A few decades ago, it would be unfathomable to think that taking small and frequent amounts of a psychedelic substance could improve your life, let alone your performance at work. In his 2011 biography, the late Steve Jobs described how his psychedelic use was pivotal to his creativity and legacy at Apple.
Today, notable Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Tim Ferris have catapulted the idea of microdosing psilocybin (magic mushrooms) to boost work performance into the mainstream.
Microdosing psilocybin for improved performance is certainly a popular topic. A simple Google search on the subject will bring up hundreds of thousands of results (472,000, to be exact).
But is it that simple? Is it akin to taking a daily multivitamin? Does it work for everyone? And how do you achieve the best results? If you’re someone interested in how to microdose psilocybin for optimizing performance at work there are a few things you should keep in mind. Nutrition, hydration, and sleep among many other factors will all play a role—as will the microdosing process itself.
But First, What is Microdosing?
Microdosing is taking very small doses of a psychedelic substance at regular intervals over a period of weeks or months. These small doses don’t initiate a full-blown hallucinogenic experience, but can be accompanied by a wide variety of cognitive and mental health benefits.
Other substances, like LSD, mescaline, ketamine, DMT, and salvia—as well as lesser-known substances like dimethoxybromoamphetamine (DOB) and 2,5- dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine (2C-E)—can also be used for microdosing but might be too stimulating or uncomfortable for some.
While it’s possible to microdose any drug, psilocybin typically ends up being the drug of choice, and that’s why this guide focuses on magic mushrooms in particular. Some of the microdosing framework offered in this guide may be applied to these other psychedelic drugs, although the effects, dosage, timing, and health considerations will vary depending on the particular substance.
What Does Science Say About Microdosing?
In recent years, researchers have become curious about microdosing psilocybin—and their studies have found that it can strengthen relationships, improve health, and increase productivity. Reported results vary but are almost entirely positive. From a reduction in symptoms of depression and social anxiety, to relief from “mental fog,” to openness with other people, scientific research has shown great potential benefit to microdosing psilocybin.
Psilocybin has been shown to improve creativity by producing an increase in idea generation as well as both divergent and convergent thinking (i.e. producing different ideas about one topic and then coming to the “correct” answer). Microdosers of psilocybin have also reported increased wisdom and decreased negative emotionality and dysfunctional attitudes (like neuroticism). This suggests a heightened ability to solve problems and an increase in mental flexibility, which in combination leads to an overall boost in work performance.
So, you’re convinced that microdosing psilocybin can help you achieve your career goals, but still lack clarity on how to go about the process safely and effectively? Here’s our full guide, including 6 actionable tips to help you get the most out of microdosing psilocybin for optimizing work (and life) performance.
How to Optimize Performance at Work with Psilocybin
So, now that we know that it works, we just need to know how to harness the performance-enhancing benefits of psilocybin. How do we get all of the best benefits of microdosing—without any of the problematic side effects?
1. Start with Intention
With any type of psychedelic use, intention is an extremely important component. This can be thought of as your ‘North Star’ when it comes to working with psychedelics. As with any intention or goal, the more specific you are, the more likely you’ll be of achieving the result you desire. This level of specificity and clarity will improve your overall microdosing experience.
For example, consider the difference between wanting to improve performance in a specific job function versus contemplating an entire career change. Microdosing psilocybin can potentially help you work through both of those scenarios, but if you aren’t clear on your intended outcome, your experience (and results) will vary greatly.
Think about the following:
- What do you want from microdosing psychedelics? What would the ‘ideal result’ be? Is it more income? Is it seeking motivation to tackle a big project? Is it finding a way to navigate a difficult situation with a co-worker or boss that’s affecting your performance? Is it finding fulfillment in your existing work? Or maybe it’s as simple as wanting to feel sharper and more attentive?
- Where are you now when it comes to work performance? Where do you want to be in two weeks? What about a month? At the end of the year? Five years from now? In other words, can you identify the gap between where you are now versus where you want to be in the future?
- Are there certain skills and behaviors that can help you close that gap? Is there a certain skill at work you wish to improve? Is there a larger work issue that if you solved, would get you closer to your goals?
- What actions are you willing to take in conjunction with psychedelics to achieve your goals?
Psilocybin on its own is not a magic bullet that can miraculously resolve your issues. However, it can be a valuable tool in examining your motivations, goals, and needs when it comes to work and life in general. Since it is a tool, this means that the user will also need to put in effort and energy to examine these issues and take action.
We recommend keeping a journal or documenting these intentions throughout your microdosing experience, as well as the ongoing results. Microdosing in its own essence is about small, incremental changes. So small, in fact, that they are sometimes imperceptible when compared day-to-day. But if you looked at a larger timeline, say months or years, you’ll be better able to identify the positive trends and results.
Also, keep in mind that your intentions may change over time. For example, you may think you want to microdose psilocybin to increase productivity but discover that you actually have issues with motivation because you don’t find your work fulfilling.
Or you may want to improve cognition and analytical thinking, but discover the root issue is your mood at work rather than your technical capabilities. Documenting your intentions will not only help you understand your overall journey but allow you to shift your actions in real-time to achieve the output you desire.
2. Establish Your Set and Setting
Like with all psychedelic use, set and setting is crucial to the outcome of the experience. Set refers to your mindset, or mental context surrounding your psychedelic use. Setting refers to the actual environment in which you’re consuming the substance. Examples of setting include time, location, specifics of the physical space, and even those you interact with during your microdose.
Even with a small dose, you’ll likely become more sensitive to your internal and external environment, which can sometimes lead to a negative experience. This is particularly important to consider when you’re in a workplace where you’re not fully in control of your environment or when unpredictable situations arise. Fortunately, microdosing has been shown to increase your mental flexibility, potentially increasing your ability to tackle any unexpected situation head-on.
Here are a few tips on how to improve your set and setting, as well as how to set your mind and body up for microdosing success:
- Set a daily intention to help you create a strong, yet flexible mindset.
- Take your microdose in the morning before the hustle-bustle of the day begins.
- Take care of your body—get adequate sleep, eat healthy food, get consistent exercise, and stay hydrated.
- Follow your usual routines, especially the stress-relieving ones. Predictability helps the mind and body feel familiarity and comfort while starting a new microdosing regimen.
- Be in a comfortable environment. This, of course, is easier to achieve if you work remote or from home. If you’re in a workplace, perhaps there’s a particular chair, workstation, or room that you feel best in. If you can’t control your setting, it is even more vital to have a healthy and resilient mindset.
- If you have something specific you’d like to achieve, have the goal in mind. Like with your intention, this is like having a focal point to direct the effects of the microdose towards.
- If you have any hesitations or concerns about your mental state, particularly when a stressful situation arises, wait until you’re feeling more mentally stable before starting or resuming your microdosing.
- Avoid potentially harmful situations. If you’re new to microdosing, this can even include driving or operating heavy machinery. Many in the microdose community suggest that even if you feel it just slightly, leave the keys behind and use a safer form of transportation. Others view it like a regulated substance, where if you’re ‘under the limit’ and not physically impaired, that some actions are okay to conduct. Unfortunately, since psilocybin is currently unregulated, there isn’t a standard or protocol to better inform your decisions. This means that your safety is in your hands.
3. Find a Good Dosing Frequency
James Fadiman, the respected psychologist and writer who was one of the first to study the spiritual and therapeutic aspects of psychedelics, recommends one microdose every three days. In his book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide he links some of his recommendations to the work of indigenous shamans and healers who have spent thousands of years exploring every dose level and frequency of consumption.
Another mushroom-loving expert, Paul Stamets, recommends a daily microdose every day for five days and then taking three days off to avoid building a tolerance. He has actually applied for a patent for a nootropic stack that includes not only psilocybin but also non-psychedelic mushrooms such as lion’s mane and vitamins such as niacin. With the hopes that this supplement becomes available to the public, Stamets claims that it could initiate “the next quantum leap in consciousness.”
While you’ll likely have to experiment to see what frequency works best for you, microdosing every day is NOT recommended. Your body will build a psilocybin tolerance and the effects will diminish.
It’s also important to note that, sometimes, the positive effects can be felt for days after actually ingesting the substance. So while it may seem counterintuitive, actively taking psilocybin every day will not lead to receiving maximum benefit.
4. Use an Appropriate Dose
If you’re working with magic mushrooms, you should first realize that different strains of mushrooms have different concentrations of psilocybin. Different people may also have varying levels of psilocybin sensitivity. Checking out our dosage guide can be helpful to determine the potency of your dose.
Many people recommend a “starter microdose” of psilocybin to begin, which is just 0.1 gram or approximately 1/10 of the minimal amount that would initiate a normal trip (1 gram). Coincidentally, this amount (0.1 to 0.3 g) is similar to doses used by scientific researchers when studying the effects of psychedelic microdosing.
The appropriate dose is also dependent on your specific goals, and it is up to the user to explore the right amount that balances the various effects. For example, too high of a dose may increase your mood but decrease your ability to focus on a singular task. Or your dose may be so low that you can’t perceive any changes at all.
Here are a few other considerations to guide your dose decisions:
- If possible, try to determine the specific strain of magic mushroom you intend to use for microdosing. Then research that particular strain online to find accurate psilocybin estimates.
- Use a reliable scale. This means a hundredth gram scale that is regularly calibrated.
- If you feel drowsy (yawning is typically one of the first effects in a psilocybin trip), drop down to a lower amount.
- If 0.3 g proves to be ineffective, anywhere up to 0.5 g may be used. Anything more than that becomes a “mini-dose” which may not be compatible with work and everyday activities.
- Using dried mushrooms and grinding them into powder (with a spice or coffee grinder) is the best way to yield a consistent microdose (they can be pre-weighed and filled into capsules).
- Log your dose and perceived effects for the day in a journal. Then review your anecdotal notes to find the best microdosing quantity.
5. Consider the Timing
It’s generally recommended to take the microdose early in the morning. Not only is your mind typically clearer, but doing so will allow you to feel the beneficial effects throughout the day. This will also ensure that any effects wear off by nighttime, as to avoid interrupting your sleep.
However, this is dependent on body type and context as microdosing in the evening or at night also has its benefits, such as more vivid and enjoyable dreams, or aiding your subconscious mind in processing the events of the day.
Regardless of whether you’re someone newly experimenting or someone fairly experienced with microdosing, it’s recommended that you keep a journal handy to record any changes to your regimen and subsequent effects. This is helpful when it comes to making real-time adjustments as needed.
6. Acclimate to Your New Regimen
Taking a psychedelic substance—even in a small dose—is going to require some acclimation. You won’t know what you’ll experience until you, well, experience it. And finding the optimal microdose is an experiment in trial and error.
When taking psilocybin to improve work performance, don’t take it for the first time on a workday!
It’s better to take it on your day off so that you can determine how it affects you before you microdose in a public situation. This also applies if you are seeking to increase or decrease your dose. Remember, microdosing is a process of small, incremental changes, and having this mindset can improve your overall experience.
Because of these small, almost imperceptible changes, microdosing may affect both your internal and external patterns and behaviors without you even recognizing it. So it’s best to determine an appropriate dose and get used to any and all effects prior to being in a demanding (and perhaps stressful) situation.
If you feel at any time that the effects of microdosing diminish over time, the answer is not always to take more. Sometimes a break from microdosing of a few weeks or months can help your body reset, improving the effects of a future microdosing program.
Final Thoughts on Microdosing Psilocybin
When it comes to boosting work performance with microdosing psilocybin, you hardly have to do any digging to determine if it works or not. Over the past several years, nearly every magazine, newspaper, and media outlet have been shouting this from the rooftops. And we can see from some of the scientific research mentioned here, there’s no doubt that it works.
However, when accomplishing any goal with psychedelics, it’s important to put some thought into the protocols and processes so that harm reduction and safety are prioritized while increasing the chances of experiencing the results you desire. If this article has piqued your interest and you want to learn more about respectfully and responsibly incorporating microdosing into your lifestyle, we can help.
Speaking with a psychedelic coach or mentor is a great first step towards harnessing the power of psychedelics to optimize your performance at work.