PhD Tools: Tea

[This is part of a series on the tools I used to write my PhD. Check out the other parts here.]

 I got a bit carried away with my tea experiments...

I got a bit carried away with my tea experiments...

This will be the last post in my PhD Tools series. I thought I'd end with something a little less serious, though still potentially of use.

Around the time I started working intensely on my PhD, I became a little obsessed with tea. Looking back, I can see the traces of procrastination around this 'learn-about-tea' project. I put together a Trello board to track the different types of leaves I was trying. I read books about the cultivation of tea. I corresponded with various companies about how they source their products. (Sidenote, I settled on Rishi Tea as the best company selling tea online. Hopefully I'll be able to get them to record a podcast on Sources & Methods soon).

My Perfect Four Hours, for the record, were fuelled by two cups of Oolong tea. I've discovered over the years that I'm particularly sensitive to green tea, (which gives you a dose of theine rather than the better-known caffeine), such that one too many cups will have my hands shaking and my body unable to think or work in any useful way.

You'll need to figure out your maximum sensitivity point, but for most people I'd suggest it probably is one cup less than whatever you're currently drinking. There's a tendency (especially with coffee drinkers) to think that more is better. More coffee = better focus, more awake, etc. In reality, as I think many would admit, you reach a point of diminishing returns. I don't drink coffee, though I did in the past and I remember that feeling.

That said, some kind of stimulation in the form of green tea or coffee can be really useful when starting your core work sessions. It takes 20-30 minutes for the chemical components of tea or coffee to have their effect on your brain, so it can even make sense to have your first cup before you leave your house. That way you're hitting your first session at your peak.


I hope that this series has been useful for some of you. If there's a particular topic or problem that you feel it would be useful for me to write more about (or cover afresh), let me know over on twitter. I also offer (paid) consultancy on these productivity issues, so if you feel you'd like to discuss your particular situation in more detail, drop me a line.