Harvest Time

How to stay on top of your game

Woman typing on a computer in a darkened room, late at night.Sahar Yousef, a UC Berkeley-trained neuroscientist and Haas lecturer, teaches Becoming Superhuman, a class on the science of productivity, performance, and wellness. Here, she highlights research-backed strategies for maintaining productivity.

Prioritize shut-eye. Sleeping at least seven hours a night is the single most important driver of optimal brain function. Only 1% of people can get less than six hours without adverse effects.

Plan around your biological chronotype. Your genetic sleep-wake cycle determines the hours of the day when your performance is highest—and when you’re prone to careless mistakes. These natural energy peaks and valleys should inform when you do certain types of work.

Schedule “focus sprints.” Two or more times a week, spend 50 minutes working distraction-free on a clearly defined set of tasks. No phone. No email. No multitasking. Write down what you aim to accomplish, break it into small sub-tasks, set a timer, and go!

Create an off button. Burnout can happen quickly when working from home. Create clear physical and cognitive boundaries between your personal and professional life. When it’s time to end work, use movement or a sensory trigger (the same song, snack, or change of clothes) to help your brain transition and turn off.

Communicate asynchronously with your team. Remote work means delays and unpredictable access are the new norm. Live meetings aside, you should process and send communications in batched intervals. To prevent constant monitoring of inboxes, create a clear escalation protocol for true emergencies.