Tag Archives: Caffeine

Garbage In, Garbage Out

I’d say one of the things I’m already learning in my 30’s is the truth of an old programmer’s adage: “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”

When you’re younger you can do pretty much anything you want and get away with it. I’m not saying that drinking too much caffeine, or eating too much, or not getting enough sleep don’t have an effect. You just have a better ability to power through.

Despite being a “creative” I have a very quantitative mind when it comes to this stuff. It’s hard for me to make generalized changes like “eat better” or “drink more water and less soda” without quantifiable goals, plans and known results. Ironically I like my plans clear and my results fuzzy; “I feel better” not “I lost X pounds”.

Today I started my new work schedule which is an hour later. I could tell from the way I felt during the week, and how much better I felt on weekends that I simply wasn’t getting enough sleep. And I know from my own patterns that the solution to this couldn’t be “go to sleep earlier” since pretty much no matter what I do I can’t fall asleep before 10:30pm. I may have inherited some of the Trube “gift of sleep” but so far that only seems to affect the strong desire on Sunday afternoons to take a nap. I do feel more rested and less like a narcoleptic today, and we’ll see how the siesta time in the afternoon goes.

Another change was a hard one, cut down the caffeine and limit when you drink it. Like a lot of cubicle dwellers every time I get up and walk by the coffee pot I come back with some. Sometimes it’s decaf but that’s still 4-6 cups of coffee every work day (which in terms of the actual cup unit of measure is more like 10-12). My solution, brew my own coffee at my desk. I have a little 4 cup (the unit of measure) coffee maker from my college days and I brew a full pot every morning. I try to drink it before noon and don’t drink anything but water the rest of the day (2 water bottle’s worth). I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks and find I am sleeping deeper (less waking up in the middle of the night) and I am feeling a little less high-strung. One down side is that I seem to be having more vivid dreams, not all of them pleasant but that may due to other kinds of input (shows I watch, news I hear, media I consume).

But what seems to have changed in my late 20’s and 30’s is that these kinds of changes actually have an immediate positive effect, or if I go the other way, an immediate bad effect. This might sound like a bad thing but actually it’s kind of helpful. Some of the stuff we do to be healthy can seem theoretical. At best it seems to effect only one arbitrary variable and not the systemic qualitative way we feel. What’s the basic goal of life? Be well, live long, and enjoy your time. That’s going to look different for all of us but it helps to get feedback from more than just external sources.

We’ll see long run if these changes actually result in better health, but feeling better is a good start. It’s a good lesson to learn at 30 rather than 50 (though I wouldn’t have minded really learning it 5 years earlier).

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The monkey on my back

It’s kind of a stereotype that writers (and programmers for that matter) drink a lot of coffee. Heroic amounts of coffee (and diet soda and energy drinks and red bull).

For the last month now I’ve been trying to regulate that. I was feeling tense and I felt like the quality of my sleep wasn’t as good. I was drinking anywhere between 4-5 cups of coffee, plus a couple of 20 oz diet sodas and the occasional 20 oz energy drink (though at the end as many as two, thanks Fast Start).

Zero didn’t work too well, so now I’m down to one. A cup of coffee (grande at the most) or a diet soda (12 oz at the most) and no energy drinks period. I’m feeling a little better, sleeping a little deeper, but my brain feels sluggish. I think it’s possible that one of the things that keeps me sharp and disciplined is a little liquid pick me up.

This is kind of a hard realization. There is actually some science (discussed in the book Quiet) of the effects of caffeine on creatives and introverts, but its still weird to think that part of my writing and programming talent is mental, and part of it is stimulated.

So I’m looking for the new normal. I want to feel physically better and mentally sharp. So maybe I’ll drink two cups of coffee and try not to let things get out of hand. That and maybe get some actual exercise when the weather finally gets warm, though we’re supposed to get snow again today 😦

What keeps you going throughout the day?

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