An estimated 65% of Americans drink coffee with breakfast—many of those en route to work—office, construction job, science lab, university. Grabbing a cup in the morning is as common as brushing your teeth or reading the news during the train ride. While somewhat subjective, conclusions about the influence of coffee on your workday can yet be drawn from various studies that have observed the various effects of habitual behavior and the effects of caffeine.
Caffeine And Productivity
Without a doubt—caffeine can help workers get more done. Most know of the energizing jolt it provides, and a study from the journal PLOS One provides evidence of this. In the study, healthy subjects were given either a caffeine or lactose pill. Those who got caffeine were more quickly able to determine whether a string of letters comprised an actual word or an imaginary word.
Another study indicates that caffeine may help the brain learn not just faster, but better. Testing long-term memory strength, researchers determined that those patients who received 200 milligrams of caffeine—roughly the amount in two shots of espresso—performed better than a placebo group when it came to classifying images. (Of note, short-term memory—the part of your brain that stores a phone number you’ve just looked up until you’re able to dial it—also gets a boost from caffeine, researchers have found).
The Importance of Ritual
It’s not just the caffeine that’s making a difference in the morning, however. Ritualistic behavior has been the subject of intense study over the years, and scientists have found definite links between the effectiveness of performance and a “pre-performance routine.” In an investigation of the influence of routine on a specific athletic activity (shooting basketball free throws), subjects who had walked through a certain routine beforehand displayed improved attention and execution, as well as increased emotional stability and confidence. Routine and ritual have a marked effect on our psychology.
Rituals may also be helpful in solving problems. In an analysis conducted in Brazil, scientists looked at simpatias, formulaic routines that are used to help quit smoking, cure asthma, and ward off bad luck. People perceive certain simpatias to be more effective than others, and this often turns out to be the case: a self-fulfilling prophecy. In like fashion, many workers face the day with their “power animal”—a cup of coffee—in hand, and successfully convince themselves they are up to any challenge. It’s a strategy that has proven effective across cultures and career arenas, and will continue to do so.
So as you stop at your favorite coffee shop each morning to refuel before preparing to tackle the daily workload, know that you have the power of both chemicals and science behind you!