If you work a typical 9-5 then you are going to be fixed to working for those specific hours. This means there’s no benefit to working faster and then sitting around with nothing to do for hours.
But if you have managed to set up your own business, or if you have discussed flexi-hours with your employers, then working faster means freeing up more time to get home and spend with your kids or doing the things you love!
In these scenarios then, productivity tools help you to earn back your time. And this is one reason that more and more people are now looking into ‘nootropics’ or ‘smart drugs’ to give them the edge. Should you?
What Nootropics Are and How They Work
So let’s start by looking at exactly what a nootropic is and how it works. What’s important to recognize right away is that nothing can make you ‘smarter’ as such because that is a very vague term that is almost impossible to define.
Rather then, nootropics can give you a slight cognitive boost in particular areas like focus, memory or even creativity.
And there are two separate ways that nootropics can work to do this. In the majority of cases, nootropics work by increasing the production of one or more neurotransmitters. These are the chemicals in the brain that help neurons to communicate with one another and that can trigger changes to our physiology and our mental state.
For example, if you have more dopamine in your brain then you will become more focussed and more driven. This is likely to also increase norepinephrine which triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response. GABA helps us to relax by suppressing synaptic transmissions and this can also make us more creative – though it is sedative too. Serotonin puts us in a good mood but eventually converts to melatonin and makes us sleepy. Cortisol is the stress hormone and makes us hungry. Orexin is another sleep-regulating neurotransmitter. Glutamate and acetylcholine are both excitatory neurotransmitters that increase brain activity.
Generally, these nootropics that work by increasing neurotransmitters will focus on excitatory neurotransmitters and thus help to make you more alert, less tired and more focused. These include modafinil, Piracetam, Ritalin and even caffeine.
But there are many problems with these kinds of drugs as they can cause adaptations in the brain leading to potential addiction and making us groggy when not using them. Likewise, it’s not possible to raise one neurotransmitter without altering levels of many more. Ultimately, the brain is too delicate and too complex for us to tinker with it in this way.
The Other Type of Nootropic
But the other types of nootropics work differently – by providing the brain with more energy (vinpocetine, creatine, CoQ10) or by providing it with the raw nutrients needed for healthy operation (omega 3 fatty acid, vitamin B6, zinc). These types of nootropic really do trigger widespread cognitive improvement in a safe and measurable way. However, the results are relatively mild and take a while to appear – so it’s not going to turn you into a productivity king over night!