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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 April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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