How to Align Your Life for Peak Productivity

The 5 Levels of Planning an Amazing Life

Some decisions take forever to make. We agonize over them. We weigh our options, list the pros and cons, and do 10–10–10 analyses. Finally, we’re out of time, and we default into whatever outcome we last vacillated to.

And then there are decisions that are so clear, the question hasn’t had time to make it all the way across our minds and we’ve already acted. The decision isn’t any easier to reach. It’s just that we’ve already spent time thinking about the desired outcomes we want in principle. When the choice is placed before us, we find that we’ve already decided what we’re going to do. Now it’s time to act.

There are five levels of what I’m going to call Peak Productivity. It’s a mountain we all climb every day. Some busily run up and down the foothills all day. Some stay on the lofty peaks and never come down. If we want to get the most out of life—day-to-day and over the years—we need to spend time at all levels.

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How to Get More Done Naturally with the Pomodoro Technique

You’re better off taking regular short breaks than pushing through without stopping.

You can’t pick up a set of weights, bust out 240 reps, and expect good things to happen. For one thing, if you can do 240 reps without stopping, you don’t have enough weight. If you have the correct weight, your muscles will give out after about fifteen reps.

Instead of going for one set of 240, break it up. Do fifteen reps, then rest for a minute or two. Call that a set. Do four sets of four different exercises, and you can easily get 240 reps in an hour-long workout.

The key is the rest between each set. That one- or two-minute break gives your muscles a much-needed rest to recover. Work them too hard—including not giving them that break—and you’re just going to get tired without seeing the results you’re after.

Your brain needs rest between reps while it’s working, too. The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, is designed to help you develop a similar natural cadence at work.

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How to Take Criticism Like a Champ

Find the actionable message and ignore the rest.

Feedback helps us grow and get better. Needs lead to actions, actions lead to results. Feedback tells us how well the actions are creating results that meet our needs. Then we can adjust—or continue—our actions as appropriate.

Some feedback is nice and objective. If the cake tastes good, we remember the recipe. If it’s too dry, we make a note to not bake it for so long next time.

Feedback that comes from another human can be extremely subjective. Even when there are clear performance-based outcomes you can measure objectively, the methods can be open to subjective interpretation and projection. The best feedback focuses on how you can build on your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.

Not everybody knows how to give feedback correctly. Instead of praising and encouraging, they criticize and discourage. They probably aren’t doing it intentionally and there may still be something actionable behind their sentiments. The highest-performers learn to hear what they were trying to say without letting their words get in the way.

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Which Debt Should You Pay Off First?

Should you start with the smallest balance or highest interest rate?

The best way to get out of debt is through focused intensity. Line up your debts and pick one. Throw everything you can at it until it’s paid off while making minimum payments on the rest. Repeat until you’re out of debt.

But here’s a question: in what order should you pay off your debts? Mathematically, you should start with the highest interest rate to minimize the amount of interest you pay. Behaviorally, you should start with the smallest balance to see some early success, build confidence, and build momentum. Emotionally, one of the debts may be more annoying than the others. Psychologically, paying off secured debts first might restore your sense of Safety faster.

Pragmatically, there may not be much of a difference. If you’re ready to get out of debt, you may be wondering which approach to take. Let’s take a look at paying off the smallest balance first and highest interest rate first (they’re the easiest to model) and put some numbers to them.

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7 Simple Ways to Save Anything in Evernote

Capture your life from anywhere and get back to living.

A recipe for bacon-wrapped jalepeno poppers. An audio recording of your kids saying hello. The receipt from your trip to Costco. A comic strip that made you smile.

It’s a filing cabinet you actively reference. It’s an archive where you can safely store a copy of scanned documents. It’s an indispensable part of your digital planning system.

Evernote is great at archiving information. It indexes everything and even lets you search for text inside of images. There’s no cap on how much data your account can hold. That’s why hundreds of millions of people use Evernote for their digital brain.

Here are seven ways you can capture the stream of information coming at you and save it into Evernote.

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