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5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

Yes, we all love java. It gets us going in the morning. And the afternoon. And the evening. But is it really such a good idea?

Thomas Smale

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It’s not uncommon for employers and employees alike to reach for a caffeinated beverage when they need a bit of an energy boost. And while some might prefer to get their caffeine in the form of soda or an energy drink, the majority of consumers’ favorite mood-lifter is coffee itself.

That addiction is likely fueled by caffeine, which seems to have an impact on mental clarity and performance. The down side? Besides being addictive, caffeine can encourage weight gain and obesity.

But coffee has its plus side, too. First, we’re observing the growing popularity of bulletproof coffee, which of course is good for business and entrepreneurship. And, second, we’re also seeing that this popular beverage has been identified as an antioxidant.

So, overall, is coffee good for you? Does it truly increase productivity? Here are the issues to consider when you consider coffee.

1It improves mental performance and alertness

Medical writer Stephen Braun has said that caffeine blocks receptors for adenosine, a compound in your brain that causes drowsiness. This explains why many of us feel less tired when we consume coffee.

In low doses, caffeine also is said to improve mental performance and alertness. The caveat of course is that caffeine does not affect everyone the same way. Your personal response to caffeine could be vastly different from that of someone you know.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

Other factors in your personal response include the dosage you consume, your weight and age and even the quality of your sleep. You should be aware that you can build up tolerance to caffeine over time, so one cup of coffee might not be enough to give you the same boost it used to.

In fact, some people don’t feel anything until they’ve downed two cups, though that may not be anything to brag about. It just means you’ve been hooked on caffeine a long time.

In shorter bursts, moreover, coffee can increase your cognitive functions, memory, alertness and energy. But as we all know, this effect can be short-lived, and you might crash later in the day.

2It can affect the quality of your sleep

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In smaller doses, caffeine should not affect your sleep schedule. But if you consume too much, you may find it harder to fall asleep at night. This can unfortunately create an unhealthy cycle of not sleeping enough, stressing out and performing poorly at work. A longer-range result may even be burnout or an anxiety attack.

Overuse of caffeine, moreover, can result in an upset stomach, the jitters or even heart palpitations.

There is a greater focus on sleep now than the past, fueled by conflicting viewpoints between the hustle mentality that entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk and Grant Cardone promote, and the opposing perspective set forward by the likes of James Altucher and Arianna Huffington.

Only you can decide what’s right for you, but either way, it’s good to be aware that your sleep can be negatively affected by caffeine. So, be aware that moderation in coffee consumption is your best choice.

3It may enhance your willpower

By now, it’s a foregone conclusion that your willpower is depleted throughout the day as you make decisions. This might be one of the reasons Steve Jobs was known to wear the same outfit every single day. He didn’t have to think about what he was going to wear when he got up in the morning, and was thus able to save willpower for bigger decisions.

As it turns out, coffee can strengthen your willpower and self-control, particularly when you’re exhausted. Making a big decision when you’re tired isn’t wise. You could end up compromising your values, succumbing to pressures in negotiations or taking on new projects at inopportune times.

Drinking coffee beforehand, however, may help you stand your ground and make better decisions. This is a good thing to keep in mind if you’ve had a busy day and still have important decisions to make.

Related: Why You Should Encourage Your Team to Take Even Decaf Coffee Breaks

4Drinking coffee at the wrong time will lead to increased blood pressure and adrenaline levels

drinking-coffee

Entrepreneurs are constantly facing new challenges and putting out fires. In business, a strong mentality is a prerequisite, but even the best people can become frazzled and stressed out. If this continues over the long haul, you could even burn out.

The tendency is to become even more reliant on coffee when you’re drained. As it turns out, this is the worst time to load up your body with caffeine, as it can result in elevated blood pressure and adrenaline levels. As we’ve already seen, caffeine blocks adenosine, so the buildup can suddenly come flooding in as you crash, making you feel even more tired.

This might sound innocent in and of itself, but it’s a good way to trigger a panic attack, and once activated, anxiety often must be managed over the long haul. You may even wind up with an anxiety disorder.

You don’t need more caffeine when you’re coping with high levels of stress, despite its overall benefits when you aren’t under extreme pressure.

5It can help you learn faster

Many entrepreneurs are prolific consumers of content, whether it’s articles and blog posts, magazines, trade journals, books, podcasts or videos. This information helps them make decisions, innovate and implement new ideas in their business.

Ongoing study requires focus and attention, which, like willpower, can lessen throughout the day. It has been shown that 200 mg of caffeine can help you identify words and phrases faster than you could do without coffee.

Related: (Slideshow) Believe It or Not, Starbucks is Not Just About the Coffee

Many entrepreneurs make it their goal to pick up new skills, learn technology or gain a better understanding of where their company stands among others in their industry. A cup of coffee – or two – just might be what you need to give your full attention to the material you’re studying and put it to use in your company.

Final thoughts

It’s important to be aware of both the upsides and downsides of coffee. Moderate use, with accompanying attention to your sleeping habits and stress levels, can be beneficial. Meanwhile, be aware that overuse and misuse may agitate an existing health problem or develop a new one. Typically, caffeine abuse isn’t worth the trouble it brings, so set boundaries for yourself and stay healthy.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010, growing the business with zero funds from scratch to a seven-figure-a-year business. Specializing in advising and brokering the sale of established websites and online businesses, FE International has completed over 210 transactions. Smale has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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Work Life Balance

Why Rest Is the Secret To Entrepreneurial Success

The surprising power of downtime: Here’s why the most successful founders work the least.

Aytekin Tank

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Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land mammal. These feline sprinters can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds flat. Explosive speed enables them to take down an antelope, but when they’re not hunting, cheetahs expend as little energy as possible.

In fact, researchers found that cheetahs burn about 2 000 calories per day – the same as an average-size man. “I guess both humans and cheetahs rest a lot to offset high-energy activities,” biologist Johnny Wilson told National Geographic.

Cheetahs work hard to capture their prey, but they quickly compensate for each burst by hiding, waiting and resting. Clearly, they don’t have startups to run, but I can’t help but draw a parallel between these big cats and modern founders.

In the early days of my 12-year entrepreneurial journey, I was the anti-cheetah. I thought success required 16-hour workdays. I was constantly building, growing and hustling. Over the years, I’ve learned that busy and successful are not the same thing. Yet, many of us spend the whole day sprinting, to the point where we’re stressed and exhausted.

According to Joseph Bienvenu, a psychiatrist and director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, busyness has become a widespread health issue:

“Emotional distress due to overbusyness manifests as difficulty focusing and concentrating, impatience and irritability, trouble getting adequate sleep, and mental and physical fatigue.”

As I’ve built my company, JotForm, I’ve learned that when we know how to balance work with restorative rest, our productivity can skyrocket — and we might even catch more antelope.

The roots of busyness run deep

Scholars believe Homer wrote the Odyssey near the end of the 8th century B.C. In book 9 of this epic poem, Odysseus describes the island of the Lotus-eaters, where the natives spend their days lounging and eating the intoxicating lotus fruit.

Once Odysseus’ crew tries the fruit, they forget about home and long to live out their days on the idyllic island. Eventually, Odysseus drags his men back to the ship and locks them up to break the spell.

Talk about a parable for laziness. It seems even Greek philosophers prized industry, and yes, busyness. Today, everyone from founders to football coaches despise anything that implies complacency. We’re always pushing to do more, to improve ourselves and to stay constantly in motion.

Subconsciously, we even evaluate peoples’ worth based on how many hours they work or how “in demand” they are. We prize “busy” above all else. At a certain point, however, we have to make a choice: Do we want to be busy, or do we want to make an impact?

Nothing is more precious than time. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Escaping the cult of “busy” means taking time to rest – and it requires us to step back and re-evaluate what matters most. I’d like to share how I’ve learned to reject the frenetic pace of startup culture, and how you can, too.

Related: You’ve Already Abandoned Your New Year’s Resolution. Here’s A Better Path To Reach Your Goals

Start small – and take breaks

Busyness robs us of precious hours: to think, play, explore, nurture relationships – and to rest.

“There is a simple way to take back your time: Do less,” journalist Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson wrote in John Hopkins Health Review.

“And yet, those two words are perhaps the most challenging call to action. Doing less means understanding your priorities and constantly defending them against the encroachments of the status quo, which dictates that busyness – and material wealth and value – is best.”

As Dickinson says, it’s not easy to reverse our mental conditioning. Doing less isn’t as simple as it sounds. That’s why I recommend starting small. First, take the time to discover your peak hours, then take breaks throughout the day. Not only will you feel better, but these short rest periods can actually improve the quality of your work.

In fact, regular breaks can prevent decision fatigue, restore motivation, increase productivity and creativity, and consolidate memories. Breaks that involve even five minutes of movement can also improve our health and well-being.

Taking time to grab a coffee or chat with a team member is far from “doing nothing,” but it’s an important way to step off the metaphorical treadmill and re-establish your priorities.

Reserve time for reflection

Some of the greatest founders, innovators and creators set aside large chunks of time just to reflect. For example, Microsoft founder Bill Gates first took solo Think Weeks – seven days spent reading, strategising and reflecting — before the idea spread through the company. Today, Gates credits those weeks with generating some of Microsoft’s top innovations.

Other founders, like Skillshare’s Mike Karnjanaprakorn, have now implemented the practice. So have Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Ferriss. Even people who can’t take a full week for reflection often thrive when they set limited working hours.

The late Dr. Maya Angelou, for example, always drew clear boundaries in her schedule. The legendary writer, poet, singer and activist arrived at her desk around the same time each day. Afterward, she set aside work to spend time with her family.

“I try to get there around 7, and I work until 2 in the afternoon,” Angelou said in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

“If the work is going badly, I stay until 12:30. If it’s going well, I’ll stay as long as it’s going well. It’s lonely, and it’s marvelous.”

Challenge your body

Rest doesn’t necessarily mean lounging out on the couch, watching Netflix in a glassy-eyed trance. The most effective downtime also involves physical exertion, whether that’s a long walk, a hike or a bike ride. Restorative activities can help to balance out more brain-intensive work.

Silicon Valley consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, says rest is a necessary form of mental restoration. And exercise is one of the best ways to recover the mental energy we need to perform at peak levels.

“There are so many people who find that a workout, a long hike, clears their minds, helps them calm down, gives their subconscious mind opportunity to think through problems,” Pang told Scientific American. “What all of that teaches us is that exercise is a really important form of rest.”

Related: How To Get The Best Out Of Your Brain At Work

Embrace the digital Sabbath

At least one day a week, give yourself a technology break. It’s not easy to cut the psychological strings, but going device-free on a Saturday, a Sunday or another day of your choice can give your mind space to wander, while enhancing your creativity.

If a full day away from screens and notifications feels challenging, you’re not alone. But remember that a stressed, tired brain can’t generate fresh ideas. We’re also more likely to make mistakes and overcomplicate solutions when we’ve exhausted our mental reserves.

As the late Steve Jobs once said, “Simple thinking can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

Consider bootstrapping

VC-backed founders get the lion’s share of startup press. They make headlines with record-breaking funding rounds and dominate the top of TechCrunch. Outside investment can provide essential startup capital, but it can also tie founders to the pressures of hockey-stick growth targets and boards eager to recover their cash.

Instead of the 24/7 grind, I chose to bootstrap my company with a slow-and-steady approach to growth. It has taken time, and it hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve built a stable business that can even function without me. Most importantly, I have full control over my work and my life.

If that sounds like a privileged position, you’re absolutely right. I’m grateful for the ability to spend a whole summer with my wife and my newborn baby, for example, and I’ve worked hard to reach this point. Bootstrapping isn’t the right approach for everyone, but it can help you to maintain your freedom and live a more balanced life.

Work to live, instead of living to work

Even in a conversation about rest, we still tend to look through the lens of productivity. We’ve become obsessed with maximising every minute – and that’s fine, as long as we reclaim that time for our lives, not necessarily our work.

Related: Arianna Huffington’s Recipe for Success: Avoid Burnout

No matter how excited we may feel about our businesses, or each new project, a rich life also includes family, friends, exploration and adventure, in whatever proportion you desire. I certainly don’t want to regret relationships that fell apart while I was staring at a screen, or the opportunities I missed in the world outside my office.

Try to leave work at work – even if it’s in your home. Give yourself the gift of restorative downtime. And balance thinking hours with time spent in motion. Just like the cheetah, we can sprint to bring down the antelope, but then it’s time to rest.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Work Life Balance

Having The Time Of Your Life

How can you avoid a To-Do list that never gets ticked off by the end of the week? Or maximise the number of hours you work on critical projects, to achieve your career goals? And why is it important to take time out?

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Being an entrepreneur is a constant balancing act between the demands of your business needs and your personal life. The key to a work/life balance that ensures you achieving your work and personal goals for the year ahead, is effective time management.

Time is our greatest resource and there are many ways in which to maximise your ability to manage this precious commodity. But how can you avoid a To-Do list that never gets ticked off by the end of the week? Or maximise the number of hours you work on critical projects, to achieve your career goals?  And why is it important to take time out?

Unfortunately, time does equal money

In the modern workplace and in most businesses, time is synonymous with money. Whether you bill by the hour, or bake by the truckload, time is essential in running a successful career and business. Just think of how important time is in the service industry, and how time influences purchasing decisions. Think of all the drive-through fast food chains in a city – all there to save time. Because time is indeed money, it is critical to prioritise your time effectively. Keep in mind your most pressing deadlines, plan ahead and prioritise clients and customers effectively.

Related: 6 Steps To Go From Procrastinating To Productive

Me-time with a twist

Self-management impacts on your personal effectiveness and includes managing yourself and your time, being responsible for your achievements and being accountable for your results and successes. In business, if you prioritise a company’s time more efficiently, it can lead to improved customer service, improved delivery, increased profits, and increased market shares.

Imagine what it could do for you if you made the mind shift to prioritise your time and self-regulate your time daily?

Visualise that empty inbox

Start by removing thoughts of procrastination and imagine yourself as a “doer.” Think of the benefits of becoming a doer. What would our work life be like if we organised our tasks in order of importance, and not in order of enjoyment? What would it feel like to be thought of as someone who “got things done” and was “reliable?” How would we handle our paperwork? Imagine having an empty in-tray.

Critically, managing your time and self-regulating the hours, minutes and seconds in a work day will free up time for the people that matter in your life. Go watch that ballet recital or cricket game you never have time for. Have a coffee with a fellow entrepreneur and see how these small acts of rewarding you for time well spent, with energise you in your daily tasks.

Ditch the time wasters

A Time Waster is anything (or anyone) that doesn’t contribute to your daily goals or your To-Do List. Many of these time wasters have become a natural part of our work style. Now is the time to change – to reverse the process. It will take time and effort to get rid of time-wasting habits. Research shows that it takes approximately 21 days to change a habit.

For example, at first, we will have to make a conscious effort to keep our meetings on track. If things are dragging on, we need to stand up and indicate that the meeting is over (if you are running it), or to be excused (if your input is no longer required). This applies to all the time-wasting habits we have acquired.

Related: The Tools That 5 Highly Productive Entrepreneurs Use

It may be uncomfortable at first to tell a colleague that you are busy and unable to chat – but as you get used to being assertive and as they get accustomed to the fact that you are not always available – then it will become easier.

More tips to deal with time wasters

  • Fix a time for paperwork and admin;
  • Have clear daily objectives;
  • Delegate work as needed;
  • Group your telephone calls;
  • Be assertive with unannounced visitors.

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Work Life Balance

The Secret To Living A Balanced Life As A CEO? Pick A Strong Second In Command

The key is to find a partner who is strong in areas where you are weak.

John Suh

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Entrepreneurs are not known for having work-life balance. In my experience, trying to find balance as a start-up founder is like looking for a real-life unicorn. If you’re looking to create something that is disrupting an industry, the path isn’t going to be easy.

Building out a new idea practically guarantees imbalance. This is especially true in the early stages of a start-up. Prior to joining LegalZoom, I would work 100 hours a week. It was a fast-paced start-up world. I had to make certain sacrifices. For example, I chose not to have a family right away, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be the present father I wanted to be. However, I was prepared to make those decisions. I believed in the work I was doing, and I knew it was going to take blood, sweat and tears.

So, what’s my advice to entrepreneurs on achieving balance? First, grow the company. Even in a company of 25 people, the burden of leadership generally falls on one person. It can take upwards of 100 people to really notice a shift in leadership. But, second, and most importantly, look for a co-partner that is just as strong as you are.

The one-two punch

Usually, when companies are founded, there is one individual who is celebrated. We forget there’s almost always another person behind the scenes helping to call the shots. Oftentimes, that person doesn’t want to share the spotlight. He or she is happy to have a non-public facing role and just want to get the work done.

We tend to talk about the visionaries, but there has to be a person in the company who helps turn that vision into reality. We all know Walt Disney, and maybe even the previous longtime CEO Michael Eisner, but what about Frank Wells? As the president and COO alongside Eisner, Wells helped lead the company through a 10-year period of unprecedented growth. Steve Jobs will forever be remembered as the visionary behind Apple, but Steve Wozniak provided the necessary engineering expertise to drive the company forward. Even today, many believe Elon Musk needs a strong second-in-command to help run Tesla.

I call this dynamic the “one-two punch” in leadership. As a CEO, you have to think critically about your second-in-command – whether it’s the COO, CTO or CFO.

Related: 5 Central Responsibilities Of Every CEO

We all want to be able to spend our time doing the things at which we excel. Excellence is what drives the company forward. At LegalZoom, I’ve been able to spend 80 percent of my working hours on tasks that leverage my strengths. The only way that I can do that is by having a partner who is strong in areas I may be weaker. In a strong one-two punch combination, both of us are spending 80 percent of our time on our strengths. The key is that those strengths don’t overlap.

How to find a great co-captain

The longer you wait to find your “two,” or if you make a mistake in selecting that person, you set yourself up for trouble. How do you find a second-in-command that can help you lead your company to success? It may seem obvious, but the first key is to understand where your weaknesses lie. It is essential that your co-leader make up for the skills that you lack, and vice versa.

It’s important to consider a person’s background as well, but don’t be afraid to look beyond the resume. I’ve judged candidates before based on raw talent and a gut feeling on their potential. Sometimes the best person for the role doesn’t necessarily have the strongest resume. Instead, he or she has a high level of motivation and a killer work ethic. These are the individuals that never hear “no.” They look for solutions rather than just identifying issues – and they are critical in the startup world.

Ultimately, while you bring different skill sets and career aspirations to the table, you and your co-partner must connect at a collegial level. At the end of the day, you have to appreciate what the other does. You have to share a common vision and mission.

Finding balance, after all

Any CEO with some semblance of balance in their life owes it to the small army of individuals behind them helping to make it happen. While you should prepare for imbalance early in your career and understand the sacrifices it takes to start a company, with the right “two,” you’ll have the support needed to succeed.

Related: Entelect CEO Shashi Hansjee’s 4 Life Hacks and 1 Little Quirk That Deliver the Dough

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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