling some social media.

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004: Not all tables and seats are created equal.

Some tables are the perfect height and the chair is comfortable. At a coffee shop, those are few and far between.

It seems I always get the tables that wobble, or the chairs that are so hard and cramped. Though, there is one specific coffee shop I go to that has chairs that are soft and swallow you whole. They are impossible to use when you’re writing.

So, when you’re seeking out your seat in the corner, make sure the table is solid and the chair is good for your butt for the next hour or so.

And if you can find a coffee shop with good tables and chairs, you’ll be torn between telling everyone you know about how great it is, or never telling a soul so you can ensure it’s never too busy for you.

The key to getting anything done at a coffee shop is to avoid being perceived. Click To Tweet

005: Avoid being perceived.

I live in Oklahoma City, and before that, I lived in Norman, Oklahoma. The thing about living here is that you know everyone. Or, even if you don’t know them, they still kind of know you.

It’s very small town vibes, simply because if you’re a member of a particular subset of the population, you know everyone else in that subset. And that makes going to a coffee shop an absolute nightmare.

This is another reason I recommend being realistic about your goals for your coffee shop writing routine. Because if you go to the coffee shop and run into someone, you’re going to have a conversation with them.

That may be fine and what you’re interested in. But for me, if I’m working, I don’t want to slow down my momentum to chat about the weather and what so-and-so is up to.

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If you have an invisibility cloak, wear it. If not, well. Good luck.

006: Get a responsible beverage.

Coffee shops are chock-full of tasty garbage. And I know I can’t consume a latte without feeling terrible. The milk and sugar combo generally leaves me feeling pretty sick, and the caffeine can’t pick me up out of that slump.

Naturally, a sugar crash isn’t great for hitting my word count goals.

So, if I go to a coffee shop, I tend to get a black coffee, which is my normal drink. That is, unless I want to buy myself something nice. Then I get something that tastes great and makes me feel awful.

007: Watch out for WiFi.

The internet is dark and full of terrors. And if I’m already distracted by the environment in the coffee shop, I’m not going to be able to avoid the siren song of the internet.

Sometimes I’ll go to a coffee shop where I’ve never connected to the internet, and I won’t ask the barista what the WiFi password is, just so I can make sure I’m getting the writing done. But if I need the internet for the music I’m going to listen to, I’m playing a dangerous game with my productivity.

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What Is Your Coffee Shop Writing Routine?

How do you stay productive in coffee shops? What is your favorite type of seat/table combo at a coffee shop? Do you avoid the internet? How do you avoid being perceived?

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