Like wasting your time?
Of course not. But yet, you do it every day. Can’t beat yourself up over it, though. Reality is, you’re a human, and being such a creature means your brain can’t function at peak levels for more than a few hours per day. Your mind demands a breather, several times per day — hence the allure of mindless activity…
It’s why you pick up your phone and scroll aimlessly on social media when you’re supposed to be working. Your brain wants to indulge in some aimless and mindless, instant-gratification — it’s how it takes a break and recovers from a tough exercise (focus).
Visuals are easy to understand and don’t require focus, allowing your brain to relax. This is one reason why TV, GIFs, and sports are so popular… funny GIFs are for the mind what the protein shake is for muscles.
Pretend Your Brain is A Muscle, and You’ll Understand
A healthy and optimized brain leads to a successful and more enjoyable life, particularly in the context of entrepreneurship.
If we view our brain as the most important muscle we have (even though anatomically it is not a muscle), we know it needs regular exercise, rest, cheat days, and stimulation via new activities to stay healthy and optimal.
As entrepreneurs, our brains should be pretty jacked. But even the greatest bodybuilders can only go all-out for a limited time.
If you’re in optimal physical condition, how long would you be able to go at 80-90% for a cardio workout? Maybe 30 minutes. Perhaps for an hour? Intense focus is very similar — and just as exhausting for your brain as running a half marathon is for your legs and cardiovascular system.
So, I believe you need to design your day around this hypothesis that you can’t truly focus at an optimal level for much more than a couple of hours a day.
It’s All About Structuring Your Day
Ever wonder why we get tired after reading for 30 minutes?
Studies indicate that humans can’t truly focus at an optimal level for very long (10-30 minute increments). What’s more, people who take many breaks throughout the day are more productive and creative.
“A study recently conducted by the Draugiem Group used a computer application to track employees’ work habits…”
“In particular, people who were religious about taking short breaks were far more productive than those who worked longer hours.
The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work. For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100% dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish. They didn’t check Facebook “real quick” or get distracted by emails.”
Scientists believe our brains can only focus for between 90 minutes to about 3.5 hours per day (cumulative).
Biologically, there are optimal times and durations to do ‘focus work,’ based in large part on one’s circadian rhythm — more specifically, ultradian cycles.
Evernote reported, “The start of each ultradian cycle is where your brain is most energetic and focused. Eventually, your energy slowly depletes. At the end of each ultradian cycle, you can keep working, but you simply won’t be as effective. Your brain needs downtime.”
As far as timing your peak brain time during the day, that’s going to come down to you reflecting, taking notes, and learning your productivity peaks and valleys. You are the least likely to be productive in that 1.5 – 2 hours after lunch. So I’d avoid intense focus work during that period.
Your Mind’s Magic Hour
Time your ‘brain work’ — creativity, focus, research — during periods in the day that work for you. There’s a good chance it’s around the same times every day.
Remember that peak mental performance is a finite resource (between 90 minutes to 3.5 hours a day). The most productive people on the planet know exactly when in their day is optimal for brain work. Having learned when those times are for me has helped tremendously (around 7 AM and 3 PM). Furthermore, appreciate and honor the power of taking mental breaks of significant duration throughout the day.
Entrepreneurial success comes down to the optimization of your health, schedule, processes, and company culture. Let me share some of my insights. Subscribe to my free newsletter below. Only my best content will land in your inbox.