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Oct 12, 2015 by Pavel Aramyan in PM Best Practices & News

Does coffee improve productivity or is it just a fairy tale to drive the coffee market? can it possibly be… BAD?

What’s the first thing you do in the morning after you wake up? Nine out of ten Americans will answer a few things like wash my face, take a shower and… have a cup of my favorite coffee.

In case you’re really late for work and don’t have time for this, I have another question: What do you do first when you arrive at the office? Again, nine of ten will have answers like turn on my computer, get ready for work (various ways) and… have a cup of coffee.

If you stop and think about it, coffee is the most popularly consumed product in the world. Over 50% of US population drink coffee every day, with an average of three cups a day. Each year, over 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed all over the world. If we take a vague, very vague average number of $3 per cup, that’s about $1.5 trillion revenue each year. That’s insane. When it comes to commodities, coffee is second to none other than oil. This means that coffee has more worldwide demand than every other product including bread and meat.

People say (and I was one of those until I started using this nice thing called logic) that a cup of coffee helps them get their day going, get on top of things, improve memory, be more attentive, sharpen senses and so on, in other words – increase productivity. This is so incomprehensibly brilliant, I can’t help but admire the people who gave this idea to the general public. Let’s get to the core of things.

The core

What people refer to when they list all these benefits they get from coffee, in reality comes from caffeine. Caffeine is the most popular psychoactive drug in the world. What’s interesting here is that caffeine, when used seldom and in small dosages, can have some or all of the above mentioned effects on the human body, but it’s not the same with each person. It depends on a ton of stuff including, height, weight, age, sleeping cycle, etc.

This means that while it is technically possible to enhance your senses with the help of caffeine (which is, by the way, an ingredient of most energy drinks, carbonated soft drinks and teas apart from coffee, so it’s essentially EVERYWHERE), but a drug is still a drug. It’s just not banned out, since it doesn’t have so many side effects.

If you dig a bit deeper, you will find hundreds of people complaining about coffee and saying they have jitters, crashes and headaches after they have a cup. Yes, excessive amounts of caffeine can have a negative effect on you.

The safe amount of daily caffeine intake is about 300-400 mg (max) to get through the day with no side effects. That’s about 1-4 cups of coffee a day (depending on what coffee you drink, for example one cup of Americano at Starbucks contains 75-300 mg per cup). This is already alarming, since average consumption of coffee is about three cups a day. And let’s just not forget that caffeine is also contained in most sodas and teas. So if you are a Starbucks fan and also a Coke fan at the same time, that’s not very good.

What do we gather from all of this?

Getting back to productivity. While caffeine can give some people a productivity boost, it doesn’t mean that other people can’t get the same level of productivity without it. Even so, after you drink two cups of coffee, another cup isn’t going to accomplish much. In fact, it may have an opposite effect in most cases, like headaches, disturbance, lack of attention, etc. There is absolutely no physical or chemical proof to the phenomenon that coffee increases productivity.

Given this though, people still insist on the matter that coffee is essential for them. This is called the placebo effect. There is a theory in psychology that if a person truly believes something, the brain and organism may have the positive response, or rather the anticipated response to it. People think that drinking coffee will increase their productivity and as a result, most of them feel, or at least they think they feel, a surge of energy and a productivity boost.

Coffee is still awesome!

While there is no scientific proof that coffee increases productivity, it still does a lot of good. Some people also find it easier to communicate with their teammates or clients while drinking coffee (I do that every day), or getting more closed deals or really, just drink it for the sweet taste and entertainment. When it comes to relaxation and entertainment, these two can boost productivity by a lot, maybe not scientifically, but it’s the end result that matters.

A good mood and friendly atmosphere is no less valuable than scientific studies. A few cups of coffee during a friendly meeting can bring so many good ideas that might not have been generated otherwise. This is why Apple has a coffee shop inside their territory, so potential great ideas don’t get out.

What I am trying to say, you can and should still drink coffee, since it’s such an important part of our life, but when you are feeling tired or need to focus, don’t rush straight for that third cup of caffeine, which may harm your health. Health is important, trust me, I am a doc:) Take a short break, go for a walk, wash your face, have a chocolate bar, there are countless things you can do apart from another coffee shot.

Now you know

Now that you know all of this, the next time you hear somebody say that “coffee increases productivity, you should drink it to be more productive, etc.” tell him or her to stop promoting the coffee market (I mean, it’s already insane, doesn’t need any more help) and show this article.

If you like coffee, go ahead and drink it, but make sure not to pass the daily limits. If it helps you relax or socialize with your teammates, it’s great! When it comes to productivity though, you might get as much productivity as you would with a glass of water or orange juice.

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pavel-aramyan
Pavel Aramyan

Pavel is a doctor who happens to have an MBA degree and a strong passion for writing. "I am a do-it-all kind of person: When I am not writing, I am busy curing people, when I am not curing people, I tend to kill WCG competitions. Life is fun, and full of wonders: Do what you enjoy most, even if it’s everything at once."

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