How to maximize your coffee habit to be more productive: experts

Coffee is a constant and almost sacred part of many a morning routine, whether you’re brewing a pot of coffee at home or looking forward to your daily walk to your neighborhood café for a latte.

In some ways, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has deepened our relationships (and dependence) on coffee and caffeine. In September, Cinch Home Services spoke to more than 1,000 coffee drinkers in the United States. 34% of respondents reported that they drank more caffeinated beverages during the pandemic than ever before, with coffee rated as their preferred choice.

The report found that remote employees drink more coffee than their office colleagues, consuming an average of 3.1 cups versus 2.5 cups each day. Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf are the most popular brands among coffee aficionados. But some Americans don’t crave their second or third cup for the bitter taste or flavor of caffeine — in the report, 28% of participants said coffee makes them more productive at work.

There are steps you can take to maximize your coffee habit and increase your productivity while working from home. CNBC Make It spoke with a coffee guru and productivity expert to find out how to get the most out of your morning cup.

Don’t drink coffee as soon as you wake up

The thought of a fresh cup of coffee may be the only motivation to get out of bed some mornings, but drinking coffee right after you wake up can dampen your body’s natural energy levels.

Management and behavioral science expert Daniel Pink has studied the science of timing and how it can affect our productivity. In his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink points out, based on research from several studies, that the best time for your first cup of coffee is about 60-90 minutes after you wake up. That’s because caffeine interferes with the production of cortisol, the hormone that signals your body to be awake and responsive. According to this research, cortisol levels typically peak around 8:30 a.m.

“People drink a cup of coffee almost in the morning in a pernicious and addictive way,” Pink says. “But we’re better off letting cortisol peak, naturally, and then when it starts to dip, come on and hit it with the caffeine boost in coffee.”

Choose the right ingredients

Coffee beans contain different levels of caffeine depending on how they are roasted. If you’re feeling lethargic and looking for a stronger energy boost, reach for coffees labeled “light roast,” suggests Mike Balderrama, regional guru at Counter Culture Coffee. “The darker you roast the coffee, the more caffeine you burn,” he explains.

It’s also important to pay attention to which coffees are in season to get the best flavor and caffeine content. Countries around the world harvest their coffee at different times, but as coffee lovers in the United States approach winter, Balderrama says we should expect to see fresh coffee from Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Colombia and Guatemala, to name a few, on store shelves.

But the perfect cup of coffee, according to Balderrama, depends less on the beans you’re using and more on a different ingredient: water. “More than 98% of a distilled cup of coffee is water — so if you have bad water, you’re going to have bad coffee,” he says. Whether you’re making a cold brew or a pot of hot coffee, he pointed out that you should always use filtered water. “Make sure the water you put in your drink—even the ice cubes in your iced coffee!—is filtered, because it will improve the quality of your cup infinitely,” says Balderrama.

Try “nappucino”

Coffee and a nap are great on their own, but together they can be a powerful tool for increasing alertness. Studies in England and Japan have shown that if you drink coffee right before a nap and sleep for 20 minutes or less, you can focus on working better than if you take regular naps or just drank coffee.

The science behind a coffee nap is simple: Sleep decreases the amount of adenosine, the chemical that makes you feel tired, in your mind and body. Caffeine, which takes about 20 minutes to start, helps block adenosine. By napping for 20 minutes, you reduce the amount of adenosine in your system and give caffeine less of the chemical to compete with, making it more effective.

Pink swears by “nappucinos” in his daily routine and recommends people aim to take a coffee nap between 2 and 4 p.m. when cortisol levels tend to fall. “It’s magic! When you wake up, you instantly get an extra boost of caffeine,” he says. “But it can also be a restorative ritual that you can look forward to after working out for a few hours.”

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