This guest post is by Mike Fishbein. Mike is a bestselling author and digital marketing consultant. He shares unique personal development ideas at mfishbein.com.
I’ve always been a big coffee drinker. I would drink it every morning, right after waking up. Coffee has given me the energy to write hundreds of articles and to consult with over a dozen companies on marketing over the years. Coffee has made me more alert and seemingly smarter.
However, at the end of 2016, I noticed that my coffee intake had increased significantly. I had to work on multiple projects, and each one had an aggressive deadline. There was no time to rest, and I had to barrel through. So I kept drinking more coffee throughout the day and even into the night.
Drinking more coffee worked—temporarily. It helped me finish up those projects. However, coffee was only a temporary mask to my underlying problems. By Christmas morning, I was completely shot. Burnt out. Stressed. And I was dependent on coffee to get me through what would have otherwise been an incredible morning with my family.
I had to quit.
Acknowledging my past failures at breaking habits, I didn’t try to stop drinking caffeine completely on day one. I started small. For the first three days, I drank several cups of black tea. For the next three days, I drank several cups of green tea. Since then, I’ve only been drinking one cup of green tea per day.
I was worried that quitting coffee would hurt my productivity. Instead, my focus has been stronger, and my energy levels are more consistent throughout the day. Here are the three ways quitting coffee has helped me and what I’m doing now to increase my productivity.
1. Play The Long Game
Entrepreneurship is stressful. There’s always something you could be doing. The fear of failure is very real. But I’ve been in the game long enough to:
- Differentiate between what’s urgent and what can wait
- Understand the importance of thinking long-term
I accept the fact that I can’t work 100 hour weeks for extended periods of time. Working a 100 hour week is like borrowing energy from other weeks. I’ll eventually have to pay it back with a period of burn out. I get that some people — the Elon Musks of the world — can consistently work 100 hours per week throughout their careers. I’m not one of those people.
If you need coffee to get all your work done, you may not have an energy level problem. Rather, you might have a problem with your workload, your management practices or the deadlines you’re setting for yourself. Question your assumptions before assuming more coffee is the answer.
2. Upgrade Your Physical Health
If you need coffee to have sufficient energy, the coffee may be masking opportunities for improving your physical health. You’ve probably read articles about how bad most people’s diets are today. I used to have a horrible diet, too. In grade school, I ate pizza for lunch every single day.
However, I’ve been iteratively improving my diet and exercise regimen over the past several years. Now that I’m not drinking coffee, I can observe the positive and negative effects that various foods and workouts have on my body. Coffee is not masking feelings of fatigue or giving me energy that I would have otherwise attributed to healthy food.
If you find yourself lacking energy or focus, try upgrading your diet and/or exercise regimen. Of course, this can give you benefits far beyond productivity.
3. Focus On Focus
Yes, without coffee, I have less energy. However, the energy I gained from coffee was often a nervous energy that led me to act more impulsively. In the early afternoons, I find myself lacking energy, but not having that nervous energy helps me focus. I switch tasks less and take more time to make decisions.
The energy I gained from coffee also had peaks and valleys. Right after drinking a cup of coffee, I definitely had more energy. But a few hours after drinking a cup of coffee, I had less energy than I did before drinking it. This is part of what lead me to drinking so much coffee. When I need a pick me up, I go for a walk outside. I’ll drink some water or have a healthy snack. I find all of these options to be very helpful.
The takeaway here is that more energy does not always equate to increased focus or productivity. Your output is the metric that matters. By improving my levels of focus, I increased my output.
How You Can Have More Focus Too
If you find yourself dependent on coffee to be productive, consider managing your workload in a more practical manner or upgrading your physical health. Eat foods that give you energy, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Start small and reduce your coffee intake slowly over time. Replace coffee intake with tea as needed. Quitting coffee has improved my focus and given me more stable and sustainable energy levels. I hope it does for you too.
Have you ever given up coffee or cut down on your coffee intake to boost your productivity like I have? Please leave a comment. Thanks!