Increase your Productivity by Quitting Coffee (Or Just Drinking a Little Less)

Photo: al-fassam

This might seems counterintuitive, but quitting coffee is a way to increase your productivity. While coffee (or the caffeine in it) makes you more alert, too much of it can cause sleep disorders and attention disorder (like when you have difficulty focusing on the task at hand).

Quitting caffeine altogether is perhaps a drastic step, but you should consider it (or at least reducing your consumption) if your average caffeine intake is decreasing your productivity. The maximum recommended daily intake of caffeine is between 400mg and 500mg (depending on the sources), which is about three small coffees (8oz) or two medium (12oz). Since this is a maximum, you should aim at a number lower than that. Most coffee-drinking students I know have, like I did until last year, a caffeine consumption that exceeds this limit and therefore that can cause the adverse effects of caffeine. According to WebMD, caffeine withdrawal can cause the following symptoms:

  • headache, fatigue or drowsiness
  • depressed, irritable mood
  • difficulty concentrating
  • flu-like symptoms of nausea and/or vomiting
  • muscle pain or stiffness

Since the beginning of the year, I've reduced my caffeine consumption from 500-600mg per day to less than 200mg per day (one double latté in the morning and one cup of tea after lunch). Last year, I had to fight sleep every class, now it doesn't happen anymore. I also don't get that caffeine crash anymore (you know, the sleepiness you feel when the effect of your last coffee wears off). If you want to go down the same path as I did (or even quit coffee completely), here are some tips for you:

  • Don't quit during your exams: This should be straightforward, but don't quit coffee during your exams or during any period when you need to be at the top of your game. There is going to be some adaptation period before you reap the benefits (for me it was about two weeks).
  • Stop gradually: You could quit caffeine completely today, but it will be easier if you stop gradually over the course of a week or two.
  • Find substitutes: Replace that late-night caffeinated coffee with a decaf (while the cheap decaf coffees aren't usually very good, the more expensive ones are hard to differentiate from the real stuff). Replace that afternoon coffee with a tea, or, even better, a non caffeinated herbal tea.
  • Sleep more: Sleeping one hour or even only half an hour more every day can make you feel so much more energized that you won't need your caffeine boost. You'll get back the time spent sleeping in increased productivity (as long as you don't oversleep). If you have trouble sleeping, get some tips from
  • Exercise: It's not the first time you hear this, but regular exercise is good for you. It will make you feel more energized and help you sleep at night.
  • Cold shower: This probably isn't for everyone, but starting your day with a cold shower can be as affective as coffee for waking you up. If you don't feel like taking a 15 minutes cold shower, just one minute of cold water at the end should do the trick.

To help you get started, you can find a table summarizing the caffeine content of many drinks on Health Canada's web site.

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6 Responses to “Increase your Productivity by Quitting Coffee (Or Just Drinking a Little Less)”

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