Why I’m Now Super Productive at Starbucks

When I participated in the One Laptop Per Child’s Give One, Get One Program back in December 2007, they gave us one year of free T-Mobile hotspot access in addition to the computers.  I was super psyched because, at that time, a T-Mobile subscription was the only way to access the web at Starbucks.  Up until then I was limited to a handful of coffee shops in the area that had free wi-fi, but when you threw Starbucks into the mix there were hundreds of options within a half hour drive.  I still find it refreshing to get out of the warehouse or my apartment to do work, but back then (pre-warehouse) I was working 100% from home, so it was necessary for my sanity to get out a few times a week and do work in a different setting.

Well, that one year subscription is finally up.  Since T-Mobile is phasing out their wi-fi at Starbucks, it’s really not a big deal.  I’ve just begun using my Starbucks card to get the 2 hours a day of free wi-fi that they’re offering to everyone now.  At first I was kinda pissed because it turned my usual 3-4 hour trip into a 2 hour one.

But this past Saturday I went in early in the morning, knowing  I only had 2 hours to work, and I got a crapload done (just like back in college when I had those 2 hour breaks between classes).  It was like a timer was ticking down the entire time.  I was super-focused.  I had my headphones on and was completely zoned in.  The 2 hour time limit made me want to get more done.  It was a personal challenge to try to accomplish as much as I could possibly squeeze out of myself.

For me, this is mostly just a game I like to play.  Arbitrary time restrictions force me to focus on the here and now and I get more done that way.  However, if you’re a student or working full time and trying to get a business off the ground, you might only have 4 or 6 or 8 hours each week to work on starting and growing your business.  And if that’s the case, these 2 hour intense work sessions might be just the solution you’re looking for.  It’s easy to plan around your life because you know exactly when it’s going to start and when it’s going to end.  You get 2 hours to accomplish as much as possible, not a second more.

8 comments on Why I’m Now Super Productive at Starbucks

  1. Oke says:


    Having limited amount of time to do things really gets me focused also. I think it is the fact that you are putting all concentration in the work it just gets done. Good post man!

  2. It’s funny that you posted this today because I recently started setting a timer for myself during my working intervals (at home or starbucks), and I find that I am much less likely to squander time doing less-important things, and am all around way more productive with that set time than I would be just “winging-it”.

    It think if you have at&t as your mobile carrier you automatically get free wifi (unlimited). I may be wrong though…

  3. Adam McFarland says:

    Thanks Oke!

    @Terra – I think you’re right. Anyone w/AT&T as their carrier gets unlimited time. I’m a Sprint guy tho 🙁

    I like the idea of timing your work time. I tend to set goals like “I’m going to finish this programming task by 10 AM” and then work as hard as possible to get it done by 10. Those little short term goals help me stay focused, which is essentially what you’re doing with timing your work.

  4. Adam Holland says:

    I must be missing you! I’ve been at every Starbucks almost everyday in the past week.. haha.

    Starbucks gets me out of the house, away from my dogs and other distractions…

    And now that my wife is opening up the family day care, I’ll really have NO CHOICE but to go to Starbucks everyday.. haha

    Adam H

  5. Adam McFarland says:

    Adam –

    It’s funny you mention that. I was at the new one on Wolf Road last night with George and I had that feeling I was going to run into you there like I did last time. I was actually surprised you weren’t inside when I walked in lol. I’ll give you a buzz next time I’m going and maybe we can meet up.


  6. Jay Lin says:

    Hey Adam,

    If you have a smart phone, you can just tether the service from your phone for internet anywhere. I use a Nokia E71 and connect it to my laptop USB for a connection anywhere this is 3G service. Super convenient.

  7. Adam McFarland says:

    Jay – you’re definitely right. In an ideal situation I’d just have a mobile broadband card and go anywhere, anytime. I can’t justify the cost right now, or the cost to add mobile web to my phone (a 2 year old razr) to enable it to be used as a modem. Especially when there are places with free wi-fi. Of course, that said, the next phone I get will definitely be purchased with this in mind. I also suspect that at some point we’ll have the company pay for phones/broadband cards for us…you know, when we hit that point where we need to find as many extra write-offs as possible. Not quite there yet 🙂


  8. […] productive work day.  One of the best work days I’ve had in a long time.  I had several 1-3 hour sprints where I was able to get a solid amount of work done.  Everywhere I went had free wi-fi.  From my […]

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