The Productivity Ninja Guide to Coffee

10/12/2013 |

Image 1 courtesy of  BobPetUK via Flickr

Image 2 courtesy of Robert Banh via Flickr

coffee 2Many of us rely on caffeine to get us through the day. You see people clutching their grande latte with extra whipped cream on the morning train as if their life depends on it.

However, there are far more effective ways to use coffee to get the job done, than guzzle a pint of latte every morning.

Here are our top 6 ways that coffee can be used to improve your work!


As a sparsely used weapon, coffee or tea can be great; as a crutch it’s so unproductive. Aim for one coffee a day and if you need to boost your energy at other times, try snacking on apples as an alternative (it works surprisingly well!).

Try to find ways of kick-starting the day without the need for caffeine and then if you need a strategic coffee later in the day, you have it in your arsenal. If you start the day with a caffeine rush, it’s either downhill from there, or you need to keep injecting more caffeine rushes to stay on top and you end up feeling like your energy is on a rollercoaster ride. In the longer term, sustained caffeine use will play havoc with your adrenal glands… and make you look really old.

Find out more about ninja-style healthy eating here


The best way to be sure that you won’t be interrupted and distracted by all the noises and annoyances of the office is to be somewhere other than the office. Working from home can be a good solution to this. It can also provide its own new set of distractions: “I’ll start my report just as soon as I’ve done last night’s washing up and hoovered the lounge”.

Coffee shops are a great alternative. These are places where the atmosphere and scenery is calming, but where there are few distractions: desk, pad, laptop and me. There’s nothing to do but drink coffee and do my best work and as a result, that’s often exactly what I do.

Make sure you have space where you can lay out your papers easily but also a space where you’re unlikely to face interruptions, distractions and other attention threats. Many coffee shops now have co-working tables, where you have a bit more room and will be near a plug if you need one.

There are other ways to stay focused – check out our suggestions here


There is a growing trend developing where people hold their meetings away from the office and in coffee shops. Since as a nation, the UK has in the last ten years really embraced the ‘coffee culture’ of our European and American counterparts, perhaps this is not a surprising trend.

Coffee shops can make great locations for meetings – they’re informal, yet you don’t want to outstay your welcome, so easy conversation and brevity quickly follow. And of course, fuelled by far too much caffeine from those big mugs, we talk more quickly and are more alert in our pursuit of the outcomes we want.


coffeeIf you’re forced to run a meeting in the office, you can still use coffee to get things done. A great tip with managing flow is to strategically use the natural breaks in the day: a lunch break, a coffee break or the specified finish time. When I am writing agendas I always try to schedule the bits where I can predict things might get a little heated to be just before a coffee break or lunch. This means that rather than just being focussed on the issue, participants’ attention and collective enthusiasm for the fight are diverted towards their collective enthusiasm for a coffee and a piece of cake. You’ll find that the person who delays this, even over a matter of principle, is brave indeed.

And if it does get a little heated, well you have the natural break in proceedings to calm everyone down, rather than that heat getting in the way of other agenda items.

Find out more tips about better meetings here and check our our facilitation training here


We deal with a whole lot of tasks where it feels like we’re the pioneers. When we’re doing this it can feel like all we have to call on is our own imagination, but this is rarely the case. Look around within your organisation and outside of it and you probably won’t have too much trouble finding someone who’s taken on a similar challenge and won. It’s much easier to ‘model’ their behaviour than try to reinvent the wheel.

Look for opportunities to pick these people’s brains. Perhaps ask them if you can buy them a coffee and use the time to ask them a couple of key questions that would move your own work forward. Look for opportunities to ask for advice, learn from the mistakes of others and be generous with the advice that you could offer to someone else on their way up the same ladder as you.

Read more about the benefits of a mentor here


Think about all those internal emails that fly around the office from people who sit just a few desks away. Whilst the kettle is being boiled, use this time to have quick conversations in reply to some of those emails.

Before you get up to make a drink, do a quick scan of your email inbox, picking out two or three potential targets. Then, your goal is to hunt them down between now and when you sit back down with your hot beverage. Make it a game! Particularly focus on the conversations that are so much more easily done in person than on email, which will save you a bucketful of time later on.

Sometimes a useful way to decide this is to think about which emails might lead you to reply with a series of questions – usually in a two-way conversation, the number of questions you need to answer is seriously reduced.



Think Productive UK delivers Time Management Training with a difference – check out our in-house and public workshops!

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