On a different level, the science of willpower and self-control confirm that your willpower — or energy levels — are strongest immediately following sleep.
So, your brain is the most attuned first thing in the morning, and so are your energy levels. Consequently, the best time to do your best work is during the first three hours of your day.
I used to exercise first thing in the morning. Not anymore. I've found that exercising first thing in the morning actually sucks my energy, leaving me with less than I started.
Lately, I've been waking up at 5 AM, driving to my school and walking to the library I work in. While walking from my car to the library, I drink a 250 calorie plant-based protein shake (approximately 30 grams of protein).
Donald Layman, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois, recommends consuming at least 30 grams of protein for breakfast. Similarly, Tim Ferriss, in his book, The 4-Hour Body, also recommends 30 grams of protein 30 minutes after waking.
Protein-rich foods keep you full longer than other foods because they take longer to leave the stomach. Also, protein keeps blood-sugar levels steady, which prevent spikes in hunger.
I get to the library and all set-up by around 5:30 AM. I spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation, followed by a 5–10-minute session in my journal.
The purpose of this journal session is to get clarity and focus for my day. I write down my big picture goals and my objectives for that particular day. I then write down anything that comes to my mind. Often, it relates to people I need to contact or ideas related to a project I'm working on. I purposefully keep this journal session short and focused.
By 5:45, I'm set to work on whatever project I'm working on, whether that's writing a book or an article, working on a research paper for my doctoral research, creating an online course, etc.
Starting work this early may seem crazy to you, but I've been shocked by how easy it is to work for 2–5 hours straight without distractions. My mind is laser at this time of day. And I don't rely on any stimulants at all.
Between 9–11AM, my mind is ready for a break, so that's when I do my workout. Research confirms that you work out better with food in your system. Consequently, my workouts are now a lot more productive and powerful than they were when I was exercising immediately following sleep.
After the workout, which is a great mental break, you should be fine to work a few more hours, if needed.
If your 3–5 hours before your workout were focused, you could probably be done for the day.
Protect Your Mornings
I understand that this schedule will not work for everyone. There are single parents with kids who simply can't do something like this.
We all need to work within the constraints of our unique contexts. However, if you work best in the morning, you gotta find a way to make it happen. This may require waking up a few extra hours earlier than you're used to and taking a nap during the afternoon.
Or, it may require you to simply focus hardcore the moment you get to work. A common strategy for this is known as the "90–90–1" rule, where you spend the first 90 minutes of your workday on your #1 priority. I'm certain this isn't checking your email or social media.
Whatever your situation, protect your mornings!