The Real Facts About the Coffee Shop Effect
My favorite invention of all time is the one I can't live without—my laptop. It's not because of its powerful software or its ability to create content, but because of its flexibility. My laptop gives me freedom. I can work in the office, from home, by the pool or at my local Starbucks. Changing my work location helps me with productivity when I get brain fog or writer's block. In fact, I can often get more done in one hour at Starbuck's than in an entire morning at the office. The question is, why?
Freelance writer Kat Boogaard asked this question, too, in her recent blog. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Boogaard's insights on what she calls the "coffee shop effect."
1. Your brain loves novelty. Boogaard says that the human brain has been proven to constantly seek novelty, rather than the repetitive and mundane. It's a classic case of "shiny object syndrome." Whether or not you're aware of it, you're always keeping your eyes peeled for what's new and exciting.
When you're presented with something different, your brain releases dopamine. Known to many people as the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine was previously thought to be a reward in itself. Recent studies, however, have shown it's more closely tied to motivation—meaning dopamine inspires you to seek out a reward, rather than acting as a reward itself.
So, by creating a fresh, new work environment, a la Starbucks, you are providing a blank canvas for your brain to get stimulated. By focusing on your to-do list in your new environment, you are exercising your brain's neuroplasticity. So, what you see as being more efficient in a different location is your brain thinking about the tasks in a different light. By doing this, you are climbing out of the stale rut you were in before, activating your brain's ability to think about things in a new way.
2. You easily fall victim to unproductive routiness. We all have routines in our lives, and sometimes these routines, or rituals, are comforting. However, sometimes these routines can become—well, so routine—that they are unproductive. That's why, when you need to put something together for work, it's easy to get distracted by the blackhole known as Facebook or Twitter, or another social media channel. Sometimes a different work environment helps to counteract these bad habits and get productive again.
Boogaard shares this quote from Ralph Ryback, M.D., in an article in Psychology Today. He says, "Environmental cues are essential when it comes to habit formation, in part because the brain is excellent at connecting an environment with a specific situation."
Pay attention to what productivity boosters you enjoy most and think about how to incorporate them back at your desk.
3. You set intentions to get more done. Is it the actual change of environment that makes you more productive, or is it your intention to work better or smarter in the new environment? Boogaard says that it's both of those things. Changing your work environment does indeed have an impact on your brain and your level of motivation. But, there's a lot to be said for good intentions as well. It's as if you've snapped your brain into saying, "I'm going to get through my list." Intention can be a powerful tool.
As reported by the Harvard Business Review, William A. Tiller, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, is quoted from the book, Intention Experiment, by Lynne McTaggart, as saying, "For the last 400 years, an unstated assumption of science is that human intention cannot affect what we call physical reality. Our experimental research of the past decade shows that, for today's world and under the right conditions, this assumption is no longer correct."
In other words, your intention makes a difference. The next time you feel like you're just barely slogging through your workload, consider heading to a new environment with the intention of getting things done. You'll likely be surprised by how much it helps your productivity.
Source: Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer and blogger who finally gathered her courage, sprinted away from her cubicle, and started her own business. Now, she lends her voice to various brands and publications to help them craft content that engages their audience. Beyond that, she helps other hopeful freelancers figure out how to jump ship from their jobs and create their own heart-centered and hustle-filled businesses.