December 2008

Gregg and I wish every one of our fellow cafe commuters a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for your support of our project. We really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on the blog.

We are going to be taking a Christmas break, but we will be back in the New Year (January 6th to be precise) with more fun facts, interesting stories and useful information.

In the meantime, please feel free to read past posts. I’m pleased to say that there are over 55 them. Or better still, write in about your own cafe commuter life. Gregg and I love to hear from other cafe commuters. Just follow the link called “Share Your Story”.

Happy Holidays!

Lori Thiessen and Gregg Taylor


originally posted on coffeeshopoffice’s sister blog, Caffe Culture

Written by Lori Thiessen

As Dickens’ writes in A Christmas Carol: “At this festive season of the year, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor . . . “.

On bitterly cold days, a cup of coffee just to wrap your fingers around is wonderful. Just think what a street person would think about having just a little bit of heat anywhere on his body.

So here are just a few ideas about sharing a little caffe culture with those who really need some help:

  • Donate generously to your local outreach program
  • Become involved in serving Christmas dinner through an outreach program
  • Approach your local caffeinated watering hole and see if they would be open to donating some of their black gold and goodies to an outreach program
  • Get some of your friends together, brew up some coffee and tea, make some rib sticking sandwiches and distribute them to people in need
  • When a street person approaches you for some money to get some food and drink, give them some

A friend of mine is organizing a blanket drive among our group and we will deliver them directly to those who need them.

It’s not a solution to this problem but it will provide some temporary relief to a few individuals which is better than doing nothing at all.

Please give the gift of warmth to those who desperately need it.

Thank you.

Written by Lori Thiessen

If you ask any teenager or university student chances are they will tell you that the MP3 player is an essential part of their study regime. It helps them to focus, they claim, though parents may disagree.

Did you say the same thing when you were in high school or university? Is it still true for you today?

For my own part, there are times when complete quiet is essential for me to get on with part of a project.  I need to be able to listen to all parts of my brain as the cells chatter away about the work at hand. I never know when a neurotransmitter may come up with a really great idea.

Sometimes if I’m in a crowded cafe, my trusty MP3 player provides the necessary sound buffer so  I can concentrate on the immediate task.

So if music is a concentration booster, and ergo a productivity booster, then does it matter what kind of music you listen to?

There are many theories about this but the main one points to the tunes of long-dead white guys, e.g. classical music.  Mozart is usually pulled out of the hat as the uber-musician for increasing productivity.  <sarcasm mode on>Wouldn’t he be proud to know that?<sarcasm mode off>

In some ways, I’m a bit disgusted at the ways in which employers or success coaches try to co-opt beautiful works of music as profit improving props. Music needs to be enjoyed for itself alone, too. To focus on the piece itself is to appreciate and respect the talent of the composer. How would you like it if the client read the report you slaved over for days possibly weeks while watching TV?

So I encourage to take some time out to listen to a piece just for its own sake.  Put on Mozart’s Requiem, close your eyes and just listen.  It’s worth it.

But I digress.

A friend of mine who came from China said that he couldn’t listen to any pieces that had singing in them because he would become distracted over trying to figure out what they were saying. He was trying to improve his English at the time so anything language related kind of stressed him out.

Personally, I think the music that is most effective for improving focus varies from person to person and over time for the individual.

I used to be able to listen to hard rock and do my homework assignments without a problem. Hard rock now just brings in a flood of memories that squashes my attention span. Nothing makes me feel older quicker than hearing a tune from my high school days being played on the oldies radio station. Sigh.

Classical music, particularly medieval music, puts me in a meditative state which, depending on what I’m doing, can be beneficial. At other times, I just zone out. I’m lost in the beauty of the piece.

Since Christmas is coming pretty fast, I’m listening to… you guessed it, Christmas music. I must say, I am bopping around to Rocking Around the Christmas Tree and getting stuff done.

And that’s the point:  getting stuff done.

Whatever kind of music helps you to get stuff done, whether its heavy metal, hard rock, country, rap, classical or the cheery ditties of Fred Penner, it’s the right music for you.

Q: So what kind of music helps you get stuff done?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Like many of you, I’ve been watching the ‘traditional’ Christmas shows.  I’ve realized that some of these programs contain hidden or not so hidden career lessons.

Herbie the Elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer doesn’t like to make toys, he wants to be a dentist. George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life hates his job at the Bailey Building and Loan. The magician, Professor Hinkle,  from Frosty the Snowman is a rotten magician. And my personal favorite, Scrooge (the 1951 version with Alastair Sim is the only one for me!), in which Ebenezer Scrooge is mean to everyone and in particular his long-suffering clerk, Bob Cratchit.

So here’s what I’ve gleaned from these holiday classics.

  • Herbie the Elf – Sometimes to have to leave home to make your dreams come true.
  • George Bailey – Even if you hate your job, there may be wonderful hidden benefits in it that you have just never thought about before that may make you love it.
  • Professor Hinkle – If you really, really love something stick with it even if you aren’t very good at it.
  • Scrooge – Be good to your employees who put up with your moods and caprices and work hard to keep your business going. And don’t wait until three spirits come to knock some sense into you!

Career lessons can come in the most peculiar disguises so keep your eyes and ears open to receive them.

Q: What is the best career advice you ever received?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

written by Lori Thiessen

Even though you are out of the office, doesn’t mean that you can avoid doing office exercises. Seem stupid. Not a bit of it. Since  we cafe commuters can end up spending a lot of time sitting, it is important to get up and move at regular intervals. This means more than just raising your hand to let the barista know that you need a fill-up, kids.

If you can, walk or cycle to your coffee shop office. Every little bit of exercise will add up to a great benefit.

Once you’ve set up your workspace, try to set a timer for about 30 minutes. When the buzzer goes, it’s time for you to move.

Get up, stretch, walk about a bit.

You should be moving about every 30 minutes or so to help keep your joints and back from complaining when you do get up.

There are stretches you can do while you sit.

Concordia University’s Environmental Health and Safety Department has a dandy list of different stretches you can do from your office chair, or for us cafe commuters your cafe chair. As with any form of exercise, make sure you check with your healthcare provider before starting, especially if you have any current health issues.

If you feel silly doing these exercises in the cafe, just think of the entertainment value you are providing for your fellow cafe commuters. Heck, you might even get them involved in doing a few stretches.

Q: What do you do to stay fit and healthy?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

I was at a wonderful all-day seminar entitled “Protect, Plan and Prosper in 2009” yesterday at Small Business BC.  There was some very useful information about protecting your intellectual property, protecting your online presence, and planning for your business.

All the speakers were really good but I thought the final speaker, Fiona Walsh, was the best one. She talked about the importance of marketing especially in this slower economic climate.

One critical piece of marketing is remembering to bring your business cards to networking events.

In the post entitled “The Basic Cafe Commuter Kit”, I wrote that part of your kit should be your business cards.

Ms. Walsh came to me and asked me for my business card. I hunted and hunted in my cavernous bag for the elusive card. Nothing.  Finally, I remembered I kept one in the luggage tag attached to my laptop bag/purse.

It was a bit scruffy looking and I apologized to Ms. Walsh for its appearance.  She was very gracious about it and accepted this weather-worn, battered looking thing.

The upshot is: I need to take my own advice. I need to have a supply of business cards, pristine, shiny, professional-looking cards on hand at all times.

Networking possibilities can happen anytime, anywhere.

Q: What does a person’s business card (not just the words, but the colour, design, production values) tell you about him/her? Do you often judge a person’s competence based on a) whether or not they have a card, b) what the card looks like?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Sorry about the 2 weeks of silence, kids, but I’m back in the saddle now. Nasty flu. ‘Nuff said.

So we’re heading into the whirlwind of Christmas and if you still have a few gaps in your gift-buying list, I’ve got a few suggestions for you. Naturally, they are aimed at the café commuter or commuters in your life. Instead of the obvious gift card to Starbucks or other coffee shop, these gifts are a bit “out of the box”.


  • Samsonite iMobile Spinner Low end gift – a usb key or thumb drive (approx $25) –  a great useful gift for those on the go.
  • High end gift – Samsonite iMobile Spinner (approx $160)  – help save your special cafe commuter from permanent back problems.

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)

For the cycling cafe commuter

  • Low end gift Led light for nighttime commuting (approx $10) – though this rear light has mixed customer reviews, I think some light is better than no light at all.mec-rear-light3
  • High end gift – cycling jacket (approx $130 (sale price)) – keep your cafe commuter safe and dry during the wet winter months ahead.whoosh-cycling-jacket10

If your beloved café commuter is cycling at night, please do us all a favour and get reflective gear for them if they don’t have some already. Note: pale blue may look cool in the shops but it is almost as bad as black for nighttime visibility. Trust me on this one. Bright yellow and orange are the colours to choose.

Think bright, sunshiny yellow.

Hammacher Schlemmer

Funny name but they carry some extremely funky and functional

  • Low end gift – the travel mug (approx $30) – listed as the best travel mug on the market, it doesn’t leak even when fully inverted. You can drink from anywhere around the rim. It even comes with a strainer for loose tea.

  • High end gift – cordless mobile electronics charger (approx $65) – about the size of a deck of cards, this small charger provides auxiliary power wherever you
    No need for those pesky extension cords!

Think Geek

Think Geek is for the truly geeky on your Christmas list. My husband is an uber-geek according to an online test he took (in which you received extra points for being proud of your high geek score). He bought an Air Cannon or AirZooka which is a simple plastic device for forcing air at a high speed in a particular direction. My life and the lives of our two cats weren’t worth living for the next few months until the novelty wore off. Sigh.lucky_golden_poo1

  • Low end gift – Japanese Lucky poo cell phone charm (approx. $5) – interesting conversation piece for the coffee shop office. Apparently, the kanji symbols for luck and poo are very similar, hence, lucky poo. Keep this clipped onto your cell phone so you only receive lucky calls. No shit.
  • High end gift – Sanctuary Charging Heaven (approx $125) – Trying to keep track of where to re-charge all of your electronics? Here’s a dandy way to keep all your devices in one cozy place.


Think Geek also has a section on their website dedicated to caffeine so here are some strictly caffeine items.

Spazzstick – caffeinated lip balm (approx $3.00) – keep your lips kissably smooth and keep yourself awake when a kiss comes your way! 😉

Not a Paper Cup – looks like a paper cup but it ain’t. It’s a ceramic, dishwasher safe, environmentally friendly version of  the landfill unfriendly paper cup. (approx. $20)


This short list should give you a few gift-buying notions if you’ve run out.

At the risk of sounding twee, I would like to tell you what I think is the best gift of all: happy face time with your friends and family.

Q: What are you giving the café commuters in your life this Christmas?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time.