The Mill in Sacramento
Photos by: Vanessa Labi. The Mill coffee shop in Sacramento

During summer, you need a space that’s energizing, lest the hot air and laid back vibes melt your productivity. It can also be the perfect place to do a little checking in while on vacation. There are ways to optimize your coffee shop experience so you can master the art of working remotely and sip a little enjoyment out the experience.

The Mill in Sacramento


  • Change of scenery
  • Permanent perkiness. Thanks, caffeine!
  • No colleagues or supervisors to distract you or pile need-it-now deliverables on your plate
  • Pleasant, neutral place to meet up with clients and colleagues

Conference calls

For obvious reasons, a coffee shop is not the best place for conference calls. Stepping outside is an option, but without your laptop in tow and with cars whirring by, it’s best to schedule these for when you’re back in the office, a private office within your co-working space, or a quiet place at home. Plus, you may risk disturbing your “co-workers” and potentially sharing confidential information with strangers.

Gauge whether it’s work-friendly

If there are copious outlets and Massive Attack playing over the speakers (seemed to be a popular choice at the coffee shops I studied in throughout college), it’s probably a welcome work space. If the café is not so much a café as it is a restaurant, it’s probably safe to say the servers might get peeved if you overstay your welcome setting the world record for world’s slowest consumption of a hummus plate. Use your best judgement and limit your stay to four hours or less.

Get to know your favorite coffee shop’s peak times

It’s a safe bet that they’ll all be busy from 7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. And if you’re in an artsy neighborhood, those peak hours might bleed into late morning and never really let up. The Intelligentsia in the trendy Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake, for example, is bustling with screenwriters and independent contractors pretty much all day long. That said, it might be better to save those “it” coffee shops for weekend coffee and socializing. If you’re there to get down to business, get yourself to a quieter café.

Blue Bottle in The Trade
Blue Bottle delights at Sacramento’s co-working space, The Trade

Bring the right equipment

The optimal block of time for working in a coffee shop 2-4 hours. This means you’ll need gear. There’s nothing like showing up with a take-on-the-world ‘tude, only to be held back by a dying battery or lack of pad and paper for scribbling out your caffeine-fueled bursts of inspiration. Come equipped with a cord, headphones, pad and paper. It may sound old school, but having a pad and paper can help you jot down ideas, and sketch plans and infographic ideas. It can also be helpful to take a break from the constant connectivity of your internet activities/reminders/notifications that may be distracting you from finding the “aha” moment of the day. Finding that moment can come from doing some preliminary planning by taking a pen to paper. Getting back to the computer, I find that working with a mouse and mousepad increases productivity in a subtle but significant way, especially if you plan to do graphic design or Photoshop work. Anything that helps streamline the simplest of actions is only going to improve your experience.

Co-Working at The Trade
Blue Bottle coffee shop within The Trade Coffee & Co-Working in Sacramento

Set your phone to airplane mode

Now, this one, I must admit, I overheard at the beginning of a yoga class. The instructor shared with a student how she keeps herself on task by eliminating the distraction of her phone. I must agree – when you’re out of the office, it can be tempting to cruise Instagram during your productivity lulls. But, what was that study that NPR reported recently? You actually free your mind up for creativity when you’re not being stimulated by your phone. A little boredom can encourage your mind to wander and meander into idea territory. Don’t stare at the wall, mind you, but do revel in those moments a bit and if anything, use them to consult your to-do list. Check in to see what you’ve done so far and do some follow-up on items you may have sent out the day before.

Working at The Mill in Sacramento

Take advantage of tools that help you manage tasks

Whether you’re working on your own projects or as part of a team, manage your tasks with a project management tool like Basecamp, Slack, Hipchat, or Producteev. Use Slack and Hipchat to chat easily with groups or one-on-one. It’s a great place to brainstorm ideas and so much more fun than email! Producteev is great in that you actually get to cross off A strikethrough has never felt so good!

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