How a caffeine freak went a week coffee free

The benefits – and drawbacks – of giving up my much-needed morning coffee for a full workweek.

Editor’s note: Could simply adding an enriching or challenging activity – or giving up a bad habit or dependency – really make an impact on your workday? The CareerBuilder writers decided to find out – we each picked one thing to add on or give up for one workweek to see how it affected our workplace productivity, mood and success. We’ll be blogging about our experiences throughout the next several weeks (that is, if we make it through the challenge in one piece).

Let me start by saying I’m not completely addicted to coffee. I’m not one of those people who has several cups throughout the day and, if possible, would be permanently hooked up to a caffeine drip.

However, I am addicted to my morning cup of coffee.

Let me paint a picture for you of how much that morning cup means to me. Several years ago I was having these horrible pains in my stomach. I noticed that they often started after I drank coffee. Think that stopped me from sipping away on that iced soy latte? Think again.

When I was pregnant, and they tell you that technically you can have 200 mg of caffeine a day (but what they’re really saying is if you truly cared about your unborn child you’d abstain completely), I just couldn’t find it in my almost-a-mother-but-not-yet-ready-to-be-completely-unselfish soul to give up my a.m. caffeine jolt. Sure, I’d sometimes choose decaf – but I’d do so in a bitter, this-child-is-already-ruining-my-life kind of way.

So, when I decided to challenge myself to a workweek’s worth of coffee-less days, I was proud of myself…for a second, and then immediately regretted my decision. But I’d already told my colleagues, and I didn’t want to seem that void of willpower. And thinking more about it, I figured it could probably do my body good.

Sure, every day there’s a conflicting report about how coffee is/isn’t good for you, but there are definitely benefits to giving it up. Maybe I would avoid that afternoon slump that often happens after a morning coffee? Perhaps I’d sleep better? I might even start eating a little healthier?!


So, here’s how my week went down:

Admittedly, I started off the week with a bad attitude. The minute I woke up, all I could think about was how I had a full week ahead of me without my glorious morning beverage. I got on the train to work, and was surrounded by commuters blissfully nuzzling their coffee mugs. I gave them all bad looks, like it was somehow their fault I couldn’t join them in this morning ritual. I got off the train and made my way to the office, and was keenly aware of every Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks I passed. I tried to avoid eye contact.

Once I got to work, it didn’t seem to get any better – in fact, I was pretty grumpy and unfocused most of the day. I figured this may be my body going through withdrawal, and perhaps in the next couple of days I’d start to regain more energy and crave the caffeine less.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. At least not by Wednesday. It probably also didn’t help that my co-workers were all telling me how terrible I looked. However, I did find myself compensating for my coffee loss by eating a bigger, more complete breakfast, which is definitely a positive thing, since my breakfast usually consisted of me eating Cheerios out of a plastic bag.

I was also hoping by midweek that I’d be sleeping better. I’m generally not the best sleeper – I tend to toss and turn. (It also doesn’t help that I have a toddler who likes to randomly scream out in the middle of the night only to go back to sleep, leaving me awake – and pissed – the rest of the night.) However, I still hadn’t noticed a change in my sleeping pattern. I was disappointed, because I thought at least I’d get a better night’s sleep out of this crappy deal.

I started off Friday feeling better – mainly because I was proud of myself that I’d actually made it this far without caving, and also because I knew that I could have my sweet, glorious cup of coffee in just one day’s time. I was actually planning on kind-of-but-not-really cheating by having a cup once the clock struck 5 p.m. (because technically the workweek was over!)

Yet, as the day went on, I realized that I wasn’t really yearning for it anymore. I had a pretty busy morning getting work done before the long weekend, so that kept my mind off coffee. I don’t know if it was the no caffeine or the desire to get work wrapped up, but I did feel pretty productive that day – and Fridays are usually the hardest days to feel that way.

The lesson?
While it took most of the week for it to happen, I do think by the end of the week I was doing well without the caffeine and could’ve potentially kept going. I liked that I was eating better in the mornings and thought perhaps the Friday productivity burst wasn’t just a fluke, and maybe it would carry on to the next week if I were to continue to abstain.

On the other hand, there is something to be said about having that cup of coffee as part of my morning routine. I enjoy stopping into a coffee shop on my way to work – the familiarity of waiting in line with other workers on the way to their offices, each of us counting on that cup of brew to help us face another day of work. I like getting to my desk and going through my emails as I slowly sip my drink and prepare myself for the day ahead.

So yeah, there may be a lot of benefits to giving up caffeine, but it helps me get my workday going, and it’s something I look forward to every morning. So it can’t be so bad, right?

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