The Coffee Shop Entrepreneur Myth

It’s time to kick back in a coffee shop here in Toronto, surrounded by beautiful people, listening to my favorite music, and getting a ton of work done.

Just kidding.

That’s now how it works in the real world.

If I tried that, I wouldn’t get half of my regular work done. Too many distractions. And I don’t care who tries to convince me that they are productive in a coffee shop, the truth is they would get more done working at home without distractions.

That’s why I always shake my head with a little sadness when I hear Internet beginners saying they are going down to Starbucks to work on their online business.

Every single successful online business person I know works “holed up” at home or in an office without distractions.

I work at home, alone, in silence.

I do not listen to music because I write faster without it.

I do not answer the phone because I cannot afford the distraction.

I answer all email at the end of the day so I stay focused all day.

I have my day strictly scripted in 30 minute blocks so I know what I should be doing every hour.

That is how I’m able to complete the daily ETR messages, an article for my Internet Independence website, and an article or blog post or video for my fitness website each day, all while fitting in time to create new products (like I did yesterday in a 2 hour workout filming session that kicked my butt).

You cannot overemphasize the importance of time and energy control when you are trying to run your own business or simply be productive. You need to learn the value of time blocking, activity batching, and scripting your day.

Most of my day is blocked off for writing, and there is only one hour – 3pm – when I will do any phone calls. Personally, I’ve just found that 3pm is not a good time of day for me to write. Your schedule will be different. However, I strongly recommend the “early to bed, early to rise” approach. Even “cool and hip” New York Times best-selling author and celebrity Neil Strauss admitted that an early morning schedule allowed him to get more done. You’ll find that you’ll get “2 hours of afternoon work” done in 30 minutes of morning productivity.

Now you you’re probably thinking: “Craig, it’s easy for you to do because you don’t have another full time job.” True, but I was once just like you…working 8, 10, 12 hours per day, and my attitude was no different then. I woke up early to get extra work done. I took full advantage of any breaks in the day to make progress towards my goals and dream. On the subway ride home, no matter how packed it was, I was still able to write articles for Men’s Health magazine or workouts for my readers using my Blackberry or a simple note pad. I was always prepared. I found a way to get work done. No excuses.

These days, few online business experts will have the candor to tell you to lock yourself away in silence to create your products and emails. They all want you to imagine a “3 hour frolic down to Starbucks where you’ll just print money while sipping six dollar coffees prepared by beautiful young aspiring actresses”.

But I’m sorry to tell that’s just not going to happen.

Do you really think the big time Internet Marketers work at Starbucks? Is that where Eben Pagan runs his 20 million dollar info empire? Is Dan Kennedy sitting down on the patio with his iPod on, “chilling out” and surfing the net while he “works”?

Of course not.

Now I know guys that are heavily FUELED by Starbucks…but no Internet success story that I know actually works on their business in a Starbucks.

Instead, they control their day, barricade themselves into their best working environment, and get stuff done.

So start planning your day, scripting it out the night before. Set up your work area to minimize distractions. Brew your Starbucks beans at home – and you’ll finally start to make some progress.

Here’s how to get MORE done. PERIOD.

You need to get serious about simple planning and a time management checklist.
The very last thing you should do each workday is to prepare a schedule/checklist for the next day’s work. I use a template that looks like this and at the end of each day, I schedule in the specific tasks. For example, at 10am, I would dedicate that Product Focus block to workout program design or whatever project is ongoing at the time.

Schedule Template:

5am – Writing Focus (this is literally when I get my best work done)

6am – Dog walk

7am – Writing Focus

8am – Workout

9 – Check email, Facebook QnA with my fitness readers, review sales #’s, pet dog

10am – Product Creation Focus

12pm – Lunch & dog walk

1pm – Product Creation or Writing Focus

2:30pm – Dog walk (I know, I know…but he doesn’t like being inside)

3pm – Phone interviews or meetings;

4pm – Email Writing Focus (2nd most productive time of day because “end of day deadline” is approaching)

5pm – Plan next day & answer emails

In order to “create” this schedule, you’ll need to use a journal to record how you are spending your time right now. Carry a notebook with you for a couple of days and write down exactly what you are doing every 15 minutes. Do this all day for three straight workdays. You will then identify the things that cause you to waste time, and you can work on eliminating those.

For example, I notice that after I check my email and update my blogs at 10am, I often tend to fall into a trap of checking a sports news site,, Facebook, and my sales stats, even though I have other work planned.

The solution was to identify an “anchor” that gets me out of this time-wasting cycle (also called “the OCD loop” by Eben Pagan). For me, it’s as simple as forcing myself to open the word document that I need to be working on (whether it is a new program or article or e-book I’m writing). Once I do that, I break the cycle and get back to work.

In addition to identifying obstacles, you will also uncover times of the day when you get a LOT done. Once those are identified, you must make sure that your daily plan keeps those times free for maximum accomplishment.

By making those two changes, overcoming the OCD loop and identifying peak performance times, you should DOUBLE the amount of work you get done each day.

Let me know what works for you. And remember, your Financial Independence does not begin at Starbucks.

  • 4
  • Great article! I already know what my big obstacle is – when I check my e-mail, I always go on to check my website stats. Maybe add a well-placed comment to a relevant article on a large-readership site somewhere. Check my stats again… Meanwhile, I’m putting off something I know I have to get done, and that I’ve even set a deadline for (before bed this coming Sunday evening).

    Thanks for providing all the great advice – now I just have to act on it 🙂

  • Good reminder Craig… another great habit that has helped me a lot is to do things in “batches”. For example, putting together 2-3 newsletters at one time and schedule them instead of doing one on Mon, Wed and Fri. Obviously, there are exceptions. Have a good one.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thanks Mike, greatly appreciated.

  • Frances

    Loved today’s post. I am glad to see you dedicate committed times to your dog. So many people giving advice on time management sound like robots or workaholics. Your post humanized productivity. I hike my dogs everyday at 3 pm when I am least productive and come back refreshed to finish the work day. Thanks for the morning smile.


    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you Frances,


  • Awesome! I am also a early bird. I read books related to Human resource management/ Productivity/Business in the morning for 3 hours. After that i check mails and facebook( i check it earlier too) and then get outside to meet people. Later evening i cook food and then read for 2 hours. Have a video chat with few people and then check emails. Later i read blogs and then go to sleep. I am not satisfied by my routine. I think i need to track them and make some changes to make it more effective.I shall borrow few tips from this post. Thanks for sharing as i always wanted to know the schedule of inspiring people to know where am i lacking?

  • AJ Roberts

    Totally agree Craig. I used to work out of a coffee shop while I was waiting for the internet to be installed in the house I had just moved into. So many distractions that it was very difficult to stay focused. Now my best work is done at home in my basement office.

  • I’m not sure I agree.

    Following Ryan Lee’s advice, I have started working each morning at a local Starbucks.

    I find it takes me away from the distractions that are so common at home – even the dirty dishes are an easy distraction.

    Ryan is a very successful Internet entrepreneur and I think this model can work.

    Right now it is working better for me than starting my work day at home.


  • michael

    craig, your schedule has inspired me to make some big changes. thank you

  • Doesn’t matter too much where you are. If your reason is strong enough, you’ll get it done.

  • Kris

    I agree that working at home gets more employee type tasks done but I also find working at a coffee shop or on vacation which i take every 2 months to somewhere exotic allows me to see what needs to be done to grow my business and then find an employee to fulfill the new position. Working while out forces you to stop being an employee and do what matters most, use your intelligence to create and organize. I now have a few superstar executives that handle each division and employees. If i need to launch a new product i send a quick email with my idea and my team creates it and markets it and i go back to drinking my coffee and chatting with friends or laying on the beach. This is how you make millions and get everyone else to do the work. Everything in business is just a bunch of small tasks that produce profits for the busines. Eban Pagan and Dan Kennedy will never be super rich 100million plus if they have to work everyday.

  • Soji Obilana

    Great advice. I intend to put it to work immediately