The coffee shop experiment

Book review

Turn your commute to work –> into a trip to the coffee shop

Do you ever get to the office before 9am? Maybe you are on flexible time of some kind, but are you the last to arrive? Those of us with ADHD have a habit of being late, we live to a different tempo. Does punctuality really matter? Unfortunately from personal experience and from coaching many business clients, it does matter. Irrespective of the official office policy and start time, if you arrive later than most of your colleagues there is a price to pay.

Not everyone will notice or care but some will see lateness as a moral failing, it will be noted. Might be your boss, or their boss but it will be interpreted as unprofessional, disorganised, rebellious or disrespectful. You and I might disagree and put it down to the simple difficulty of waking up but that won’t be the consensus opinion. You and I may think it’s crazy that the world insists on this 9-5 work thing – but it does.

And as you know deep down, no matter how late you work into the evening, the damage is done. Working late may make you feel less guilty but to others it can look like a further sign of disorganisation.

It’s not fair

If ADHD, we struggle to go to sleep, struggle to wake, leave everything to the last moment, we hate being early, never plan for contingencies and don’t really like to be pushed around or to conform – net result is we don’t get to work on time. Read more about Delayed Sleep phase disorder – DSPD.

Tardiness is a serious problem in how you are perceived at work. It’s also a serious problem in how you see yourself. Being late means starting the day stressed, rushed and feeling guilty. That doesn’t make you feel proud. Imagine instead the alternative of wandering across to your office from the coffee shop nearby, relaxed, knowing about your day ahead and arriving at your desk ten minutes early?!

The coffee shop experiment

The plan is to swap your office as the destination with a coffee shop near work.  As to my advice, please take it with a major pinch of salt,  follow your ADHD impulse and cherry pick the parts you like, to create your own far better strategy!

This is a week long experiment and you have to commit to it 100% otherwise it won’t work. The hypothesis is this “if I get into a coffee shop half an hour earlier than normal each day for a week, I will decide to extend the experiment indefinitely because of how much better I feel”.

The coffee shop is a far less stressful end point to travel to. There is half an hour contingency if your train is delayed. The time in the coffee shop will help you relax, enjoy a coffee, read the news and plan your day. The deal is however that you can only really appraise this new regime after a week, a few days of vaguely trying won’t work. You’re ADHD, I know but it’s just one week of early arrivals to see whether this new habit will work and help you be happier with yourself and more effective at work.

Timing is everything

Determine the time you must leave to get to work, let’s say 8:55am. So that means arriving at Starbucks at 8:25am for a generous half hour coffee. If your worst case commute is 45mins, then you must leave your front door no later than 7:40am!

What time should you get up to leave your place by then? No realistically! From alarm to door, how long does it honestly, really, on average take? Say it’s 40mins, then you must be out of bed at 7:00am, no later or the whole plan collapses like a pack of cards. There is no debate with yourself tomorrow morning, about taking the faster train and leaving at 7:15am, NO the deal is a leisurely commute, which means not leaving it as late as possible, you must follow the experiment!

Waking up on time

How can you make sure you get up at 7am. Should you buy a wake up lamp to help bring you to wakefulness naturally. Do you need to set five alarm clocks across the room. If you are on meds, could you have them by the bed and take one twenty minutes before you get up? Could you get up with someone else in the household who rises earlier?

Reward yourself for getting up

What breakfast would be a treat to reward yourself for getting up so damned early? If your morning routine is extended could you do some of it the night before, like iron your shirt – better yet find a local shirt cleaning and ironing service. Don’t watch TV or read anything on a computer, that way lies dangerous distraction. Listening to music or the radio however can work wonders. How can you streamline your morning and make it more pleasant. Set a phone alarm at five minutes to departure time, in this case 7:35am. There is no flexibility here you must get out your front door by 7:40am.

Experimental results

With any good experiment we should not pre-judge the outcome. It’s just five days, so if it’s a failure you woke yourself early for five days for nothing. Okay. But if it’s a success, if you feel more planned, less stressed, less guilty then maybe you will stick at it. If your boss comments on you arriving before the cleaners, you know it’s working.

At the end of the week, day 5, grab your coffee and take a moment to review your week, consider the changes and evaluate the benefits. If they add up to staying with the coffee shop routine then the experiment was a success – enjoy your reclaimed mornings!
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ADHD Coach, Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is an ADHD Coach, writer and founder of SimplyWellbeing. He has over ten thousand hours and fifteen years of experience in coaching ADHD executives, business professionals and creatives. His expertise with ADHD is personal, with decades of his own experience, bringing up an ADHD child, running a large support group and in coaching clients often for years He has published his writing via this website and has ADHD online courses in development. His business expertise comes from a twenty years career in software, from programming, through marketing, sales and running a few start-ups.

Further reading

ADHD at work
With alarmingly increasing rates of depression in the World and SSRIs poor results, better to seek a cause than manage the symptoms
ADHD at work
The first ADHD auto-biography, lots to relate to
ADHD at work
Helpful strategies for anyone with ADHD
ADHD at work
Not sure we do denial in our matrix-interconnected ADHD minds but an interesting read
ADHD at work
Great book by a fellow ADHD coach with some very practical strategies
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