Simply put, productivity is the state of producing something, as measured by the following formula: output divided by input. The greater the output (product) per input (effort), the greater the productivity. However, truly great productivity isn't simply measured in terms of "producing something." The "something" produced must also be of exceptional quality for your productivity to qualify as... well, productive.
After all, is it better to read one really great book or ten awful books?
Likewise, truly great cognitive productivity requires truly great cognition, and nootropics for productivity can help. By optimizing mental concentration and motivation while reducing disruptive stress and anxiety, cognitive enhancers may help create a more effective "get to work" mindset that produces actually worthwhile content. And in this guide, we cover the cognitive factors of productivity as well as the best nootropics for the job.
The Cognitive Factors of Productivity
Do you perform on schedule or only when inspiration strikes? According to W. Somerset Maugham, the latter occurs with the former: "I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp." And this seems to be true of all productive people, who acquire inspiration through perspiration -- through putting in the work, motivated or not.
Perhaps you have the inspiration, the grand idea and vision, already in mind, but you struggle to produce. Or maybe you have the energy but not a direction, let alone a plan. Of course, the best way to improve productivity is to simply produce -- it could be anything, at first -- until ideas form and the future becomes less blurry.
Even so, "simply producing" remains a significant struggle for many workers, and it could be due to any number of factors: low energy, anxiety, inability to concentrate, etc. While it's up to you to start the project of your dreams, focusing on the following cognitive pathways may help fuel your discipline and drive to stay on task:
Focus and Concentration
While seemingly synonymous, focus and concentration are slightly different:
- Focus - like a "focused" photograph, mental focus involves clarity of mind and sharp attention to the subject, or task, of importance.
- Concentration - this helps us "stay focused" by rejecting peripheral distractions and temptations.
Without focus, a person may be productive but not towards any actual "productive" direction. Blurry, or unfocused, thinking impairs the mind's ability to discern important information from trivial stimuli. There's a fine balance between stimulation and relaxation to achieve smart focus. Too much stimulation overwhelms cognitive processing, whereas too much relaxation throws the mind into stagnant apathy.
By improving the activity of catecholamine neurotransmitters, which play a key role in cognitive alertness and awareness, nootropics may improve focus and concentration. Under conditions of catecholamine depletion, workers may find it difficult to avoid distractions and stay on task. Ironically, being over-productive may contribute to catecholamine depletion via stress and over-activity. Catecholaminergic nootropics help productive people sustain their productivity.
Energy and Stamina
No energy, no output. Whether due to sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, or low metabolic production, low energy impairs nearly every aspect of mental performance. However, the usual "solutions" to low energy -- e.g., caffeine, smart pills -- don't seem to offer much of a healthy, long-term option.
Given that the brain burns nearly 20% of the body's overall energy, it's important to keep this energy-demanding organ happy with sufficient energy productivity.<1> Generally, the reasons for the brain's high energy demands include:
- Management - the brain never ceases to process, regulate, and monitor an incredibly complex network of neurochemical signals and reactions.
- Maintenance - neural tissue requires ongoing care and attention, as the brain expends energy and fuel to grow, develop, and repair brain cells.
Poorly managed and maintained brains not only diminish productivity but may increase the risk and rate of age-relation neurodegeneration. Nootropics that enhance cellular energy production while reducing the negative effects of fatigue may help sustain ongoing productivity.
Mood and Motivation
Even the most productive workers experience negative emotions and low motivation every once and awhile. While poor mood and motivation may be attributed to any number of psychological factors, nootropics may assist with the neurochemical pathways to motivation, fueling your mental drive by:
- Optimizing dopamine activity - as part of the catecholaminergic pathway, dopamine plays a key role in the "Pleasure-Reward" response to accomplishing a difficult task or seeking novel experiences.
- Enhancing serotonergic activity - associated with feelings of emotional stability and well-being, serotonin helps regulate mood and social behavior, as well as appetite and impulsivity.
Dedication and discipline contribute to a highly productive worker. However, neither are possible with healthy mood and motivation levels.
Stress and Anxiety
One of the most common disruptors for productivity: stress. Both psychological and hormonal stress may negatively impact a person's thinking capacity, and to a substantial, long-term degree if the stress goes unaddressed for too long.
Similarly, anxiety may contribute to a heightened fear response, promoting behavior that avoids negative emotions associated with important work. Negative emotions such as self-doubt, which almost seems an essential aspect of seeking what's important. People with low stress and anxiety tend to more assertively pursue their goals and passions, whereas those with a heavy stress burden tend to overthink their decisions to the point of exhaustion.
By regulating the HPA stress hormone cortisol response, nootropics may reduce the risk of disruptive stress levels. Likewise, anxiolytic nootropics may help relax hyperactive brain activity, calming cognition for an easier, breezier approach to producing something important and substantial.
Which is Better for Productivity: Stimulation or Relaxation?
The answer depends on what's impeding your productivity: is it apathy or anxiety? Low energy or hyperactivity? Odds are, in our hypercaffeinated, overstimulated world, it's too much stimulation overwhelming our mental productivity. As such, caffeinated nootropic supplements may actually impair cognition, not help it.
Not to say there isn't an appropriate way to use caffeine towards improved productivity, as listed below. However, when it comes to improving productivity, the power of relaxation is incredibly underestimated. This is why meditation seems to significantly improve workplace performance, psychological well-being, and productivity, as explored through preliminary research.<2> Calm, relaxed mindfulness seems to correlate with decreased burnout and perceived stress.
On the flipside, stimulation may reliably work as a "clutch performance" brain boost. Under conditions of acute fatigue and stress, stimulants may help keep mental performance alive and afloat long enough to solve a given task or problem. However, this only describes a temporary approach to addressing temporary problems.
For ongoing productivity and cognitive health, maintaining healthy energy levels and cognitive calm seems to work best.
Natural vs. Synthetic Energy Boosters
When it comes to stimulation, you can go the easy route with synthetic stimulants or the healthy route with natural nootropics. Whereas synthetic stimulants unnaturally amplify cognitive energy, nootropics naturally enhance the brain's energy producing pathways. What's more, the synthetic rise in cognitive energy often leads to an inevitable cognitive crash, ultimately resulting in decreased cognitive performance and, eventually, impaired cognitive health.
Nootropic energy boosters, on the other hand, may improve metabolism and cognitive longevity by enhancing:
- Mitochondrial ATP energy output.
- Mitochondrial antioxidant capacity.
- Nutritional fuel conversion to cellular energy.
And more. The best part of natural nootropics is that they're generally safe and free of side effects, even when used under daily, long-term conditions.
How Nootropics Can Boost Productivity
By focusing on the cognitive pathways listed above -- Focus and Concentration, Energy and Stamina, Mood and Motivation, Stress and Anxiety -- natural nootropics can boost productivity through the following bio-mechanisms:
- Improving catecholaminergic activity.
- Enhancing cellular energy levels.
- Reducing brain fatigue and fog.
- Regulating dopaminergic and serotonergic activities.
- Decreasing over-active cognitive pathways.
- Optimizing stress hormone cortisol release.
Essentially, nootropics for productivity work by promoting relaxed, yet energized, thinking that's resilient against destructive distractions and emotional disturbances. However, not all nootropics are fit for the task of improving productivity, and so listed below are a few of the best cognitive enhancers that may help you get back to work and stay on task.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Productivity
Citicoline (CDP Choline)
We typically think of productivity as a long-term process. Thus, we want nootropics that improve long-term cognitive processes, even though the short-term brain boosters often seem the most appealing to us. Fortunately, Citicoline (CDP Choline) offers both long- and short-term brain benefits with its two nootropic compounds:
- Choline - the precursor compound to neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the brain chemical involved in memory, learning, and high-order cognitive processes.
- Cytidine - the precursor compound to uridine, the nucleotide associated with improved synaptic plasticity and cellular energy synthesis.
While other nootropic cholinergics supply choline for enhanced acetylcholine activity, citicoline's cytidine attachment further enhances its effectiveness at boosting cognitive performance by improving natural, cellular brain energy.
For improved mental performance, clinical research suggests<3,4>:
- 28 days of citicoline supplementation may significantly improve attentional performance in healthy, middle-aged women.
- Citicoline paired with caffeine may significantly enhance sustained attention and reaction times in healthy adults.
By increasing your attention and concentration, citicoline may boost your productivity and work efficiency. For the coffee drinkers, the citicoline + caffeine mix seems particularly beneficial in improving work performance.
L-Theanine (+ Caffeine)
Caffeine, usually by way of coffee or tea, may very well be the most popular drug for increasing productivity. Yet, standalone caffeine doesn't exactly qualify as a true nootropic, due to the compound's jittery side effects. Pairing caffeine with L-Theanine, an anxiolytic amino acid sourced from green tea, may help reduce caffeine's adverse effects while sustaining its focus benefits.
Together, the L-theanine + caffeine duo seems to significantly improve task-related cognition. As one clinical study observed<5>:
- The combination of 97 mg L-theanine and 40 mg caffeine "significantly improved accuracy during task switching and self-reported alertness and reduced self-reported tiredness."
Better work performance and subjective mood levels. Yet, even as a standalone nootropic, L-theanine possesses unique cognitive enhancing advantages for the hard worker and thinker. One report suggests that L-theanine promotes alpha brainwave cognitive frequencies, which "play an important role in critical aspects of attention," perhaps due to their anxiolytic effects.<6>
With caffeine or no, L-theanine is a smart, daily nootropic for safe improvements on calm, productive thinking.
When you need to be productive today, as in right now, yet brain energy is low and your mental composure is way off, you want N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, an amino acid that works directly within the catecholaminergic chemical pathway. Under conditions of excess stress and activity, natural L-tyrosine levels deplete. And when L-tyrosine depletes, so do catecholamine neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.
As such, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine is a reliable, powerful source of quick mood, motivation, and concentration boosts. Tasks that require heightened levels of attention and multi-task processing may be better tackled with N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine supplementation. The following studies in particular demonstrate L-tyrosine's cognitive enhancement potential<7-9>:
- Study – L-tyrosine improved cognitive function and reduced blood pressure when exposed to stressful loud noise (90 dB).
- Study – L-tyrosine sustained working memory (task-related processing) under attention-demanding, multi-tasking conditions.
- Study – L-tyrosine counteracted performance decrements associated with sleep deprivation and fatigue.
A highly productive week may easily go awry by a random late night or bout of insomnia, yet N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine may help lessen the negative impact by sustaining alertness and concentration.
As we age, risk of B vitamin-deficiency increases. B vitamins play key roles in hundreds of metabolic pathways, including the synthesis of catecholaminergic and serotonergic neurotransmitters. Needless to say, under conditions of B vitamin-deficiency, emotional stability and all-around cognitive performance decline.
Vitamin B6, in particular, seems to serve an important function in sustaining memory consolidation, mood, and attention span. This is likely due to Vitamin B6's synthesizing support for serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA, a brain chemical responsible for inhibiting over-active cognitive processes.<10>
Considering B vitamins' co-factor roles in catecholamine neurotransmitter syntheses, it seems a smart idea to stack B vitamins with N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine. Mind Lab Pro® supplies B vitamins as BioGenesis™, a premium, enhanced, easy-to-absorb form of vitamins B6, B9, and B12.
One of the most popular, powerful, herbal adaptogens, Rhodiola Rosea was kept secret from the Western side of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War as Russian viewed this highly bio-active, local plant as a legitimate source of performance enhancement. Sourced from the high altitudes of Siberia, Rhodiola has helped Siberian farmers and soldiers withstand the harsh climates of wintery Russia for centuries.
Today, Rhodiola rosea qualifies as a healthy, natural booster for both mental and physical performance. If N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine helps sustain cognitive performance in the face of catecholamine depletion caused by stress, Rhodiola works from the opposite end: by regulating stress hormone cortisol release.
In terms of productivity, a couple studies on Rhodiola suggest the plant may help improve mental performance by<11,12>:
- Reducing fatigue - compared to placebo, single-dose Rhodiola improved mental performance under military conditions of mental fatigue.
- Ameliorating stress - for high-stress night-shift physicians, Rhodiola enhanced mental processing, focus, short-term memory, concentration, and mathematical computation.
Rhodiola works best during the waning hours of the work-day, when you've put in a solid effort throughout the morning and afternoon, yet you still have the motivation to take the day further. This herbal adaptogen qualifies as one of the best "one more hour" nootropics.
Mind Lab Pro® stacks a safe, smart selection of the best nootropics for productivity in a comprehensive Universal Nootropic® formula design.
We live in a mass-produced, product-driven culture. Yet, with the rise of more "things" comes the rise of trivial, meaningless products. Truly productive people don't enjoy creating as many meaningless "things" as possible. If given the choice, the passionate person would likely rather spend their effort on one really good project than spread themselves thin on mindless production.
Likewise, Mind Lab Pro® sought a simpler nootropic formula design, one that stacks only what's important to brain health enhancement while leaving the rest by the wayside. Mind Lab Pro® is an efficient, productive stack for efficient, productive workers. Nothing more, nothing less; only exactly what's needed to succeed.