Self-made millionaires are able to focus for up to 10 hours at a time—here's how

When it comes to the amount of time in a day, we all start off equal. Yet getting more done with the same amount of time makes you more valuable to your boss, your clients, your customers and everyone else who depends on you.

So how can you make the most of your days?

In my book "Change Your Habits, Change Your Life" — for which I interviewed 177 self-made millionaires — I found that the most successful people used certain strategies that enabled them to focus for extended periods of time, often up to 10 hours, without feeling drained or losing focus. This ability to focus enabled these millionaires to accomplish more than their competition every day.

Your success depends on how you use two types of energy: willpower energy and emotional energy.

Willpower energy

Willpower is conscious exertion, when we have to force ourselves to do something. The font of our consciousness, known as the cortex, is the newest part of our brain, and it controls our willpower energy.

This forced conscious effort, however, depletes the body's reserves of glucose within two to three hours. This is important because every cell in the human body is primarily fueled by glucose and the brain is the largest consumer of it, burning through up to 20 percent of all the fuel produced by our bodies every day. So when the glucose reserves become depleted, the brain sends a signal to stop engaging in the activity.

The effect of this is commonly referred to as decision fatigue, the phenomenon of choices becoming harder and harder as a day goes on. In reality, decision fatigue is the depletion of glucose reserves in the body.

For most people, this ends whatever task they were working on. A select few, however, are able to ignore this brain signal and power through decision fatigue in order to complete their task. When we fight decision fatigue, the brain sends another signal to the liver to produce more glucose, thus restoring our reserves of glucose for another two to three hours.

Emotional energy

The subconscious parts of our brain, where our emotions reside, has evolved over millions of years and is far more powerful than the conscious brain. As a result, it is more efficient in performing tasks.

The subconscious can multi-task, for example, which the conscious brain cannot do. It controls your heart beat, keeps organs functioning, deploys immune cells to fight invaders and more, all at once.

When you tap into emotional energy, you unleash the subconscious brain's enormous power.

Emotional energy allows you to engage in a task for an entire day, not just two to three hours. With emotional energy, your ability to focus is long-lived and you can therefore get far more accomplished. Plus, you can do this every day for many years, without your brain sending you any signals to stop.

You unleash emotional energy whenever you pursue something you're passionate about, including dreams and long-term goals. That's why pursuing dreams or goals is critical to success: It unleashes the power that resides in each one of us.

How successful people use energy right

Many of the self-made millionaires in my study were able to harness emotional energy through their passion for what they do, because so many of them were pursuing a dream.

They also often had habits that boosted their willpower reserves, like:

  • Napping. Taking short naps can restore willpower energy. Thomas Edison was famous for this.
  • Eating healthy, just prior to important meetings especially. Conversely, if you are engaged in negotiations where you control the meeting venue, supplying your counterparts with unhealthy, high-sugar foods during breaks will push them into decision fatigue, which is another way of saying willpower depletion, shortly after the meeting resumes. Decision fatigue leaves a person at a competitive disadvantage and renders them unable to muster the energy to mount effective, logical counter-arguments.
  • Aerobic exercise. It can be as simple as taking a walk when you are struggling with decision fatigue.
  • Sleeping 7-8 hours a night
  • Snacking. Eating restores willpower energy.
  • Intermittent fasting, which was done by 59 of the self-made millionaires in my study and which allows the body to use ketones, made from fat cells, for fuel, rather than glucose. Ketones produce 20 percent more energy than glucose.

They also forged habits that reduced stress. Stress sucks the glucose out of you because it amps up heart rate and blood pressure and forces the body to produce cortisol, which means energy must be redirected for those things.

Stress relief habits include exercise, meditation, reading, listening to or watching inspirational content, listening to relaxing music, going for a walk, talking to friends, family members and people who lift you up, and charity work, which boosts self-fulfillment.

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