Beer and Coffee Mode

Weekly I/O#13

Best ideas emerge when we balance the inhale of beer mode with the exhale of coffee mode. On any given day, coffee mode lets us be more productive. But over the long arc of time, beer mode rewards serendipity and intellectual breakthrough.

Article: Beer Mode and Coffee Mode

David Perell is an excellent writer. In this post, he talked about two modes of working: beer mode and coffee mode.

Beer mode is a state of unfocused where we try to discover new ideas, while coffee mode is a state of focus where we try to get things done.

He argues that traditional productivity advice doesn't take beer mode seriously. Turning off the Internet, tuning out distractions, following todos are all coffee mode thinking. The world is oriented around coffee mode because it's easier to measure and follow.

On most of the days in beer mode, we feel like wasting time since the breakthrough is unpredictable and we can't see measurable progress every day. However, David Perell thinks “the fruits of genius are sown with the seeds of beer mode wanderings”.

In the famous talks You and Your Research, Richard Hamming said that, at Bell Labs, some scientists worked with door open (beer mode) while others worked with the door closed (coffee mode). On any given day, the scientists in closed mode were more productive. But over the long arc of time, the scientists who embraced the interruptions of open mode did more important work.

Highly recommend reading the original post since David Perell's writing is just beautiful. Below is an extract of the post:

"The see-saw of beer and coffee mode is like breathing. Your best ideas emerge when you balance the inhale of beer mode with the exhale of coffee mode. Coffee mode rewards action, while beer mode rewards laughter. Coffee mode rewards focus, while beer mode rewards conversation. And while coffee mode rewards clarity, beer mode rewards serendipity."

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