6 Ways to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

All sleep is not created equal.

According to the National Institute of Health, we need 7–9 hours of sleep each night. On average, we get only 6.8 hours.

This isn’t sustainable.

After being awake for 17–19 hours, you’re functioning with the equivalent of a 0.05% blood alcohol concentration. Your reaction times are down and you can’t think clearly. You would never show up to work drunk, so why do we regularly show up just as impaired and ineffective from chronic lack of sleep?

With only 168 hours in the week, ambitious goals, and an ever-increasing barrage of distractions, it’s tempting to skimp on sleep and get a little more done. This is a trade-off with modest short-term benefits and disastrous long-term effects on our productivity, our health, and our relationships.

No matter how busy we get, we have to protect our sleep. Here are six tips to get to bed on time and get the best sleep possible.

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How To Make Your Weekend Work For You

Re-create yourself for the coming week

You probably spend a fair amount of time planning your big vacations. How do you get there? Where will you stay? What will you do while you’re there? What will you take with you?

It would be crazy to show up at the airport without all these details thought through in advance. Nobody shows up at the airport with just the clothes on their back to ask where the next available flight is headed.

That would be a memorable—if not enjoyable—vacation.

Do you give your evenings and weekends the same amount of thought?

You should, if you want to live the best life you can.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Dasha Petrenko

Embrace the Freedom of Missing Out

Think of missing out as creating margin in your life.

Over 2,600 hours of new podcast content is published every day. That’s 110 seconds of content produced every second.

Now, I love listening to podcasts while I walk or drive. They’re a phenomenal way to stay up-to-date. I subscribe to about thirty podcasts, but I don’t listen to every episode. I can’t devote 35–40 hours (over a fifth of my week) to staying current on every one.

By consciously choosing to miss out on some of the episodes—no matter how good they are—I’m giving myself the freedom to fill that time with something better.

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The 15-Yard Penalty That Will Strengthen Your Character

When you knock them down, help them to their feet.

I’ve been a Broncos fan as long as I can remember. It started out as cheering for the underdog. Then they won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII and they weren’t the underdogs any more. They’ve had good years and bad years. Win or lose, they’re my team. (Though, of course, I prefer it when they win.)

Like any good fan, I’ll yell at the refs when they get a call wrong and accuse them of favoritism. I’ll cheer when luck turns against the other team—and when luck goes our way? Why, that wasn’t luck—we were prepared and we were ready!

When there’s incontrovertible proof of an infraction against us, I’ll begrudgingly accept the penalty. But this week, I cried foul before the ref ever reached for the flag. I was glad they saw it and called it against us.

Photo courtesy of and © the NFL/CBS Sports

Why the Bison Faces Left (and You Should, Too)

Don’t run from a challenge; face the storm!

Have you ever wondered why the U.S. flag on the right shoulder of a military uniform has the union (the stars) on the right side? It looks backward if you’re not used to it.

The proper display of the U.S. flag puts the star field at the position of highest honor. On a stationary display (like mounted on a wall), it’s the top-left corner as you’re looking at it. (Usually—there are exceptions.)

When displayed on a moving object, the position of highest honor is on the leading side, so star field is positioned at the front. This gives the appearance that the flag is waving in the breeze as the object moves forward. (Picture the flags mounted on the front of a diplomatic limousine.)

This is why the flag on a soldier’s shoulder might seem backwards—it’s how the flag would fly if the soldier were running forward, into battle. It’s also why the bison on the Wyoming state flag faces left. It faces into the storm.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / railwayfx

5 Times You Need to Push Pause

Getting the right things done requires taking regular time-outs.

When my children are watching a movie and we need them to take care of something outside of the room, they have one request: pause it.

It’s a fair request—they don’t want to miss Elsa building her snow castle. They know the words better than Idina Menzel, but they’re still as engaged as the first time they watched it.

I’m not sure this is something we ever really outgrow. We like results. We like progress. We like setting up goals and projects and ticking off little boxes and relish that sense of satisfaction at the end. Ah, dopamine!

Being productive is good. It’s how we create value. But there are times where we need to step back and push pause so we can take care of something else.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Sergey Nivens

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 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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Why I Never Run Out of Toothpaste (but Should)

It’s not intentional. That’s part of the problem.

I have half a dozen tubes of toothpaste in my shaving kit. It’s not because I’m some sort of toothpaste connoisseur. The problem developed gradually.

I use the shaving kit when traveling. I don’t want to have a full-size tube in there; that would be too big. Instead, I use the little trial size tubes the dentist hands out on every visit. They’re small. Sometimes, when I’m checking the kit before a trip, they hide. So I throw another one in. Or I figure I’ve got to be getting close to finishing up the one that’s in there, so I throw another one in. Or I don’t like the specific variety that’s in there, but my wife does, so I leave that one for her to use and I add one for me that isn’t so ghastly.

As small as they are, they seem to never run out. They’re in their own separate pocket, and when I need toothpaste, I grab one. It’s a different one each time. A little here, a little there. I know I’m using toothpaste, but it seems like I never manage to actually finish one up before another one gets added.

If we aren’t careful, we can do the same thing with tasks, projects, and goals. If we work a little here and a little there, we’re never going to make the meaningful progress necessary to finish something before we need, have, or want to take on more.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Konstantin Kulikov

4 Reasons to Ease Up and Change Gears for Best Performance

You can redline when starting out, but you’ll wear out if you stay there too long

High-performance cars have a special mode called launch control. When launch control is turned on, the car takes over the details of accelerating from a standstill (usually at the start of a race or timed trial, but sometimes when you just want to feel the G-force pushing you back into your seat). The brakes, accelerator, and clutch are all controlled automatically to ensure that the car launches with the maximum possible acceleration under the conditions.

Many cars limit the number of times you can use launch control, requiring a cool-down period between launches and/or limiting the number of launches you can make over the lifetime of the vehicle. That kind of performance takes its toll on the car. Even Teslas with their simplified drivetrain will pull back so you don’t cause permanent damage to the car.

High-performance individuals like you and me have a launch mode, too. When we’re starting a project or a goal, we start off strong. We lay out a plan, identify a bunch of next actions, and schedule milestones. We want to go from zero (where we’re starting) to sixty (goal achieved) as fast as possible.

Like a high-performance car, we, too, need a cooling down period after we launch to preserve our performance. Otherwise, that kind of performance takes its toll on us. If we push ourselves too hard, it can damage our capacity to get work done.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Luis Viegas