5 Things You Can Do Instead of Drinking Coffee

Big Coffee Cup

We live in a coffee culture.

  • When you ask someone to meet up with you, you will often say “Let’s grab a coffee.”
  • Many of your co-workers or family members will say things like “I can’t get started without my morning coffee.”
  • According to Infobarrel, 50% of people over 18 in the US drink coffee regularly and they drink enough to fill up over 14 Statues of Liberty…every day!

As someone who has a busy schedule, is a parent of two young children, and likely as sleep-deprived as the rest of you, I can totally understand the need for a morning boost. However, given my sensitivity to caffeine – even a 9am coffee will disrupt my sleep – I am not a coffee drinker. Yes, the truth is out. When I tell others about this, it often leads to disbelief, shock, and looks that say “How do you survive?”

I’m not here to knock coffee – in moderation, many studies have shown coffee to have short-term positive effects like increased alertness, memory, and even happiness. It also smells and tastes wonderful.

I’m here to ask what about the rest of us non-coffee drinkers who still need that morning boost?

Here are some alternatives to coffee that you can do to start your day that will energize your body, uplift your spirits and sharpen your mind. While it’s a small sample size, I am speaking from personal experience that all of these things work! Even if you do drink coffee, you can still do them.

1) Drink lemon juice – Lemon juice is a super food with many amazing properties. Having a shot of lemon juice (and for the adventurous, a dash of cayenne pepper) with warm water can boost your immune system and give you a burst of energy – to me it is comparable to drinking a shot of espresso, but with no side effects. Just remember to brush your teeth before doing this instead of afterwards and rinse with water after due to the acidity of the lemon.

2) Do a 30 second burst of exercise – Doing even 30 seconds of intense exercise first thing in the morning like jumping jacks, running rapidly on the spot or burpee jumps can boost your energy and adrenalin. It has been compared to drinking coffee with no downside (no crash, no disrupted sleep). That’s less time than it takes to start up your coffee maker!

3) Express gratitude – There are no magic bullets in life, but this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to gain short and long-term benefits to your emotional health and energy. Every morning, write down (or type) 3 things that you are grateful for. It doesn’t sound like much, but you find that by the end of this exercise, you are completely uplifted. The best part is doing this even occasionally can have a positive effect on mood even up to 3 months after you stop doing it. If you haven’t set a New Year’s Resolution yet, making gratitude part of your daily routine could make a real difference in your life.

4) Laugh – Laughing is an emotional cleanser. It has so many proven benefits, one of which is increasing your energy levels. One thing you can do is to create an easily available list of things in your life that REALLY make you crack up just by thinking of them and then take a peek at it and let the laughter do the rest.

5) Do some self-affirmation – Look in the mirror, right into your own eyes and tell yourself whatever it is you think you need to hear. It could be as simple as “You’re doing great.” If you’ve never done it before, try it – it’s quite powerful. Many of us, myself included, could stand to be more gentle with ourselves. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself to achieve more and be ambitious, but sometimes what we really need to hear from ourselves is that we’re doing alright.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, psychologist, or someone with any credentials that allow me to credibly give such ideas – I’m just a coffee-free guy who found some things that help me. So check with your respective professionals, mostly for #1 and #2.

Constant Questions: What gives you energy in the morning? Do you depend on coffee for your morning fix? Would you give up coffee and try some alternatives ways to wake up? Is the best part of waking up really Folgers in your cup?

If you want to know what really happens when you drink coffee, check this out:

Creative Gratitude

Thank you to all who took part in the “Thank you, but no thank you” contest, AKA #BestTY. Wait, after all of my preaching about not opening with ‘thank you’, let me restate that first sentence. You deserve respect, gratitude and a pat on the back for taking part and supporting this contest. Whether you placed an entry, promoted it, or even thought about how you thank people, kudos to you.

This contest was about being different, getting creative and finding new and interesting ways to thank donors. Charities, non-profits, do-gooders and pretty much anyone was invited to share their best opening line for a donor thank you, on Twitter in 140 characters or less to boot. I was very happy and blown away by the response and support from everyone. If you were following along, hopefully, you picked up some good ideas.

Huge appreciation to our esteemed judges panel for all of their support. They were there along the way, giving advice, sharing the contest and ultimately making the very difficult decision about who should win!

Mary Cahalane
John Lepp
Ann Rosenfield
Brock Warner

So, the moment of truth. The winner of the contest is… Dignitas International for the inspiring entry below.

Why was this entry the most popular amongst our judges? It is personal, mentioning the date of the gift. It is focused on the donor. It is attention-grabbing. It draws you in right away. It talks about impact. It connects the decision to donate with that very same impact. All great traits of a great opening line for a donor thank you.

Congratulations Dignitas! Many members of their team jumped in on this thanking action.Your team wins a $25 Amex card and of course a review of an appeal or letter courtesy of the creative minds at Agents of Good. Agents, you really rock for providing this amazing prize!

A Special Judge’s Prize was provided by Ann Rosenfield for an entry she felt had to win something. Congratulations AC (@Connectwithcoop). For this entry below, you win a $10 Starbucks card – and thanks, Ann for providing this prize!

Other honourable mentions that resonated with the judges panel include:

Great work, all you thanking machines!

The 3 random winners of $10 Amazon gift cards just for having the courage to enter are:

Carmen Clayton (@Carmen_Clayton)
Beth Ann Locke (@fundraiserbeth)
Rekha (@rekhsy)

Next time you have to thank someone, do as these people did, and get creative. Your donors deserve it for supporting you.

I would love your feedback about this contest, whether you took part or not. Should we do this again? How can we make this contest even better and more appealing? How can we get 1,000 entries and get even more idea sharing happening?

Thank you, but no thank you


Stop saying thank you to donors. Of course, I don’t mean that as it sounds. Showing appreciation for donations is one of the (if not the) most important things that happens after someone gives. All I’m saying is find another way to say it.

You are a bunch of creative people out there and I’m sure you can find some awesome alternatives. A simple thank you always has its place, but to get people’s attention, show them that you’ve taken some more time to think about showing gratitude.

So how about a contest?

I am looking for the best opening line for a thank you that doesn’t say “thank you” in it. Get creative, get fun, get quirky, but show your appreciation.

Starting as soon as this post is released, tweet your best opening line for a thank you email, letter, phonecall, fax, or stone tablet message to #BestTY and the best one wins, it’s that simple.

Just don’t say thank you.

The contest will close Saturday, August 17th at midnight, EST, and the winner will be announced shortly after. The best ones will be Storified, along with the announcement of the winner, and captured here in a future post.

The judges for this contest will be me and these four amazing fundraising type people:

  • Mary Cahalane, Director of Development at Charter Oak Cultural Center and fundraising wizard, as her blog Hands-on Fundraising will show you.
  • John Lepp, Partner at Agents of Good, standing up against bad fundraising everywhere, and mega-zealot about treating donors right.
  • Ann Rosenfield, Executive Director of the WoodGreen Foundation, and her hands are insured for $1 million because she is a handwritten note legend.
  • Brock Warner, Donor Programs Officer at War Child Canada and recent entrant into the blog world with iamafundraiser, much to the delight of…well…everyone!
  • Supreme appreciation to these excellent friends for supporting this – I know they are all big advocates of showing ‘donor love’.

    So what’s up for grabs? Recently, I was lucky enough to win a Twitter contest run by Zipcar, and I won a $25 Amex gift card. I committed that if I won it, I would find a way to give it away, so that was the birth of this contest. I know it’s not a trip to Paris, but it’s the pride, not the prize, folks.

    However, after hearing about the contest, John and the good folks at Agents of Good have generously offered to do a free evaluation of an appeal or thank you letter for the winner. Now that’s something to write home about…hopefully to say thanks.

    UPDATE August 12, 2013 – I’m going to up the ante to spur on entries by adding three $10 Amazon.com gift cards to be given out randomly to those that enter. Use it towards a fundraising book or a waffle iron. Maybe get something nice for a friend. Whatever you like!

    Note, the Amex card is a US gift card, but it should be usable at any online vendor if you’re not from the US. If you win, I will mail it to you once the contest is done, wherever you are in the world.

    Here’s the catch. You must be on Twitter! This is as good an excuse as any to start.

    Good luck to all!

    Constant Questions: I would ask you here for the best opening line for a thank you, but you’re going to tweet it, right? Instead, what is the worst opening line for a thank you that you have seen? What are some creative ways you have said thank you or seen it done?

    2 simple and powerful New Year’s resolutions

    Funny but unfortunately, true.

    Funny but unfortunately, true.

    How many of you amazing people out there set New Year’s resolutions?

    Follow-up question one week into the year: How many of you have already fallen off, let go or given up on at least one of them?

    Before you start beating yourself up, you are not alone! As little as 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolutions. These are good, honest, decent folk who I’m sure have other goals in life that they smash regularly. The difference? Those other goals were well-thought out and very specific.

    When resolutions start to break, for many of us, our minds wander to thoughts that we don’t have enough willpower or self-discipline, and we foster general self-doubt. There is definitely willpower at play in achieving your resolutions, but that is only part of the puzzle. Sometimes the issue is with the way that the goal was set in the first place. Many well-intentioned and enthusiastic keeners give in to the power and pressure of the New Year’s Resolution Propaganda Machine and quickly set goals which are destined to be an uphill battle.

    There isn't actually a New Year's Resolution Propaganda Machine, but if there was, I think it would look like this.

    Artist’s rendition of the New Year’s Resolution Propaganda Machine.

    Here are some proven ideas on setting better goals and what you can do to stick to them:

  • Frame your goal in the positive. At the risk of offending English teachers across the world with a blatant double-negative: You can’t “not” do something, you can only do something.
  • Stop trying and just do. The word “try” is toxic for goals. You have already allowed the idea of not achieving your goal to creep into your mind.
  • Be specific. If you’re vague, you’ll have no way of knowing that you’ve succeeded.
  • Don’t take on the world on the first day. A series of small changes towards a larger goal trumps an attempt to make one massive change all at once.
  • Put your goals out to the world. People who explicitly state their resolutions are up to 10 times likelier to achieve them than those who don’t. Express them to yourself and to others around you to hold you accountable.
  • Automate and create habits. The less you have to fight the mental battle to stick to your resolutions, the better. Do anything you can to create built-in, regular, non-negotiable routines in your day or week, and then it’s harder to talk your way out of doing what you need to do. Also, after a few weeks, doing anything regularly helps in forming a habit, and you are on your way to more long-term change!

  • So a goal like “I will try to stop avoiding going to the gym more often” goes through the super goal turbocharger process and ends up as a much mighter “I will work out at the gym or run for 30 minutes, 3 times a week in 2013.” Ideally, you’ve also told your family, friends, co-workers, Twitter, Pinterest and the neighbour’s German Shepherd, Brutus, to help you stay in line.

    Here are just 2 simple goals that I feel are realistic for all of us. To avoid that pesky goal ambiguity that kills goals before they start, I have offered a very specific and measurable challenge for you.

    Smile more

  • Smiling biologically makes you feel better – the facial feedback hypothesis says smiling isn’t just the byproduct of feeling good, but by smiling, you will feel good. It’s part of the wiring of our brains.
  • Smile even when you’re on the phone – the person on the other end will feel it.
  • It’s contagious. You can trigger happiness in people up to 3 degrees of separation away.
  • You can live longer. Baseball players smiling in their baseball cards in 1952 lived 7 years longer than those who weren’t smiling!
  • 2013 Smile Challenge: Consciously trigger a smile 5 times a day.

    Show more gratitude

  • You could build a stronger network. People who are more grateful have been found to have more social capital.
  • Gratitude can improve your general wellbeing, from getting better sleep to reducing feelings of anxiety.
  • A little bit can go a long way. Jotting down what you are grateful for every day for 3 weeks can have a lasting and positive effect months later.
  • Even the army is using gratitude to help give mental toughness to their new recruits
  • 2013 Gratitude Challenge: Track your gratitude – 3 times a week, log 3 things you are grateful for, why you deserve them and your role in making them happen.

    Constant Questions: Will you take the challenge to smile more and show more gratitude? What resolutions did you set this year? A few days into the new year, how are you doing with them? What advice do you have for others to help them set and achieve goals and resolutions? Did you know that when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you? Didn’t the Beatles write a song about a resolution? Well, you know…

    I will leave you with this amazing TED Talk to inspire you about the power of Resolution # 1 – smiling!

    Thanks for reading!