-all of these thoughts are coming from a perspective of a software engineer/creative so it might not apply to you-
I've pondered on this idea of optimal output for quite a lot recently.
It's a fact that most of the humans have a cognitive fuel tank, battery if you will. When we wake up and start working that tank starts spending our cognitive fuel.
Now there are a lot of variables that affect how fast do we deplete our tank: food, lifestyle, genetics, stress amount, work environment, family.
What's really funny is that we often forget that we have this physical limit of how much we can do. Especially in environments where high output is constantly required, people lose sight of how much fuel they have and that fuel tank needs to be refilled.
I've been guilty of this many many times. When you love your job it is really really hard to stop sometimes. No matter how tired you feel, you just get more of that caffeine and things will be good, right? Not really.
What I learned over and over again, is that it's better to put in five days in a row of solid ( very solid ) 8 hours of work than to put in 12 hour work days there days in a row. Why?
Well, first the more hours you work the quality of work goes down. It might not seem like that but trust me it is. Any code that I write after 8 hours of previously coding, it will most likely be refactored sooner rather than later.
Secondly last time I worked three 12 hour days straight, on the fourth day I felt like I was hungover. My job is to solve problems and that requires some creative energy and there was none on the fourth day.
Thirdly it impacts your health. I know people who passed out because they worked too hard, and they wear that as a badge. It is highly concerning to think that if you pass out you're are the coolest kid on the block. But that's a topic for another blog post.
Consistent deliberate paced effort beats rushed all-nighters every single time.