Optimize Your Day Like A Neuroscientist

Contributed by Lewis at Super Self

You may have heard about the daily routines of athletes, CEOs, and maybe even Navy SEALs. 

But how would a top Stanford neuroscientist — someone with the most detailed understanding of the human brain — choose to organize their day? 

We finally got the answer to that question this week after Professor Andrew Huberman broke down every aspect of his daily routine. 

Each detail has been structured with the latest neuroscience in mind, and the resulting strategies are super interesting! 

Now you can learn from his deep understanding of the human brain to optimize your day for maximum energy and focus. 

I’ll walk you through the full daily breakdown along with the fascinating neuroscience behind the professor’s choices. 

Hopefully, once you’ve been armed with the scientific know-how, you’ll be that much more motivated to integrate these habits and supercharge your daily routine!

 

-Don’t Lose Any Sleep Over It 

-Move Toward The Light 

-Activate Your GO Mode

-Seize The Day 

-Utilize Your Prime Time

-Breakfast at Huberman’s — Eating For Brain Power

-Plan Around The Dip 

-Calm Before The Storm 

-Unleash Your Creativity 

-The Evening Routine 

 

EARLY MORNING

Don’t Lose Any Sleep Over It

It should come as no surprise that the professor’s day starts off with a good night’s sleep.

Sleep is a priority for a great many reasons, but one key benefit is sleep’s role in neuroplasticity.

Huberman has explained across many podcast interviews that if you want to remember everything you’ve learned during the day, and retain any growth that you achieved, then you’ll need to get some high quality shut eye.

Studies have revealed over recent years that sleep is where memories are moved from your short-term memory in the hippocampus, over to the permanent storage of your long-term memory.

What About Sleep Schedule?

Professor Huberman will hit the hay around 11pm and wakes up around 6am.

He confesses that his genes (chronotype) would probably prefer it if he slept and woke even earlier.

For this reason, he often feels quite tired and groggy when he first wakes up, and it can often take a little while for him to gather and organize his thoughts.

“It’s not a time to be responding to emails or doing calculations, that comes about two hours later.”

So instead of getting straight to work, Huberman heads outside to greet his circadian secret weapon — sunlight.

 

Move Toward The Light

The professor is now famous for his insistence on getting some sunlight in your eyes during the first 30 minutes of waking.

And for good reason.

It provides two incredible benefits — stability and alertness.

Your body clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, can only keep time by measuring the signals which come mainly from body temperature and, crucially, light.

Viewing sunlight in the morning, and again in the evening, helps to keep your clock in harmony so that your sleep, energy, and mood, can all remain stable.

Surprisingly, a whole host of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral issues can ensue when your eyes are deprived of consistent sunlight.

Not only does his light routine promote stability, but it also helps him to wake up earlier and more alert. 

That’s because there’s a circuit between the circadian clock and the adrenals that trigger the release of cortisol to wake you up. This pulse is especially strong when you view light in the first 30 minutes of waking up.

Huberman reveals that if you start viewing light frequently in the morning, then those connections become primed for the anticipation of light.

And so it won’t be long before your body will naturally start waking up earlier and feel more energised! 

But What About When It’s Winter?

Huberman has a solution for this too.

Apparently, you can still get the same benefits using artificial light.

So on days where it’s still dark or if the sky is overcast, he will use a 900 LUX Light Panel to get his morning dose of brightness.

He hasn’t specified which but something like this will do the trick:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PMSBLTH/ref=emc_b_5_t

Remember, you should never look directly at the sun or at any bright light that hurts your eyes!

 

Activate Your GO Mode

Finally, the professor will usually combine his light intake with exercise. 

The fascinating part is the neuroscience behind the timing of his morning run. 

Huberman explains how early morning exercise primes your brain’s dopamine systems for “GO” mode.

This mode involves your brain’s prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia and it results in you having higher levels of motivation and alertness. 

The flood of dopamine and other neurochemicals give you a boost of energy and provide enhanced mental clarity in the mid-morning and even into the afternoon!

Plus, it also helps bias your nervous system toward waking up early. 

So if any of you have a hard time engaging and initiating action in the early part of your day then exercise could become your new superpower.

Whilst the first hour of the day is your best window, you can still get some of the effects up to around three hours after waking.

To summarize — you can start your day the Huberman way by getting a good night’s sleep and then immediately getting sunlight and exercise upon waking!

BONUS TIP: If you’re intermittent fasting and drinking black coffee, you should add a little salt to your morning water. The professor swears by this little trick to fend off headaches and maintain peak focus. 

 

MID MORNING

Seize The Day

With his brain now primed for motivation and alertness, the professor initiates his workday. This usually begins around two hours after he wakes up.

You may have noticed a surprising absence of everyone’s favorite stimulant up until this point.

“Where’s the caffeine!?”

Well, it turns out that he intentionally delays his caffeine intake until after two hours of being awake.

And according to neuroscience, you should probably be doing the same.

That’s because once you wake up, your body begins clearing away the sleep chemical, adenosine.

However, when you drink caffeine straight away, the caffeine will actually block up the adenosine receptors.

This means that the sleep chemical doesn’t get cleared out and ends up hanging around for a lot longer.

The problem is that as the caffeine wears off, the lingering adenosine means you’re probably going to get a late morning crash.

The professor argues that it’s best to wait until the adenosine clean out has finished before sipping your morning brew.

 

Utilize Your Prime Time

An additional benefit of delaying the first cup of coffee is that the caffeine kicks in at the perfect time to enhance Huberman’s early morning peak focus.

He revealed that his alertness spikes highest between 9:30 — 11:00 am.

It’s highly likely that this will be your prime time as well because this time of morning is the optimal zone of alertness and focus for most people.

He chooses the type of work he does at this time very wisely and uses the morning to execute pre planned tasks.

The tasks usually involve linear, concentrated, thinking. This might be reading dense scientific journals, memorizing new material, or running calculations.

He tends to avoid activities like creative brainstorming or coming up with new ideas and strategies because there is a time later in the day where those activities are best suited to.

Basically, any type of work that needs to be done in sequence and requires a lot of focus will be optimal during this window. 

So make sure you take advantage of your morning peak of productivity to move your most important goals forward!

 

EARLY AFTERNOON

Breakfast at Huberman’s

Eating For Brain Power

With a few hours of focused work checked off, it’s time to have the first meal of the day.

Huberman typically does intermittent fasting which will end around midday.

He has previously cited research which suggests that intermittent fasting bolsters levels of dopamine, the key neurochemical of motivation.

An additional bonus is that being in a fasted state will also contribute to his already heightened morning alertness.

However, this tool is to be used in moderation because if you let yourself get too hungry then your focus could start taking a hit.

What’s On The Menu?

He focuses on high fat/protein foods to fuel his brain throughout the day, and typically reserves carbs for later.

The logic behind his approach is that carbohydrates can make you feel sleepy.

This will come in handy during the last meal of the day when we want to start winding down.

His early day meals will include some variation of meat, vegetables, nuts, and fruit. Fats containing choline are also a good choice as this will help to promote focus.

There is one exception to this fat/protein rule:

“If I exercise intensely early in the day I do ingest starches like oatmeal and rice.”

And if you exercise too vigorously then after you eat you might start to feel a crash as a result of the glycogen depletion.

 

Plan Around The Dip

Moving into the afternoon, there’s a shift in the professor’s work style.

Most of us experience a dip in energy during the afternoon and so Huberman switches to tasks that require lower cognitive load.

He’ll now focus on more mundane tasks which can be done out of sequence and require less brainpower. Like answering emails.

There are only so many hours in the day you can expect your brain to engage in cognitively demanding work.

And so by saving the easiest activities for your lower energy hours, you’re able to optimize your productivity and stay in harmony with your natural rhythms. 

 

LATE AFTERNOON

Calm Before The Storm

By roughly 4:30 pm in the afternoon, even the great Professor Huberman is spent.

“Can’t think, can’t do, can’t email. No ability to function.”

Is it sad that this is the part of his day that I relate to most strongly?

Well, at least we know he might be human like the rest of us, after all!

In response to this energy depletion, Huberman will initiate what he calls a Non-Sleep Deep Rest protocol.

This will typically involve some kind of deeply relaxing guided hypnosis or Yoga Nidra session.

Occasionally he will be so relaxed during these sessions that he will fall asleep.

An alarm is set for 90 minutes to ensure that he sleeps for no longer than that.

By allowing his body to enter such a deep state of rest, he sets himself up for another burst of energy into the evening.

Another great benefit was revealed from some research which discovered that napping and Non-Sleep Deep Rest protocols both enhance neuroplasticity. People who took an afternoon nap, as short as 20 minutes, performed much better on memory tests later that day.

 

Unleash Your Creativity

Re-energized from the rest, Huberman now launches into a second work session, but slightly different from the morning bout.

That’s because the sleepier energy of the evening lends itself to more creative thinking.

The professor finds that he’s able to generate new ideas, and combine existing information in creative ways, much more easily during the evening.

And so the work shifts toward tasks such as brainstorming new approaches to a problem he’s working on, or perhaps some creative writing, or maybe coming up with fresh strategies for the next day.

The vast majority of us experience a second peak of energy in the evening and so it’s a good idea to channel this into something valuable.

And so the morning is for implementation and action. And the evening is for ideation and creation. 

 

EVENING

The Evening Routine

Finally, as the day begins to wind down, Huberman takes measures to prepare himself for a good night’s sleep. 

He’ll dim the lights once it gets late and will try to avoid any screens or light exposure past 10pm. 

Weirdly, you might experience one final mini wave of energy around an hour before sleep. 

The professor explains that we experience a burst of peptides and neurochemicals shortly around this time.

He speculates that it’s because you’re at your most vulnerable during the night and so it’s your body’s way of making any final preparations or collecting resources before powering down.

He’ll use this as an opportunity to clean up the house or to plan out the next day. 

So if you suddenly feel awake late at night, don’t fret, just use it as a chance to put things in order before the melatonin starts flowing.

 

Conclusion

To summarize, the secret sauce is all about using sleep, exercise, and sunlight, to get the day rolling with energy and focus. 

Then, once you get to know your energy rhythms, you can optimize your priorities around your morning and evening peaks, along with the afternoon lull. 

Finally, add some intentional rest and strategic nutrition into the mix, and you will set yourself up to get the most out of your day according to the latest revelations from neuroscience! 

Would you like to keep up with the latest and greatest content from the world of personal development? 

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Steve Miller

Entrepreneur, Sales and Marketing Consultant, Mental Toughness Adviser, student of Self-Mastery. Founder at The Manly Club website, leader of The Manly Club Facebook Group with over 12,000 members. Outdoor enthusiast, weather buff, muscle car lover, cabin nut. Loving life up here in the PNW (Oregon) with my beautiful wife and two young sons.

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