Archive for ◊ April, 2016 ◊

• Thursday, April 14th, 2016


Coffee can be your best friend or worst enemy. If you follow these simple rules, coffee just might help you boost performance.

Let’s get one thing straight. Unless you have a particular intolerance or allergy, coffee is not bad for you. In fact, in recent years coffee has been linked to a decrease in various cancers an increase in longevity, and even weight loss. From a performance standpoint, coffee increases alertness, brain activation and decreases the rate of perceived exertion (that is, things seem easier when we have caffeine on board).

Like most things, coffee can also have detrimental effects – and sometimes it’s the habits associated with coffee that bring you down.

So here are the coffee rules. If you want your daily fix to boost your performance, not make you sick, then follow these.

1) Five is too many
The ‘safe’ amount of caffeine you should consume in one day is generally accepted to be about 300mg. For argument’s sake, the average espresso has about 100mg (see here Two coffees are fine. Three should be fine. If they are only weak (different cafes can be as low as 50mg) then four would just scrape in. But five is definitely too many. This will create ‘caffeine rebound’ and physical dependency

2) Water + Coffee = Clever
Coffee will dehydrate you. Whenever you have a coffee, try to drink at least the same volume of water. This will keep you hydrated and this is a pre-requisite for cells that need to perform (including brain cells)

3) Ditch the sugar
The caffeine is doing the work. Coffee can actually be a great pick me up, especially around that 2-3pm slump. You don’t need a sugar kick as well. It only adds calories and while the coffee is good for you, the processed sugar generally is not. You can end up with a ‘sugar high’ which is inevitably followed by a ‘sugar low’, and by spiking your blood sugar levels like this regularly, you can damage the energy producing structures in your cells, leaving you with less energy in the long term

4) Pull back on milk
Go for skim milk if you can – this will decrease the fat intake and also calories in your day. If you really must, a full-cream coffee once a day isn’t going to kill you. If you drink a really milky coffee, like a latte, then try to roll back to a flat white, which has less milk. If you are trying to lose weight, then ditch the milk altogether – maybe a short macchiato or a long black (again, one milky coffee a day won’t kill you)

5) There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ muffin
Often what makes coffee so bad for you is the treat that you have with it. Ditch the muffin (usually heaped full of sugar and butter) in favour of a healthier snack. Maybe fruit or some avocado on toast. If you must have something kind of sweet, try some fruit toast with just a hint of margarine.

6) What’s your cut-off time?
If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, then you might need to re-think that last coffee of the day. Now, some people can have a cup of Java an hour before bed and be fine. Others will feel the effects of that 4pm cup when it’s time to hit the pillow. Know your cut-off time, and if you really need something, go for peppermint tea as a natural pick-me-up, without the caffeine.

Coffee can be a great booster, social excuse and/or sometimes an excuse to get out of the office for ten minutes. If you follow these rules, then coffee will remain your friend. And not become your enemy.

• Thursday, April 14th, 2016


28% of our day is taken up with interruptions
The average person switches tasks every three minutes
The average time it takes us to get back on task after being interrupted by an email is a staggering 24 minutes.

Distractions are killing our day-to-day performance. And the more we give in to distractions, the more we get distracted. In a recent study, heavy multitaskers, were compared to single-taskers in different tests of multitasking ability. The results were astounding. Heavy multitaskers were actually no better at dividing their attention between two tasks. They still had the same increase in of mistakes and increased the time it takes to complete their primary task.

It reinforced the one thing that most people now know about multitasking: we can’t do it. Physiologically, we can’t process two pieces of information at the same time. We don’t multitask, we task-switch.

But the heavy multitaskers had trained themselves to one thing more than the single-taskers. They got distracted by more things more often. When we multitask, we don’t get better at multitasking, we get better at getting distracted.

A False Economy
Consider this: if you give someone an intelligence test in a room full of ringing phones and pinging emails, they generally lose about 10 points of effective IQ.

We think we save time by doing a few things at once, but in actual fact it costs us time, effort and ‘attentional capacity’

The bottom line is, that it’s always better to shut out distractions and work with greater focus. But if you work in our new age, open-plan offices – then this can be difficult.

So here are some tips on dealing with distractions.

Dealing with Other Tasks You ‘Just Remembered’
Just remembered something else you have to do? Don’t give in to the temptation to stop what you’re doing and attend to the other task right now. Instead, write it down somewhere, and most importantly, give it a time to get done. Keep a pad or post-it-note next to you, or an electronic note open on your desktop. Write down the task and the time you are going to do it.

When we allocate a future time to get something done, our bodies and brains treat that thing like it’s already dealt with. It frees up that ‘attentional capacity’

Dealing With Other People
Interestingly, in surveys 100% of people don’t like being distracted, but 80% of people don’t mind distracting others. Go figure.

Tell people that you want to give them your full attention, but you’re in the middle of something really important. Ask them to come back in 30 minutes. When you do this, people feel like they will get your attention soon, so they can get on with other things.

Set Working Expectations
Everyone hates being distracted when they are in the middle of something important. Sit down with your team and allocate times throughout the day that are ‘no collaboration zones’. I know this sounds crazy as we are supposed to collaborate more, not less, but maybe allocate a couple of hours each day where no-one gets distracted by others.

Failing that, have a signal that says ‘I’m in the zone – don’t disturb me’. Maybe a sign on your desk, or simply put on some headphones. Agree to some sort of signal and a time limit, so you can’t have the headphones on all day.

The competition for our attention has never been greater. But constantly getting distracted is not the answer. Distractions compromise your ability to perform at your best. Deal with these effectively, and you’ll find that your productivity improves dramatically.