I have written about how getting up early can help your productivity in the past. I know this through experimenting with getting up early and also having extensive knowledge of staying up late and getting up late. In short, getting up early is better.
Through my experiments I wasn’t really sure why getting up early was working. I always assumed that it doesn’t matter when you get up as long as you’re getting the work done. Now I’m coming to an understanding that it isn’t really what time you get up, but how you use your cognitive focus during the day that determines your level of productivity.
It seems as though getting up early won’t by some force unknown make you more productive. It’s just that when you are up early, there’s nothing to do and your cognitive focus isn’t completely depleted like it would be if you tried working after coming home from work at the end of the night.
What is Cognitive Focus?
Cognitive focus is basically the ability to focus on tasks, make decisions, get things done, and exert your will. Your brain maintains a level of focus that depletes through the day.
Every thing that you do depletes your focus and decision making ability choosing to act on it or not. For example, let’s say that when you get home from work, you sit on the couch and surf social media. Your brain is already fatigued from working all day and you could wind up depleting what cognitive focus you have left.
This is one reason why so many people find it difficult to do a “side hustle” after work, their brains don’t have any focus juice left.
I suspect that this is the real reason why I was much more productive when I got up early in the morning. My cognitive focus was completely refreshed from the previous day.
How to enhance your cognitive focus
There’s not much you can do to obtain more cognitive focus. I’ve found that once it’s gone for the day, it’s gone. However, there are ways to take preventative measures to maintain higher levels through the day.
There’s 3 ways to enhance your focus through the day:
Drugs – The obvious choice here is drugs. My experience using drugs is limited to using Caffeine. If you asked anyone else they would describe me as an addict I suppose. I swear I can stop whenever I want though, really!
I generally get charged up on caffeine every. Usually this is through coffee and the occasional energy drink.
Caffeine provides a very reliable, easy to access, easy to consume method of enhancing your levels of cognitive focus. It’s my go to drug.
Besides caffeine, there’s a whole group of other drugs that offer varrying levels of effectivness. Some of these are Piracitams, Modafinil, and Adderall.
Drugs work well, but only to a certain extent before you have to start taking more and more of them. So use wisely and don’t expect unlimited returns.
Willpower – You can sharpen your willpower to a certain extent so that it seems like your cognitive focus is unlimited. The problem here is that you have a small amount of willpower to begin with, it’s going to be an uphill battle to attain more.
My suggestion for obtaining more willpower is to start doing things that are uncomfortable merely for the reason to get more willpower.
Sleep – Getting enough sleep is a very underrated method of enhancing cognitive focus. I’ve talked to a lot of people about how much sleep they get and I’m always shocked as to how little it is.
Some of these people are expected to get up early and do major surgery on people and they are out the night before drinking. Mind blowing stuff.
If you are finding yourself unable to get work done, try getting 10 hours of sleep the night before and see how that works. It’s crazy how much energy I started having after getting a good night of sleep for a month in a row.
My ideal schedule to maximize my cognitive focus would be to get around 10 hours of sleep, start my day with a coffee, try and move as fast as possible in the beginning of the day, and somewhere after lunch try and drink another coffee.
That said, even with all of these methods of enhancing your cognitive focus levels, you will still be running short on your supply by the end of the day. Try and get your important work done early before everything else in order to maximize the chance you’ll actually get it done.
Think of your cognitive focus as an energy tank
Is there an actual energy tank inside of your head that depletes during the course of the day? I’m not sure about that, but it may help to think of your cognitive focus reserves in such a manner.
I’ve been sitting here all day writing a bunch of goofy stuff for various projects I’m working on. I’m about all tapped out of cognitive focus today and am ready to call it a night.
My cognitive focus reserves are pretty much shot at this point. There’s only so much more I can do before I completely lose my mind. Thus it makes sense to me to pack it in and refill the ol tank by going to sleep.
You have to gauge for yourself how your own tank works and how much work you can get out of it. Everyone will be different. Play around with it and try and stretch what you can do to really get the limits of how much work you can do during a day.
You only have so much cognitive focus during the day, use it to your advantage.
Get up early and do your most important work while you still have a full tank.
During the day, use stuff like caffeine to push your reserves further.
After you are completely shot, refill your tank by going to sleep.
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