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How to Defend Your Coffee Habit

How to Defend Your Coffee Habit
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    I don’t think I’ve read a productivity blog yet that didn’t suggest kicking the coffee habit. I’ve kicked many bad habits in the last few years, something that seemed impossibly hard at first—such as dumping dairy—but coffee is one thing that I never succeeded with. That’s probably because I never really wanted to.

    While it truly is best that you cut caffeine out of your diet or curtail your consumption, for many of us it’s the one thing we’ll hold onto even when making other drastic changes in our lives. Never fear—there are still many benefits to drinking coffee, and I’ll show you how to defend your manic addiction to the world when confronted by an overzealous stampede of crusading lifehackistas!

    A Reduced Risk of Disease

    Have you seen all those tea advertisements that claim it’s the best source of antioxidants? Apparently, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet. Tea comes second. Of course, that’s a statistic measured on the level of consumption rather than the quality of the source.

    Antioxidants prevent and slow disease and oxidative damage. When the body uses oxygen, the process creates harmful by-products that antioxidants destroy. This reduces the risk of disease and promotes optimal health.

    This is one of the few benefits of coffee not derived from its caffeine content, so if you want to avoid high blood pressure or a heart attack, you can drink decaf without losing any health points—if you have a stomach strong enough to keep it down.

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    Counter-defense: fruits and vegetables are an even denser source of antioxidants.

    Increased Mental Performance

    This is why we start drinking coffee in the first place, right? I started binge drinking coffee in order to stay up all night working on various projects, though it didn’t take long for coffee consumption to become a hobby in its own right.

    Drinking coffee improves your concentration, alertness and staves off a tired mind. For me, work comes to a halt when I’m missing any of the above, especially concentration or alertness. Ten or twenty minutes after a cup of coffee, I can be back to work for a few more hours.

    Apparently coffee improves your short term memory, which indicates that I’m not drinking nearly enough of it. Did I mention that coffee improves your short term memory?

    Counter-defense: eating a diet low in meat and dairy and high in vegetables and fruit will provide increased mental performance and higher energy on a more consistent basis.

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    Make Shift Work Slightly More Tolerable

    Shift work forces the body into strange sleeping patterns, or more accurately, a lack of a sleeping pattern. Your body relies on patterns to tune and operate the whole circadian process which tells you when you’re in need of sleep or when it’s time to be awake. Lacking a solid pattern means you’ll be pumping melatonin or adrenaline through your body at very strange times.

    I know someone who took their car through a street sign (and escaped without getting caught) because of the way shift work destroys your sleeping patterns, so for these workers caffeine is not as much of a luxury – it becomes a necessary part of safely performing the work and getting there and back. Drink 200mg (two espressos) to keep yourself attentive on the job for a period of five or six hours. If you’ve got a killer twelve hour shift, throw back a few more halfway through.

    Drinking 400mg of caffeine in one night isn’t the healthiest thing you could be doing, but neither is shift work.

    Counter-defense: become a freelancer!

    Improve Endurance and Stamina in Physical Activities

    It is well known that coffee improves endurance and stamina in physical activities, especially sports. The last time I played any team sport, I could count my age on two hands. Nevertheless, a cup of coffee before the morning run makes it go that much faster and easier.

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    If you’re starting an exercise routine (or returning to one) and having trouble with the adaption, drinking a cup of coffee before starting may make it easy enough to get over the hump and make it a habit. If all you need is an adaptation tool you can stop drinking it once you can get through each session on your own.

    Counter-defense: with stamina and endurance training, you don’t need a cup of coffee to enable your body – you can apply these traits at any time.

    Improve Your Ability to Socialize

    A few cups of coffee can really help the introvert or cynic to come out of the shell and enjoy social situations. Coffee houses first formed in the Middle East hundreds of years ago and became popular as social locations, a tradition that has continued to this day. It’s got to do with not only the great atmosphere, aroma and architecture of most coffee houses, but of course, the effects of caffeine kicking your mind into gear and boosting your mood.

    There is evidence to show that coffee doesn’t boost your mood so much as reduce stress by eliminating the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for the frazzled, distressed feeling brought on by day-to-day stress.

    This one works well for me—especially for making visits to the wife’s family much more bearable!

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    Counter-defense: get a life, make some friends!

    Truly, there is no substitute for replacing a caffeine dependency with the optimal diet for your body and lifestyle. Drinking too much coffee can wreak havoc on your system, especially your sleep patterns and blood pressure.

    The latest research shows that drinking 200mg of caffeine or more a day can double the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, watch your intake, or better yet, just stop consuming caffeine altogether.

    That aside, coffee drinking has a far worse reputation than it deserves; the benefits are real, and in moderation, it’s actually a good idea to get some coffee in your system. Go ahead. Have a cup—you know you want to!

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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