Productivity – that almighty word that divides the successful entrepreneurs from the ones that get lost in the chaos. This guide will not only help upgrade your productivity, but also enable you to develop an unfair advantage.
When it comes to productivity, it’s all about laying the groundwork, or the foundation. Ultimately, you need a system in place before you skyrocket upward. Without a system, it’s unlikely your rocket will make it far off the ground.
And a system takes work, time, and dedication. There’s no quick patch. It’s all about sustaining your productivity and stamina over a long period of time.
In this guide, we don’t just pinpoint what nootropics are and which ones you should be using to boost productivity – but we also narrow down the foundations you should be doing before diving headfirst into nootropics. After all, jet fuel only really works when the jet is built properly.
So, how can you enable yourself to play the long game? Let’s take a look.
Table of Contents
- What are your goals?
- What activities are you most involved in?
- Productivity Mastery
- Team Productivity
- Nail the basics first
- Basic Supplements
- Get The Mood Right
- Nootropic Stacks
- Nootropics How-to
- What to Avoid
What are your goals?
Before you start tinkering with aspects of your life, you need to know exactly what you’re looking to improve. Is it focus? Do you aspire to have more creative thinking? Are you wanting to recall memories better? Or perhaps you simply want to improve your verbal fluency or communication.
Defining what you’re trying to achieve is important. If you don’t define it, you likely will never get there. This is why you need a clear goal. By using the S.M.A.R.T. method, you can define and refine your goals. S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented. These are aspects that should be included in any goal – business, productivity-wise, or personal – that you set out to accomplish.
It may also pay to have a way to measure your success. For instance, you could mark down a checkmark on a piece of paper beside you for every single time you get distracted. This can help you determine if your focus is improving or not. For creative thinking, you can keep track each week and determine a scale to indicate whether or not you felt like you were in a flow or creative thinking state.
Whether it’s subjective or objective, find a way to measure the factor you want to improve. Data is king. And without it, you won’t truly know whether any changes you make are working or not.
What activities are you most involved in?
Alongside your goals, you should evaluate where you spend most of your time. Many entrepreneurial activities are broken up into the following divisions:
- Creation – building and coding
- Analysis – problem-solving, analytical thinking
- Business development – fundraising, sales, market research
- Scaling – Hiring, organizational influence
Generally, you want to narrow down where you spend most of your time and then determine what you want to improve on and how.
Even when you work alone, time tracking can help you determine if you’re wasting time, as well as what you spend most of your time on. This can give you variables or starting points for improvements. We’ve used RescueTime for years and it’s a simple way to understand where your time is spent on your computer.
Nailing down your exact activities and goals can ultimately help you determine where you want to improve – or where you need to improve in order to take your business to the next level.
TLDR: Plan your yearly goals in 12-week segments. To do this, create a plan each week and reflect at the end of each week as to how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved. This will enable you to reach your goals faster than you ever thought possible. You should hit 80% task completion each week in order to achieve your overall objective.
Productivity takes a ton of self-discipline and it may take time to feel as though you’re being productive. But here’s a few tips to help you out – without the use of nootropics to start.
Plan your goals based on a 12-week year.
Now, you’re probably thinking that doesn’t make any sense. A year definitely has more than 12 weeks (it’s 52 to be exact).
But don’t bash it until you try it.
Think about it… What do you need to do this year? What are your goals? Then, take those goals and develop a plan for the next 12 weeks. This requires you also creating a plan and goal for each week, which will then get you to your end goal at the end of the 12 weeks.
Each week, determine what the top five things you need to do are. While, in an ideal world, you want to aim for 100%, in a realistic world, the goal is 80% completion.
At the end of each week, reflect. Take a step back and re-evaluate your goals. Are you consistently hitting 80% execution? Are you executing the right things? This is important, since along the way, you will likely be changing your course a few times. When getting to a goal, micro-adjustments matter too. In fact, these tiny corrections can be the difference between you hitting the goal or not.
On top of this weekly evaluation and goal-setting, ensure you have daily goals. This gives you a plan for exactly what you need to get done each day. And prioritizing is important! Go through your list and determine what is the most important thing to get done today, then do that first.
Similar to the end of each week, plan a time to reflect at the end of each day. Ask yourself; Were you better today than yesterday? Why? Did you hit your goal for the day?
These reflections and questions are critical to success. They hold you accountable. They determine if you’re on track. Without them, you really don’t know. And like we said above, data is king, so collect as much as you can. It can help you determine where you need to be versus where you’ve been. It can also show you if you’ve made any progress and if a factor you have changed is working or not.
TLDR: Working in a team doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, you can be highly productive. With teams, it’s all about ensuring there is a clear goal at each meeting (don’t have one if there isn’t).
What about if you aren’t working alone? Perhaps you work alongside a team. If so, you need to be clear about the company’s goals, what you expect, what needs to be done and by when, and what you want in terms of a final review after each project.
Ideally, if you’re working in a team, four people is the magic number. Any more, such as over six people, and you end up with potentially less productivity and less progress toward the overall goals.
Further, meetings shouldn’t happen just because. Each meeting should have a clear goal – if a meeting is necessary. These meetings take a lot of energy and time for the people involved. Thus, it’s important to have an agenda beforehand and ensure you can’t simply do the same via email.
Realistically, you should have two types of meetings, one for alignment and feedback, and another for decision making. And the amazing part about technology is that you can now hold meetings via virtual means, like Zoom. This means less time spent commuting and more time spent being productive.
An agile mindset can help prioritize the right work, stay flexible, and focus on velocity, aka speed in the right direction.
Nail the basics first
Nootropics are really only effective when you’re already doing the basics or when you’ve already laid a healthy foundation. If not, they won’t do that much, and will only offset what’s holding you back (which isn’t necessarily helping you).
So, what are the basics?
You’ve heard it before: 7-9 hours of sleep is what most adults require each night. But what you might not know is that sleep is the ultimate biohack. It is the master key that enables your body to execute its regeneration sequences.
These regeneration sequences are no joke: they cleans up metabolic waste and lowers your risk of disease. They also mop up the toxins in your brain to give you a fresh chance at focus the next day. In fact, sleep is one of the best things you can do to boost your creativity.
Undeniably, sleep is regenerative. As we rest, our body repairs. A quick power nap (between 10-20 minutes) might help you reset and come back refreshed. The Sleep Foundation claims that a short nap can improve mood, alertness, and performance. And with many sources claiming only 400 mg of caffeine is appropriate per day, you may want to hold off on that eighth expresso. Instead, try a nap.
If sleeping between 7-9 hours is a problem, narrow in on your sleep hygiene. Wear an eye mask for darkness or consider blocking out all light entirely in your room (this promotes a deep, restful, and regenerative sleep). Consider earplugs if it’s too noisy. Try a couple drops of a light CBD concentration before bed. Research indicates that CBD may help with sleep and anxiety. Lastly, try to settle down a bit before bed. This involves taking an hour or more to relax, such as taking a bath or reading a book.
The body is about 60% water. In other words, you can’t function optimally without it. Ideally, you want to consume about three liters of water everyday (this may vary depending on the person). The best way to do this is to ensure you have water with you wherever you go. Plan to bring a water bottle with you throughout your day. This guarantees you won’t get thirsty or run dry. You could even consider bringing an entire 3L water bottle to remove issues with refilling your bottle or having to keep track. Further, adding flavor to your water can make it more enticing to drink. Add fresh veggies and fruit, such as cucumber or berries, or even an electrolyte powder to amp up the taste!
Aim to limit and reduce your consumption of alcohol, if possible. If you must drink, make it work for you. For example, stick with fine red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbex, or Tannat, with the highest polyphenol count and lowest molds or stick to hard alcohol with phenolic compounds, such as a 12-year old bottle of whiskey. Quality matters more than you may think! In fact, for whiskey, the contact period with the wood barrels increases the amount of phenolic compounds leached from the wood. Thus, this gives older whiskey a higher amount of antioxidants, which are beneficial for your body and health.
Studies also suggest taking NAC before you drink may reduce how much you consume. It also works to protect your liver, which takes a major beating when you down alcohol.
Further, you may want to be extra cautious when it comes to drinking alcohol close to bed. According to WebMD, alcohol may reduce Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which decreases restorative sleep.
Focus On Your Nutrition
You are what you eat. That old adage nailed it on the head. The human body is essentially a biomechanical machine, dependent on external energy input to operate. Put in poor quality fuel and you get poor performance.
Your body machine needs a high quality supply of macronutrients, such as healthy fats, complete proteins and complex carbohydrates, but it also needs diverse micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. This is why you should consume a natural and balanced diet.
Aim to reduce sugars and processed, pre-packaged food items. When it comes to finding the right diet, a great place to start is the Mediterranean Diet, which has been the staple of some of the healthiest cultures in the world. It includes vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, limited amounts of lean animal protein, and dairy.
It’s also a highly diverse diet, low in processed foods, and backed by some pretty solid research. But no matter what authors and health gurus would have you believe, there isn’t a one size fits all diet. So experiment and keep track of changes you make to your diet. Also, consider getting some bloodwork to rule out allergies and deficiencies.
Move It or Lose It
Sweden’s Attitude Behaviour and Change population-based study replaced sedentary time with just 10 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity each day. Researchers suggested, from this study, that this 10 minutes of daily activity was linked to a 38% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, 30 minutes per day was linked to a 77% reduction.
It’s safe to say that physical activity is necessary for the human body to function at its peak capacity. In many circles, it’s considered the magic pill to a variety of health issues. Simply moving can help improve your health, focus, and so much more. Strive to get in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. It’s proven to help with a variety of health factors, as well as cognitive function.
In other words, along with sleep, moving is one of the best things you can do to optimize your mind and performance. It’s not all about complicated biohacking techniques. In reality, you can further your productivity and increase the power of your mind through nailing the basics – like sleep, moving more, and nutrition!
Don’t Forget About Rest
While doing is highly important, rest is just as important. If you’re training hard at the gym, you need rest days to recover properly. If you’re sick, you shouldn’t train. If you’re stressed, you should be mindful of that and train lightly.
Either way, your body and mind need time to recuperate. Give it that. Tune in to what your body and mind are telling you. And rest when you need it. This could mean spending a day or afternoon binging Netflix or relaxing and reading a book.
Organize Your Mind
Finish each day by creating a hit list for the next day. This can help you step back from work, and set you up for success the following day. For example, the app called Things can help you deload your mind and help sort out your to-do’s. You could also use Google Keep in a similar fashion, and even perform a brain dumb when you’re feeling overwhelmed (this simply means dumping all your thoughts into the app, helping you unload and feel refreshed and ready to tackle your day or your next task).
In addition, it may help to address the mind – as you would your body. Try mental tactics, such as meditation, practicing gratitude, or affirmations. Do the basics of mental health care – this contributes to your productivity and performance.
Get Medical Advice
The next best thing you can do is discuss your options with your doctor. Let them know your intentions and goals, and ask them what they believe would be best for you. Ultimately, they know you and your health situation best and may know better what can help your specific situation.
You may even want to branch out, and find a doctor that is open to preventative care. This can be tough in today’s conventional medicine, but not impossible. Ideally, this doctor believes in proactive testing and provides services, such as supporting you in your supplementation monitoring. There are many clinics or services opening up that focus on these realms of healthcare and optimization. It’s all about finding them and finding one that works for you.
Surprisingly, nutrient deficiencies are fairly common – and not just in the developing world. The developed world also has many vitamin, mineral, and nutrient deficiencies, indicating a clear problem with current diet trends.
Many individuals, like yourself, are deficient in:
- Zinc: Supports a proper immune system and its function.
- Magnesium: Supports sleep and the brain, and regulates over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body.
- Vitamin D: Contributes to better moods and improves immunity.
- Omega 3: Contributes to an enhanced mood, as well as memory.
- K2: Increases blood flow to the brain, helping you stay “on.”
Blood tests can usually help determine deficiencies in these areas. Talk with your doctor and get testing done, or consider using super convenient platforms or services like Lykon, a platform that surfaces best blood work providers in any given area. Find out if basic supplements can help you – or better yet – if you can obtain these nutrients, vitamins, or minerals through more real foods.
Get The Mood Right
Set and setting is not only important for psychedelic experiences. The start of your day often determines the flow of your day. Beginning your day in a calm state with the right intentions can also go a long way.
Try breathing techniques when you first wake. This may involve deep breathing exercises or being more conscious of your breath through practices, such as yoga or meditation.
At this time, set your intention for the day. What is your goal? What do you need to get done? Narrow in on that. Everything else you get done – that’s just a bonus. And ultimately, it’s better to do one thing really well each day rather than eight things poorly.
Strive to minimize distractions throughout your day. Or better yet, schedule them in and turn off any notifications for when you don’t have any meetings or calls scheduled. This can help you organize your day and keep you on task. Then, prepare to focus and get creative!
The basics set up your machinery for peak performance. Nootropics are what get it to go beyond. But there is no biological free lunch. The best approach to nootropics is the minimum viable dose.
Start with only one or two of the following nootropics. Try them out for a week, and see how you feel. The first day may feel a bit off, since your body isn’t used to nootropics – at least, not yet.
Unfortunately, there is no biological free lunch. The best approach is the minimum viable dose.
Basically, start with something simple, evaluate, and adjust from there. For example, try caffeine and L-Theanine.
Is the dose enough or not? Did you notice any effects? Determine this before adding another nootropic, such as ALCAR.
You may also want to consider choline supplementation combined with some of these other nootropics.
But first, you want to determine if you are choline dominant or recessive. This may take some trial and error. And if you use racetams or modafinil, you will want to figure this one out. These two nootropics may cause headaches without the added choline, so find your base and go from there.
NOTE: For lines 10 and beyond, you should discuss your options and the use of these substances with your doctor before consuming them.
Morning Caffeine (Coffee + L-Theanine)
Coffee helps you wake up in the morning. However, without proper care, coffee is also thought to increase the stress response in the body. Adding sugar and milk to your coffee can help counteract this – but so can l-theanine. Research indicates that l-theanine can boost your mood and promote an anti-stress response. This nootropic combination is the hack that gets you the best of both worlds: the energy and focus boost of caffeine, without the jitters or increased stress response.
Day Caffeine (Green Tea)
For the rest of the day, use green tea to keep you level-headed. However, you will want to likely cut this off around 2 or 3 pm. Too much caffeine later in the day can lead to insomnia and a rough night, and since sleep is the ultimate biohack, jeopardizing it should be the last resort option.
Alpha GPC is one of the best sources of choline. It also crosses the blood-brain barrier, and helps with energy, memory, and the development of new brain cells, preventing neurological declines.
This nootropic is a choline source and it can help you focus, improving recall and learning capabilities. It further may help improve your brain energy and increase your mood. Studies even show promise of this nootropic in helping those with traumatic brain injuries and their recovery.
According to WebMD, Huperzine-A may help improve memory and overall cognitive function. In fact, it’s been tested on individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and shown promising results. After about 36 weeks of taking Huperzine-A, these individuals had improvements in memory, thinking skills, and behavior.
Bacopa Monnieri may contribute to reduced anxiety and increased memory formation. It also contains powerful antioxidants, which help protect the body and its cells from harm or damage. Further, researchers found it improved memory and spatial learning in mice. Another study also noted this nootropic’s ability to improve the processing of visual information, memory, and learning in 46 healthy adults.
This powerful nootropic is well-known for its capabilities to reduce stress, general fatigue, and mental fatigue. There is a wide-variety of evidence indicating its use in reducing stress, including a study completed in 2012. This study involved 101 individuals experiencing life or work stress. After taking 400 mg per day for a month, participants reported decreased stress.
Ashwagandha reduces stress, decreases fatigue, and boosts memory and attention. A 2017 study showed ashwagandha to be an effective substance when it comes to enhancing immediate and general memory, as well as improving executive function, information processing, and memory.
Before taking this nootropic, consult with your doctor.
But with modafinil, prepare to lose 4-16 hours of your day to extreme productivity. One study demonstrated modafinil’s use in enhancing a person’s mood, helping them stay alert, and allowing them to combat fatigue. In turn, this can lead to a higher rate of productivity and potentially less burnout.
Before taking this nootropic, consult with your doctor.
Aniracetam reduces anxiety and improves working memory. All in all, it’s considered a stimulant, but also a concentration enhancer. It is also considered in some cases an antidepressant, which helps many individuals combat the effects of depression and anxiety disorders.
Before taking this nootropic, consult with your doctor.
Phenylpiracetam helps with working memory and focus. Like modafinil and aniracetam, and phenibut (below), this nootropic is a synthetically-derived drug, meaning it is made in a lab. This is why it’s important to discuss these options with your doctor before use.
Before taking this nootropic, consult with your doctor.
This synthetically-created nootropic reduces anxiety and can even improve sales with your relaxed mood. However, it can have adverse side effects, such as addiction, as well as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, or poor balance, if taken in larger doses. Thus, it’s suggested to not take this nootropic more than one day per week.
What Do We Take?
Our hacking philosophy is simple: less is more. We’re big into the minimum viable dose concept and want to take as little risk as possible when supplementing. And we hate side effects because they slow us down.
Ideally, we want to be in a constant state of flow versus riding a rocket to the moon.
Stephen takes a healthy combination of Alpha GPC, Aniracetam, Vitamin D, Omega 3, and Green Tea.
Meanwhile, Guillaume takes Omega 3, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, ALCAR, Mag L Threonate, B12, Folic Acid, Filter Coffee in the morning (never after 12pm), and 3 liters of pure water.
A stack refers to two or more nootropic supplements taken together. This creates more advantageous effects, and may also help balance out any ill effects related to taking them. By creating or having nootropic stacks, you take the experimentation and guess-work out of the equation.
A couple pre-made stacks we recommend include CILTEP, which is great for focus and creative work, and Alpha Brain, which is also excellent for focus and creative work, but further improves memory and communication in relation to vocabulary recall.
Beginning to take nootropics or enhance your life in any way is a journey. It really depends on what works for you, your life, and your goals. Some individuals prefer to start with powders, then move onto custom capsules, before ordering pre-made capsules. Do what you feel is best.
It’s further important to record each day how you feel and any changes you notice. Use Unfair to keep track of how each nootropic is working for you. Or if you prefer, keep a record in a Google Sheet. In each entry, log how you feel and log your execution (how you take it). This will give you something to refer back to and build on, as well as make adjustments to.
What to Avoid
So, what shouldn’t you do when taking or trying out nootropics?
- Avoid drastic changes to your daily routine or sleep.
- Don’t skip out on sleeping. No stack of nootropics can compare to a goodnight’s rest.
- Limit the time you spend optimizing. Remember, you’re optimizing for a reason. Balance is key.
- Don’t take Adderall. Yes, being an entrepreneur comes with high stakes. But there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Adderall will wind you up and bring you down. It also has addiction potential. You don’t want to add problems to your list, which is what Adderall has the potential to do.
Fortune favors the bold, but really it favors the fast. Speed is everything. You want to move fast, but in a constant and non-stoppable way. Think of it like taking tiny bursts at different moments. You want to get everything right, but going too fast might damper that. This isn’t about strapping yourself to a supersonic rocket and taking off. In reality, that will not only ruin your life but potentially end it. This is about going at a pace where you’re moving but moving at a speed where you get stuff done.
It’s also essential to determine the basics first.
Lay your foundation. Eat right. Exercise. Sleep.
You could use the best materials on the planet to build a home, but if the foundation isn’t stable, it will fall apart. This is why the basics matter. Build from the ground up.
If you’re working with a team, set the strategic frameworks for you and your team to focus and deliver. There’s a difference between doing stuff and doing productive stuff.
Then, dial it up with nootropics. Test and measure, and keep a record. From there, you can have fun and achieve success by living an unfair life.