Most of us drink coffee daily to help us wake up and have a more productive day. For many of us the thought of going a day without coffee can only result in us falling asleep at our desk. In reality, a day without coffee is only plausible if we’re spending the day in our pyjamas watching movies. But does it really make us more productive?
I’m currently on my third cup of coffee of the day, hoping and praying that it will help me focus more…and help me write this. I’ve been a coffee drinker ever since I started A Levels and realised that if I wanted to be able to wake up for bus every morning and stay awake long enough when I got home to be able to study, I would need a little help with energy. However, I arguably became quite dependent on coffee in University, the late nights combined with early lecturers and nights out meant that multiple coffees a day were essential. When my friends would ask me (in a worried tone) how many cups I had drank that day, I would reply with something along the lines of “I need it to do work.”
University is a very weird stage in life though, and my body clock has now sorted itself out and I’m thankfully no longer drinking copious amounts of caffeine to ensure I write a 2,000 word essay in a night. That being said, I still wake up every morning and the first thing I reach for is a cup of coffee and when I get to work I drink another couple of cups. Although I’ve never thought about it until now, if anybody asked why I drank coffee I would still mutter something like “I need it to be productive.” And I’m not alone, go to a coffee shop and there will be countless people attempting to get some work done, go to an office and there will be some means of coffee, but is it really helping us to be more dynamic?
In short, the answer is yes…and no. Caffeine obviously gives you a short burst of energy and makes your more alert. It also enhances cognitive performance, gives us a short-term memory boost and improves our reactions. Dosage, body type, age, the quality of your sleep and your tolerance levels will definitely change how caffeine affects your body. The desired effect for everybody when we drink coffee is more energy and eagle-like focus. Too much caffeine can cause jitters, heart palpitations and irritability which would understandably make you less productive.
Nevertheless, personal productivity is a completely different story. You can drink as much coffee as you like; get that rush of energy and all your focus could be spent on completely unproductive things. Sometimes I would go to the library with 5 cups of coffee running through my body and spend my entire time staring down at Instagram or online shopping. The coffee had given me the burst of energy and my cognitive performance was definitely enhanced, but my brain was more interested in the 20% off sale than my assignments. So, if this happens to you then you may be falling victim to a placebo effect.
Although coffee definitely helps drag me out of bed in the morning and makes sure I’m not caught napping under my desk at work, over the years I’ve learnt certain other hacks to help me be more productive. Number one is to put your phone somewhere that you won’t touch it, one hack I learnt is to put your phone somewhere and have an hour doing work and then 10 minutes on your phone and repeat. This also means you cannot go on social media on your computer (unless of course completely necessary.) If your workspace isn’t working for you then switch it up – sometimes your surroundings can really be the reason you aren’t being productive. Write lists. Play mind games when you hit a wall instead of resorting to scrolling through Twitter.
It is also extremely important to point out that caffeine stays in your body for 12 hours. That means the cup of Joe you had at 3pm could be keeping you awake until 3am. Fast forward to your alarm going off in the morning and you’ve only had 3-4 hours of sleep, this would negatively affect your productivity the next day and also creates a vicious cycle of caffeine dependency and exhaustion.
In short, of course enjoy coffee and use it to your benefit. Make a nice few cups a day and let them encourage you to do your work. Obviously, relying on a stimulant (no matter how delicious) to get work done isn’t too smart. Being motivated and undistracted yourself mixed with a burst of energy means you can have extremely productive days.