Headspace is better than coffee

More generically this would be meditation is better than coffee, but the only meditation I do is via Headspace.

My central point is that it’s better to give up on coffee and replace it with meditation. I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee for years. I guess 4-5 mugs of coffee per day plus at least one mug of tea. But during these years my ability to concentrate has been terrible. So I’ve been slowly ever increasing the amount of tea and coffee. I do IT and avoid any kind of management – so the only thing I rely on is concentration for long periods.

But I can’t concentrate, so I need to change something. The first article that got me thinking was the BBC health article on waking up earlier:

  • Wake up 2-3 hours earlier than usual and get plenty of outdoor light in the morning
  • Eat breakfast as soon as possible
  • Exercise only in the morning
  • Have lunch at the same time every day and eat nothing after 19:00
  • Banish caffeine after 15:00
  • Have no naps after 16:00
  • Go to bed 2-3 hours earlier than usual and limit light in the evenings
  • Maintain the same sleep and wake times every day

The one that was easiest to implement was “Banish caffeine after 15:00” – so that was easy enough to stop coffee after 3. The next trigger was a Quora post saying that when waking up we need water and not coffee to help our kidneys get going.

For kidneys is very important that you go sleep on time, before 10pm if possible, and that you do a lot of exercises in the morning or afternoon (but not in the evening, our body should rest at that time of the day). Avoid any stimulants like coffee and alcohol which directly influence on our kidneys, making them dry and slow. When you wake up the first thing you should do is drink loads of warm water, this will warm up your kidneys and put them in work.

Obviously this is from a random stranger on the internet, so trust it less, but it’s easy enough to try drinking water first thing in the morning. However I don’t do this consistently – drinking water is boring, coffee tastes nice. I was doing this and not much was changing. Drinking no coffee after 3, but drinking quite a lot in the morning. Stopping regularly with my work to go make some more coffee or re-heat the coffee pot.

In the past I got into Headspace for doing meditation. I kept it up for about 2 years, but I stopped about 18 months ago. I hadn’t noticed any productivity increase during that period so I didn’t see the benefit, but looking back I realised that I managed to spend a full 18 months learning Machine Learning and Deep Learning through Coursera and also learning about Category Theory – almost entirely in the evenings. So it does seem like meditation helps – but maybe I’m just making up the link, there’s lots of other factors involved. So I tried to restart doing Headspace 6 months ago, but I would do it maybe one or two times and then stop for weeks on end, nothing changed. In an attempt to get myself to get Headspace done in the morning I came up with this phrase:

“Headspace is better than coffee.”

My main idea behind it is that Headspace does something similar to coffee – it helps me concentrate but it also has long term benefits. Coffee does bugger all except make you run around like a headless chicken for 30 minutes until you get the next ‘fix’ of caffeine. This statement is all well and good but it still didn’t change my habits. I had similar ideas about apples, that it’s better to eat an apple than drink coffee – but not sure where I heard that from.

I have finally though come to the conclusion that coffee is completely ineffective. It doesn’t work, it doesn’t help, so the only thing left to do is stop taking it completely. I might as well be completely unproductive without coffee than completely unproductive with coffee. Instead, in the mornings, I have switched to drinking green tea with a slice of lemon squeezed into it (and sometimes with local honey added too). There’s lots of benefits to green tea, so at least it’s useful. Then on top of that I take some grapes or fresh pineapple up with me as I start work.

Further to this I have added that I spend 5 minutes doing yoga and then the 15 minutes it takes to get Headspace done. The irony is that by stopping making coffee, I actually save about 15 minutes a day from the time I spend faffing around brewing and re-heating the stuff, so I now have time for Headspace. I’ve been doing this for 3 weeks now and the turnaround has been fantastic. My mornings are now almost totally focussed and I get a full morning’s work done.

Aside from that I also make sure to leave my phone outside the room that I’m working in and I also stopped going for walks in the morning. Walks are nice but they added too much pressure from the hour I lost going for a walk. I hope to start walks again in the afternoons because I know they’re good, but for now they’ll have to wait.

Update (Feb 2022): I wrote this a while ago now, and it didn’t carry on indefinitely, but I’ve come back to it with a bit more balance. I easily fall back to just drinking coffee and stop with Headspace, especially as time pressure mounts.

But this post helped me to come back to Headspace, things that ring true:

  1. The time spent making coffee tea can be used for Headspace
  2. You don’t need coffee, but it’s nice and you don’t have to stop it
  3. You can work without coffee
  4. Headspace has long term benefits, caffeine has none that I know of

So I’ve changed my thinking slightly:

Headspace before coffee

Keep your coffee, but use the coffee as a trigger to remind you to sit down to Headspace first.


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