Caffeine can be an A+ tool in the entrepreneur’s toolbox. Used at the right times for the right reasons, it can make you smarter, faster, and richer. However, used at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons, caffeine is likely to make you bankrupt, confused, and probably a little dehydrated
Caffeine vs. Uncertainty
One of the entrepreneur’s central questions is, “What am I going to do to make a lot of money?” Or, on a daily basis, “What am I going to do today to tweak my existing small business to make a lot more money?” In both cases, the entrepreneur is faced with uncertainty, unsure of how to best proceed through the mysteries, pitfalls, and opportunities in a future they cannot clearly see.
Uncertainty, for those who do not know, is a reddish-brownish blob that looks like this:
Uncertainty’s prime characteristics are:
- Its mystery (you don’t know what it is)
- Its elusive scope (you don’t know how little you know about it)
- Its inevitability (like it or not, every decision you make confronts uncertainty; it is 100% unavoidable for all entrepreneurs)
- Its dangers (there are always plenty of ways to muck up)
- Its promise and allure (somewhere within it, great fortune may await you)
Now, if only you could filter through that uncertainty a little more quickly…
Caffeine: The Uncertainty Annihilator?
Caffeine has the great characteristic of allowing your mind to operate differently than normal. Not better and not worse. But definitely different.
Although medical professionals may offer more complicated explanations, caffeine basically allows you to think faster, with greater agility, and with greater confidence than normal. Unfortunately, losing perspective, jumbling priorities, forgetting your purpose, making rash decisions, and displaying inept judgment are all common side effects.
In sum, while caffeine may make you a quicker thinker, it also makes you more susceptible to distraction and working on the wrong problems. By analogy, while you might be able to run twice as far, you’re more likely to run in the wrong direction.
When trying to make good business decisions in the face of uncertainty, caffeine can be your best friend or worst enemy.
Caffeine: Recipe for Impaired Thinking
A normal person dealing with the unknown is like this yellow dot within a blob. Their knowledge and command of the business opportunities still hidden within the blob of uncertainty are very low:
A thinker exploring the unknown without caffeine enjoys good judgement, good ability to maintain original priorities, and good ability to avoid distraction. After 5 hours of brainstorming ideas, a non-caffeinated thinker’s knowledge may look like this:
This thinker has made steady progress, but has been unable to do any truly remarkable thinking.
In contrast, a thinker exploring the unknown with caffeine benefits from the ability to make tremendous conceptual leaps, connect disparate details, and conceive a “master plan” in just a minute or two. After 5 hours (or possibly just 5 minutes) of brainstorming ideas, a caffeinated thinker’s knowledge can look like this:
However, several hours later, this caffeinated thinker will return to normal, look at their notes from the last 5 hours, and realize that their knowledge actually only looks like this:
That’s because they remembered to take out the garbage, found a lost item in the back yard, listened to a good radio program, wrote a hefty email about US foreign policy, checked their web stats 4 times, thought about 2 other aspects of the project, wondered about 5 other things, and spent 15 minutes actually working on the original problem.
This can be disheartening, but need not be. Managed properly, a caffeinated super turbo boost can be applied without going nowhere.
Tactics for the Profitable Use of Caffeine
1 – Before drinking caffeine, decide what you need to think about. Write it down, write it on your hand, write it on your screensaver, and write it on the wall. However you do it, write down the 2 or 3 specific questions that need genius-level caffeinated input so that you’ll stay on focused on the right tasks while jacked up.
With a well prepared and documented agenda, a 5 hour caffeine-fueled brainstorming session might look like this:
2 – Never brainstorm and spend money in the same session. If you end up brainstorming in caffeinated circles, think you’ve got the greatest idea in the universe, and immediately start spending money to make your dream a reality, you’re probably just wasting money on what will later emerge as a half-baked business plan. Always put a buffer between thinking up a “million dollar idea” and actually beginning to build it. Unless you think spending money on one of these sounds like a good idea…
3 – Go easy on the caffeine amounts. Use moderation at all times. For me, two cups of coffee is as much as I’ll drink on one of my caffeinated stints. Any more than that I lose all ability to act with intelligence. Plus, I’ll feel sick, probably won’t sleep well, and will be exhausted the following day.
My personal favourite sources of caffeine are plain dripped coffee (dark roasts have less caffeine per sip, but often taste better), green tea, a fine Darjeeling black tea, and bitter chocolate. I find that soft drinks, “energy drinks”, and other mild stimulants all cause more mental fuzziness or nausea than they’re worth. Go ahead and make your own decisions about what you choose to ingest, but personally, the four items listed above are my only endorsed “performance enhancing” drugs
4 – Power up your non-caffeinated mind with jumping jacks. This is no joke. If you’re uncaffeinated, feeling dull, and have a big pile of caffeine-free intellectual work to do, spend 2 minutes in a different room and do 100 jumping jacks. Count them all out loud. Or, if that doesn’t work, do 250. You’ll instantly increase your intelligence and ability to focus by at least 20%.
5 – Alternate bouts of caffeinated and non-caffeinated work. Over a week or two, spend time in alternating caffeinated mental states while working on the same project. Use the bouts of superior judgment (caffeine-free) to strategically temper and focus your periods of superior mental speed. Alternately, use a dose of superior mental agility (bring on the coffee!) to generate ideas, applying more sober and methodical reflection and synthesis later on. Over several days, this approach can lead to an exploration of your area of uncertainty that looks more like this:
With the blob of uncertainty (the one which stands between you and making more $$$’s) mapped out as thoroughly as the blob above, you are now in a pretty good position to make informed decisions about what to do next.
Good Thinking = Good Choices = More Money
Deciding whether or not one of your “bright ideas” is the right one to develop may be the most important decision you make in the next 6, 12, or 24 months. Similarly, deciding what to do each day to grow an existing business is essential to success. Getting these decisions right, aided by the elimination of as much uncertainty as possible (with maximum speed, balance, and thoroughness), is a key component to successful entrepreneurship.
And it lets you justify the odd cup of mmmmmmm delicious coffee along the way
Note: For those over-caffeinators amongst you (probably most of you), try working in non-caffeinated mode more often to improve your overall mix. It might take a week or two at first to fully emerge from the cycle of being over-drugged, but you’ll be amazed at what a difference a little clarity can make to your overall productivity and profit!