There is a well-established link between Paris and the many cafés that populate it. Café Culture is most certainly a thing in the French capital. After all, it was where the French Revolution started and the list of French intellectuals who passed their time with a cup of coffee in hand is endless. Without a shadow of a doubt, Parisians are devout café-goers.
As am I.
I have no idea why my father is subscribed to a health magazine (he is certainly not the epitome of a man who looks after himself) but he is. There was an interesting article in the latest issue that suggested that eleven o’clock in the morning was the optimal time for caffeine, as it’s when the body’s cortisol levels drop. Naturally, I laughed and said every time was the optimal time for coffee, before throwing the magazine in the recycling bin.
I fished it out again a couple of days later, when I had set myself goals I wanted to achieve in 2018. I wanted to stop spending so much money on coffee, and limit myself to a maximum of three cups a day (trust me, this is quite the big deal). I also intended to read more, not aimlessly scroll through Instagram and most importantly, not allow my life to revolve around work.
In the UK, we have a working culture that has become toxic. Everything we do revolves around the workplace, from getting there early, to not taking an adequate lunch break, to working overtime and even taking our work home with us. It is draining and stops us living life. And really? What is the point?
It was time for a new challenge, one where I was going to shake up my routine. For the last two or three weeks, I decided on the following:
- Do not start working as soon as you get into the Studio. Instead, allow yourself half an hour to get settled and prepare yourself for the day.
- Do not rush to the coffee shop as soon as it opens, wait until it is 11:00.
- Do not grab a coffee and run back to your desk. Rather, take a seat, open a book and drink your coffee while you read it for half an hour.
- Do not skip lunch or eat it at your desk. Allow yourself at least half an hour to enjoy more than just a bland sandwich.
- Leave the Studio no later than five o’clock. If you must finish what you are doing, work from home but only until six o’clock.
To be perfectly honest, these are quite ambitious considering I am typically glued to my iPhone and have been known to drink coffee like it is an oasis in the Sahara. Cut down on coffee? How very un-French of me! Spend time sitting in a café? Much more French and therefore better. But, the two cannot work together, surely?
In a surprising turn of events, this challenge has turned out to be one of my better ideas. Since I started, I have fallen into a very good routine and I am much happier. Of course, coffee still owns me, but, not in a possessive, controlling way anymore. Unless I am at bru, I tend to have only two cups of coffee a day, if that. Some days, I only have one, opting for a tea in the evening instead.
Despite the dip in my coffee consumption, my productivity has not wavered. In fact, I think it is slowly getting better. Because I am working for shorter bursts of time, and not constantly coming down from a caffeine high, I feel more motivated to focus on the task at hand. Because I know I am getting regular breaks and finish work at a certain time, I am pushed to complete my goals in a timely fashion. My whole day just flows so much more. Oh, and my family have commented that I actually talk to them now and give them my undivided attention, rather than flapping my hands and screaming “I’m working!”.
Another big change I have noticed is when my barista asks me how I am, I don’t just reply with the usual “I’m so busy”. Now, I tell him that I’m doing well, or I comment on the book in my hands, and we have a real conversation. It’s absurd, isn’t it? The way we feel obliged to tell people how tired we are and how terrible our life is, as if there is some unspoken rule about being as miserable as possible. Why can we not admit that we’re happy? Why can’t we be truthful about how good our lives are?
The best part of it all? I have rediscovered myself. Even it is just for half an hour, it is a breath of fresh air (that, and the beautiful scent of coffee) to ignore Instagram in order to just be in the moment and read something physically printed, not just an email. I feel like I am part of the world again, and I feel like there is more to me than the iPhone glued to my palm. How wonderful to be alive again!