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Coffee and procrastination

by Eva Amsen

While on my afternoon coffee break I checked my RSS feeds and found a post on Lifehacker where people claim that caffeine withdrawal helped them perform better at work. Henrik of the Positivity Blog noted that he was less distracted and less prone to procrastination without coffee. It’s all anecdotal evidence, and LifeHacker writes “Not sure if there’s any actual scientific evidence that links caffeine and procrastination”

I saw this as my cue to do a few quick PubMed searches.

Here are some things I found after browsing abstracts:
Caffeine increases concentration among university students attending lectures
Caffeine improves concentration in sleep-deprived individuals
Caffeine has no effect on performance in well-rested individuals
The effects of caffeine on performance are more pronounced in regular coffee users under acute withdrawal than on people who have been weaned off coffee weeks earlier.
Caffeine has no effect on focussed attention in the elderly
People drink coffee mainly because they’re addicted to it.

There’s nothing specifically on procrastination, but the literature suggests that coffee helps you pay attention if you’re sleep-deprived and a regular coffee drinker. If you’re well-rested and not regularly drinking coffee it just doesn’t do much.

Still, coffee has other benefits (as I summarized for Inkling a while ago) so I’m not going to stop drinking it. Also, I’m perpetually sleep-deprived, and that’s when the studies say caffeine is beneficial!
And yes, I realize that I’m just adding to the anecdotal evidence suggesting that coffee does induce procrastination: I’m on my coffee break, drinking coffee, reading blogs, and while reading about getting distracted by caffeine I get so distracted that I quit my blog reading and open up the PubMed search window…


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1 comment

Nicolau Werneck December 14, 2007 - 8:49 PM

I heard something interesting about coffee once: It would dilate your brain vessels, increasing the oxygen flow. That’s the reason why stopping to drink coffee would cause headache, and why it would be a nice medicine in some cases (such as when you go cold-turkey trying to stop drinking it! 🙂 )

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