Eight O’ Clock Coffee was introduced by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, more commonly remembered as A & P, in 1859. The supermarket chain closed its door permanently in 2015 but the coffee product is still available online and in select stores.

The product’s name, however, has a forgotten meaning that I’ve turned into one of my rules on how to live a more balanced life. The original name of the coffee brand was Eight O’Clock Breakfast Coffee and therein lies the reasoning behind the rule. I don’t begin my professional day before eight o’clock breakfast and coffee.

From 1859 up until the late 1960s, all businesses, save for factories, did not open their doors until 9:00 in the morning and closed promptly at 5:00 PM. It truly was a nine-to-five workday for many. Those “going out to business” rose around 7:30 and breakfasted at 8:00 with their first cup of coffee.

Today, thanks in large part to technology, the hours of business seem to be twenty-four hours long, with emails and texts coming in at all hours. It is rare for anyone to work a so-called traditional work day. We can get caught up in a whirlwind of having to answer one more email, send one more text. Family time is disrupted, quiet, alone time is non-existent, leaving us exhausted and unhappy with our lives, both professionally and personally.

I used to have a bad habit of checking and answering my email and texts when I got out of bed at 6:00 in the morning. While doing that, I gulped, never savored or enjoyed, two cups of coffee. By the time I got to my office, I had already finished half a day’s worth of work. Breakfast was an energy bar consumed at my desk. Many times, I also didn’t end my day until 8:00 PM. Weekends were no better, as that seemed to be crunch time for so many messages that just “had to be answered.”

Stomach distress, tiredness, and a feeling of “when is this all going to end” was sabotaging my life. Enter the Eight O’ Clock Coffee Rule. I decided to not begin any part of my professional day until I’d had two good cups of coffee, making sure I savored every single drop. It was hard at first, I admit it. The temptation was always there but I wanted a healthy, balanced life.

Some colleagues and editors are not all that thrilled with my choice to not answer their messages until after 8:00 AM.

“Kristen, I texted you last night. Why did you take so long to get back to me?” wrote a colleague. I noted that her text had come in a 2:00 in the morning! I had responded at a little after 9:00 AM.

An editor I love has the habit of emailing me late at night. I told him I would read his edits the next morning. He’s not thrilled but he understands what I’m doing for myself.

I was determined to stick to it and see if the Eight O’ Clock Rule could make a positive change in my life.

The Eight O’ Clock Rule is working so well that I made another change that is not only work-related but continues into all aspects of my life. I call it the Five O’ Clock Rule—I make no major decisions after 5:00 PM.

If it is a decision that will impact my professional life, I will hold off until I’ve gone over it in my head and determined what is beneficial for my career. The same applies to personal decisions. A roofer was surprised and irked when I told him I had to think about his estimate and would get back to him after I’d gotten two more estimates. He had dropped off his paperwork late in the evening and wanted my answer to start work right then. I implemented the Five O’ Clock Rule and said no.

I’ve been living by my rules for over two months and, so far it is working. I’m beginning to see positive changes in my life. I’m happier, certainly healthier, and I sleep better. Is the temptation still there to respond to texts and emails at all hours? Sure it is, but I don’t give in. It takes time and patience to break a bad habit and replace it with a good one. My rules seem to be working and I feel in charge of my life. These are rules I won’t be breaking.


  • Kristen Houghton

    Kristen Houghton

    Thrive Global

    Kristen Houghton is the award-winning author of the popular series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation.  She is also the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. Her horror novel, Welcome to Hell, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Houghton has covered politics, news, and lifestyle issues as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Her writing portfolio includes Criminal Element Magazine, a division of Macmillan Publishing, Today, senior fiction editor at Bella Magazine, interviews and reviews for HBO documentaries, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and The Style Channel. Before becoming a full-time  author, Kristen, who holds an Ed.D. in linguistics, taught World Languages on the high school and university levels. Along with her husband, educator Alan William Hopper, she is a philanthropist for Project Literacy and Shelters With Heart, safe havens for victims of domestic abuse and their pets . mailto:  [email protected]