Success! I’ve managed to successfully stay away from caffeinated coffee for the past two weeks. Sure, it was a pain in the ass at times, but this was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in weeks. You can check out the full objectives of this LifeTest in the original log here.
So why did I even bother to abstain from coffee in the first place? Coffee isn’t that bad, compared to drugs, cigarettes, fast food, porn, or Psy’s latest music video. It’s pretty harmless when it’s taken on a chill Sunday afternoon in a café with comfy couches.
But for me, coffee was turning into a weekday crutch. It was the first thing I drank in the mornings and after lunch, and I literally could not function in the office without it. Or at least, I thought I couldn’t… until I cut it out from my life.
I did this LifeTest to see if I really needed coffee to get through the day.
The short answer: Nope.
I discovered really quickly that it was entirely possible to keep my energy levels up without coffee. In fact, the quality of my energy was way better without it.
Coffee used to keep me awake during sleepy afternoons, but it didn’t keep me alert. You know the feeling: when you’re re-reading the same sentence over and over again, not processing anything even though you’re technically awake, like a college student pulling an all-nighter.
However, once I forced myself to abstain, I didn’t experience my usual 3pm caffeine crash that usually followed my lunchtime coffee. It also felt pretty damn good knowing that I wasn’t being propped up by some chemical coursing through my veins.
The results: Better moods (even on Mondays), more productive work, more focus, and I saved at least $6.50 by not buying 10 weekdays worth of coffee. That’s the equivalent of a full meal. (Yay, free lunch!)
There was just one caveat: I needed sufficient sleep the night before. Things started to get tricky once I had less than 6.5 hours of sleep, and couldn’t rely on coffee to keep me awake. Which brings me to:
Strategy 1: Distract
The best way to kick an addiction is not to think about it. And the best way to avoid thinking about something is to crowd it out of your mind.
The first couple of days were especially tough because I kept feeling this irresistible urge to get a coffee to start the day with. In order to break that habit, I had to replace it with other, more rewarding, experiences in the mornings: Hearty breakfasts, conversations with friends, a new book to read, etc. Anything that could take my mind off the intention to drink coffee.
Work is also a great distraction. By keeping myself busy, my mind was too preoccupied solving problems to crave coffee. But once I allowed myself to be idle for a mere 15 minutes, the craving would start creeping back again.
Strategy 2: Water
Water is way underrated as an energy-enhancer. Whenever I felt sleepy, I’d simply gulp like half a litre of water, which refreshed my throat and stomach, and woke me up. Also, it kept me in a constant state of needing to pee throughout the day, which is an amazingly effective sleep-killer.
Strategy 3: Be Silly
I could either be miserable while I was abstaining, or I could have a little fun with it. While I was falling asleep over my Excel spreadsheet one afternoon, I downloaded Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” single and started singing to it in falsetto. Another time, I walked over to a different department just to see who I could distract from work and how much food I could steal.
Strategy 4: Sleep
But the best energy-management technique was by far the simplest: Sleep at least 6.5 hours a day. Whenever I had sufficient sleep, coffee hardly ever crossed my mind. But once my body didn’t get the rest it needed, it screamed for a caffeine jolt to stay awake.
In short, sleep – not coffee – was the key to staying awake.
I started this LifeTest thinking that it was a matter of abstinence (ie: Could I stay away from something I was addicted to?). But on hindsight, this was really a test on energy management. The problem wasn’t my addiction to coffee – it was a lack of energy during the day. Once sleep took care of my energy levels, coffee ceased to become a temptation.
It’s kind of like what most addictions are really about, aren’t they? Most of society’s addictions today (eg smoking, drugs, the Internet, games, shopping, etc) are really just behaviors to fulfill certain needs (eg to relax, socialize, distract, and escape).
Once we figure out exactly what those needs are, we can then find an alternative ways to meet them, while doing less of the behaviors we want to cut. Addicted to smoking? Try finding other ways to get your nicotine fix (if your addiction is physical) or hang out with friends (if it’s social). Addicted to Facebook? Find other, more productive, distractions, eg reading a “real book” (remember those?).
Me? I think I’ve managed to successfully break free of my coffee addiction after 2 weeks of cold turkey. In fact, it’s been two days after the end of the LifeTest, and I still don’t feel a need to drink any coffee. I’m happier, healthier, and richer and totally loving this awesome new feeling of having sustainable energy throughout the day.
Of course, the real test comes whenever I crave sleep, so I’ll need to figure out how to get more of it in the weeks to come. Maybe that’ll be my next LifeTest. 🙂