“There are a few optimal windows for doing your most creative and focused work,” [Assistant Professor Christopher] Barnes says. Most people are at their best in the mid-morning and late afternoon. You might match your circadian rhythm to your schedule by organizing your to-do list around these peaks and valleys. Tate recommends doing “any type of highly detailed work,” such as writing, important decision-making, or technical coding during high-energy hours. During the lulls, you can then turn to tasks that don’t require a great deal of focus: cleaning out your inbox, filling out expense reports, or returning phone calls. “That’s when to do tasks that are like muscle memory work,” she says.
How to Overcome the Midday Slump – Carolyn O’Hara, Harvard Business Review (1 July 2015)
Are we sure coffee doesn’t do the job? It would be helpful. Tea would be even better. But according to O’Hara, moving around and then the opposite, mediation, are what you need. There are reasons and there are more ways to get yourself moving, though: Read the full piece.
It’s from his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and an edition with comedian Amy Schumer. Here’s the whole episode, on account of a) I can’t just link to the tiny segment and 2) I enjoyed the whole episode while trying to get you a link.
But the technique is just this: ask questions – and specifically ask people questions that require numbers in the answer. Now watch on for why.
Seriously. Coffee when it’s windy. Not because it’s cold outside and the coffee is warming. Instead because it’s windy outside and it’s the power from a turbine that’s warming the coffee. Researchers at Lancaster University have developed the Windy Brew, a kettle which can only boil when there is exactly enough energy from a nearby wind turbine.
Here’s the thing. If you want it to be an aid to your writing, there are reasons to be cheerful. If you want to think that it’s dangerous in any way, here you go.
There are a lot of people who don’t drink coffee, and it is easy to assume that there are plenty of writers who are very creative without resorting to caffeine intake at all. Coffee may stimulate creativity for some, while for others it may result in the mind’s being too alert for creativity to freely flow. Coffee may have health benefits, but there may also be negative effects if one drinks too much of the beverage.
As for me? I started writing this article while drinking a hot cup of coffee, but now my cup is empty. The buzz of caffeine alertness is gone, and I’m considering having a second cup. Or, perhaps to encourage creativity, I should just let my mind wander instead.
Not by stirring. By tapping. On the WeMo app that I’m sure is used for far more sensible things but now is how to control the Mr Coffee 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew machine from Belkin. Basically, it’s a kettle.
Bean there, done that? If you’re instant-ly sure you want this then let me take you off the boil for a second and say it’s currently only in America. But don’t hold back: go buy it from Amazon USA for around $142 US (prices vary a tiny bit).
You’re smart, you know what it does. It makes coffee. You tell it to by tapping on your phone. And yes, it sends messages back. But there is more.
Sleep in a little longer by setting up a brewing schedule in advance. Then monitor your brew status from your smart device to make sure you don’t get out of bed before the coffee’s ready. The free WeMo® app lets you configure weeks’ worth of brew times at once.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve though, hmm, it’s nearly December, better get my early morning coffee kettle sorted out for the month.
Actually, I’m more of a tea drinker. Ever since I worked in a pub lugging barrels around and coffee was the only thing available, I’ve come to associate it with being outside and working so I will often have it then. Always black, always very strong. If you can’t chew it, I don’t want to know. But for the rest of the time when I’m in my office or at my desk – and I’m a writer, the rest of the time is a lot of time to rest in – then I’m a tea jenny.
Which means it is my civic duty to point out that there is already a tea iKettle and it is available in the UK. Here it is on Amazon UK. Curiously, Amazon USA doesn’t stock the tea kettle, only this new coffee one. Is this national stereotyping gone mad?
There’s a bit in The Blank Screen book where I quote songwriter Dar Williams. I’m prone to quoting her a lot but in this case it was to do with inspiration and specifically to do with caffeine.
Asked by someone about getting into the mood to write and create, she said:
You have to walk around a lot of museums, a lot of sculpture parks.
And time your caffeine so that you are in an open, wide, contemplative space for when it takes hold.
I like that and I like it a lot and I intend to do it more, but I’ve not connected it with another caffeine option before. The Caffeine Nap. When you’re tired and have to press on, drink some strong coffee, set your alarm for twenty minutes and have a nap.
Twenty minutes later, you’re woken by the alarm and the caffeine is in your bloodstream doing its wonderful job.
Guess which of these appeals to me most. If you’re needing a productivity or energy boost, do you:
a) work out at a gym
b) eat chocolate
If you chose c) Drink Tea then I knew I liked you.
Productivity blog Procrastinate Away argues that you should have green tea and I turn my face against them for that. Real tea, please. Is there a Campaign for Real Tea? Strictly speaking I would like a Campaign for Real Yorkshire Tea in a Teabag No Sugar and Just a Little Milk.
Caffeine may give you the shakes but at least if it’s keeping you up at night, it’s because of its chemistry and not because you sleepily agreed to some really morally questionable ideas at the office today.
“When you’re sleep deprived at work, it’s much easier to simply go along with unethical suggestions from your boss because resistance takes effort and you’re already worn down,” said David Welsh, an organizational behavior professor at the University of Washington. “However, we found that caffeine can give sleep-deprived individuals the extra energy needed to resist unethical behavior.”
“Our research shows that sleep deprivation contributes to unethical behavior at work by making you more susceptible to social influences, such as a boss who tells you to do something deceptive or unethical,” said Michael Christian, an organizational behavior professor at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. “Caffeine can help you resist by strengthening your self-control and willpower when you’re exhausted.”