Ditch the coffee to hit peak performance

Emotional intelligence expert Travis Bradberry on how to improve performance while saving money.

Ditch the coffee to hit peak performance
It’s news no one wants to hear, but cutting caffeine could be the key to success - so prepare to say goodbye to your daily coffee run.
Emotional intelligence expert Travis Bradberry says, “Most people start drinking caffeine because it makes them feel more alert and improves their mood,” but once you’re hooked, it actually has a negative impact on your performance.
The myth
In the past, several studies have suggested that caffeine actually improves cognitive task performance in the short term but Bradberry insists this is only because these studies fail to consider the participant’s caffeine habits. New research from Johns Hopkins Medical School shows that performance increases due to caffeine intake are actually the result of caffeine drinkers experiencing a short-term reversal of caffeine withdrawal. By controlling caffeine use in participants, researchers found that caffeine-related performance improvement is non-existent without caffeine withdrawal.

“In essence, coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood,” explains Bradberry. “The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it's taking you to new heights. In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.”
Managing your emotions
TalentSmart recently surveyed more than a million people and found that 90 per cent of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. These individuals are skilled at managing their emotions and remain in control, even in times of high stress.

“The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance,” says Bradberry – but caffeine actually makes it harder for a person to control their emotions by triggering the release of adrenaline and ultimately our “fight-or-flight” response.
“The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favour of a faster response,” says Bradberry. “This is great when a bear is chasing you but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email.”
The vicious cycle of losing sleep
Self-control, focus, memory, and information-processing speed are all reduced when you don't get enough, or the right kind, of sleep and having even a small amount of caffeine in your system makes catching enough shut-eye much harder. Not only that, but the sleep you do get, isn’t as effective.
“When caffeine disrupts your sleep, you wake up the next day with an emotional handicap,” says Bradberry. “You're naturally going to be inclined to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to try to make yourself feel better.”

Coffee-lovers are then left feeling tired in the afternoon and too-often reach for their next fix. This leaves greater amounts in your bloodstream at bed time.
“Caffeine very quickly creates a vicious cycle,” asserts Bradberry.
Make an improvement
Giving up caffeine for good – or at least cutting down – has the potential to improve your performance and make you a much better manager, insists Bradberry, but it won’t be easy.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that caffeine withdrawal impairs concentration, causes headache, fatigue and sleepiness. Some people even reported flu-like symptoms, depression and anxiety after reducing their daily intake by just one cup.
Scrapping commute like money in the bank
One of the perks of being a broker is the ability to work from wherever you want. And brokers should evidently rejoice, because a new study has found the morning commute can be seriously draining.
So-called “happiness researcher” and National Geographic fellow Dan Beuttner took it upon himself to quantify just how much happier a person would be if they cut out their commute.
The answer? – About $40,000 happier.

“If you can cut out an hour-long commute each way out of your life, it’s the [happiness] equivalent of making up an extra $40,000 a year,” insists Beuttner.

“The top two things we hate most on a day-to-day basis is; No.1: housework and No.2: the daily commute in our cars,” he explained. “It’s an easy way for us to get happier. Move closer to your place of work.”

Beuttner’s conclusion comes as the result of a five-year study on residents living in some of the world’s happiest places, including Denmark, Singapore, Mexico and California.
He says the keys to happiness lie in fundamental, permanent changes to the way we live but asserted that a person’s daily commute has a real impact on their mental wellbeing.
Other surveys have shown a more modest figure – saying the average person would give up a 10 per cent raise if they were able to work two or three days from home.

This article originally appeared in Australian Broker issue 12.07.