What are some uncommon ways to work smarter instead of harder? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Nela Canovic, productivity hacker, writer, and Silicon Valley entrepreneur, on Quora:

Do your deep work (the hard stuff, the work that requires the most concentration) EARLY.

When, exactly?

Many scientists say that the brain's peak performance happens 2-4 hours after we wake up. If, for example, you wake up at 6, your peak times are between 8 and 10 AM.

What are the benefits?

Doing your deep work early in the day allows your brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, less inputs from your environment, and with a lot of energy that you've gained from a restful night. It's the exact opposite of what can happen if you leave your hardest work for nighttime, after you're done with all your daily activities and you are exhausted from the day.

How can I get into this habit?

  • For one week, keep a log of what you do during your peak times. Are you focusing on your important mental tasks? Are you learning new material, solving complex problems, reading, or writing? For most people, this time is usually spent commuting to work, checking email, making phone calls, watching or listening to the news.
  • Re-prioritize your peak brain performance time. Think of ways you could rearrange the things you do early that are less important to your personal and professional development. Like to stay on top of the latest news? Save this activity for your lunch break or right after lunch. Emails are waiting in your inbox? Be careful of how much time checking email takes; it can seriously impact your day. Choose 2 blocks of time to go over your emails, one mid-afternoon and one closer to the end of your workday. It's better to be proactive early (by doing your important work) and reactive later (responding to questions, providing input on discussions, etc.).
  • Create more space and time in your day by implementing a morning routine that can help you be productive. The benefit of a morning routine is that you jump start your day; you complete several tasks before moving on to work, school, or other responsibilities; you are more productive with your time; you feel more successful in what you do. I wrote a few ideas on developing a morning routine here.

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Published on: Apr 11, 2016