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Does Caffeine Really Affect Productivity?

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Most of us web workers have a relationship with caffeine. Whether we use tea or coffee as creative fuel, or use coffee shops as our offices, caffeine has become an essential part of our professional lives. But how exactly does caffeine affect us?

An experiment discussed in this post from New Scientist showed that the caffeine in coffee improves short-term memory and reaction times. Memory tests were carried out where half the participants received caffeine, while the other half received a placebo. According to researcher Florian Koppelst├Ątter, “… those who received caffeine had significantly greater activation in parts of the prefrontal lobe, known as the anterior cingulate and the anterior cingulate gyrus. These areas are involved in ‘executive memory’, attention, concentration, planning and monitoring.”

Caffeine also seems to slow down the decline of glucose in the blood during physical exercise, which allows us to keep going longer without tiring. Also, if you’re suffering from lack of sleep or feel stressed, moderate doses of caffeine (around 200mg, or two cups of coffee) can alleviate the negative effects.

But caffeine intake also has its disadvantages. For example, while coffee improves your mental functions, it also leads you to be more open to persuasion. Later studies also suggest that most of these positive effects on memory, alertness, and energy are only seen in people who already have a regular intake of caffeine — not in those who rarely or never take the drug. In other words, it’s likely that these positive effects are merely a result of relieving caffeine withdrawal. In addition to that, some researchers say that caffeine is addicting enough for these withdrawals to sometimes be classified as a disorder.

What does this all mean for caffeinated web workers? Well, just like anything else you consume, it’s important to read up on the benefits and disadvantages of maintaining a caffeine habit. Caffeine isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re susceptible to getting addicted it can easily be abused.

If you find that you’re going to take in caffeine anyway, it’s probably best to skip that tall coffee mug in the morning and just take it in small doses throughout the day. According to this article from Wired, this will keep you more consistently alert during the day.

Do you regularly take in caffeinated drinks? How does it affect your work?

Photo by stock.xchng user val-j

11 Responses to “Does Caffeine Really Affect Productivity?”

  1. I was doing a couple cups of coffee in the morning and green tea throughout the day. I completely went cold turkey in September 2009 and have been off caffeine ever since. The adjustment period was brutal (it lasted for months – low energy, lethargy) but now that my body has reset itself, I don’t notice any downside.

  2. I don’t drink coffee at all, even if I am 32 this year. My “drug” is the milk :)

    Many people I know cannot function without coffee (at least that’s how they feel about it) and in their case it’s working. For me, a cup of coffee would just give me a headache and this would “solve” my creativity and productivity for the day :D

  3. I always start off my day with a cup of black coffee. I can really tell a difference in my alert levels. However, I try to keep things to less than two cups a day. If two cups isn’t enough to keep my brain charged, it’s my responsibility to find ways to get better rest and refueling elsewhere.

    Go coffee!