Have you ever had the experience that as the day went on, you became less and less effective and efficient at your work tasks? Maybe you even felt like you weren’t thinking as clearly? I have had times where, especially in the evening, I can really struggle to make progress on something, only to resolve the issue easily the next morning when I am fresh.
I was reading a book by Amy Alkon that helped shed some light on this issue. Apparently, research has found that your brain accumulates neural garbage throughout the day. Part of this garbage includes beta-amyloid, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Brain’s Janitor Only Works at Night
Cerebrospinal fluid can help your brain clear out this neural garbage, BUT your brain cells are too big during the day to let it through. However, at night, your brain shrinks and channels open up to let the cerebrospinal fluid in and clear out the neural garbage you have accumulated throughout the day.
3 Take-Home Points
So, what does this mean for our lives?
- Do your most demanding cognitive work early. People are different so there are always exceptions, but most of us are cognitively freshest in the morning. Try to do your most cognitively demanding work early in the day. Don’t waste your freshest hours responding to email or checking social media. Tackle that challenging project first thing in the morning.
- Put your easy tasks off until later. We all probably have some work tasks that are cognitively easy—responding to emails, projects that take time but not much mental energy, etc. Schedule these later in the day, when you aren’t as fresh. Since they are easy, it’s okay that you aren’t your sharpest self—you can still get work done.
- Get enough sleep. There’s no way around this one—if you want to be at your best cognitively, you have to shut down your brain and get enough sleep. Aim for 8 hours per night if possible.
How do you schedule your work tasks? What time of day do you feel the freshest? Are you cognizant of scheduling in your most demanding tasks during those times?