With recent advances in our understanding of the continuous pathophysiological changes that begin many years prior to symptom onset, it is now apparent that Alzheimer's disease cannot be adequately described by discrete clinical stages, but should also incorporate the continuum of biological changes that precede and underlie the clinical representation of the disease. By jointly considering longitudinal changes of all available biomarkers and clinical assessments, variation within individuals can be integrated into a single continuous measure of disease progression and used to identify the earliest pathophysiological changes. Disease time, a measure of disease severity, was estimated using a Bayesian latent time joint mixed-effects model applied to an array of imaging, biomarker and neuropsychological data. Trajectories of regional amyloid β and tau PET uptake were estimated as a function of disease time. Regions with early signs of elevated amyloid β uptake were used to form an early, focal composite and compared to a commonly used global composite, in a separate validation sample. Disease time was estimated in 279 participants (183 cognitively unimpaired individuals, 61 mild cognitive impairment and 35 Alzheimer's disease dementia patients) with available amyloid β and tau PET data. Amyloid β PET uptake levels in the posterior cingulate and precuneus start high and immediately increase with small increases of disease time. Early elevation in tau PET uptake was found in the inferior temporal lobe, amygdala, banks of the superior temporal sulcus, entorhinal cortex, middle temporal lobe, inferior parietal lobe and the fusiform gyrus. In a separate validation sample of 188 cognitively unimpaired individuals, the early, focal amyloid β PET composite showed a 120% increase in the accumulation rate of amyloid β compared to the global composite (P < 0.001), resulting in a 60% increase in the power to detect a treatment effect in a primary prevention trial design. Ordering participants on a continuous disease time scale facilitates the inspection of the earliest signs of amyloid β and tau pathology. To detect early changes in amyloid β pathology, focusing on the earliest sites of amyloid β accumulation results in more powerful and efficient study designs in early Alzheimer's disease. Targeted composites could be used to re-examine the thresholds for amyloid β-related study inclusion, especially as the field shifts to focus on primary and secondary prevention. Clinical trials of anti-amyloid β treatments may benefit from the use of focal composites when estimating drug effects on amyloid β and tau changes in populations with minimal amyloid β and tau pathology and limited expected short-term accumulation.