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Book Review: The Secret to Peak Productivity

February 7, 2016 by Diane

The Secret to Peak Productivity

If there’s a secret to peak productivity, I want to know what it is because I’m overwhelmed by all the things I want to do, need to do, and would do if I had the time. So when I saw this book in the library, I snatched it and scurried home.

The secret? A Productivity Pyramid based on a version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Who’s Maslow? The brainiac who spelled out the five levels to self-actualization, numero uno being our basic needs. Until the basics are met, we can’t move up the pyramid.

The Productivity Pyramid works the same way. Until we master the first four levels, we can’t reach the fifth, the realm of possibility. And what are those five levels? Read on.

Level 1: Physical Organization

Are you a clutter bug? If so, you might not be as productive or relaxed as you could be if you had easy access to what you need when you need it, and a clear space for clear thinking. Luckily, I’m obsessive about neatness, so this step I’ve conquered. But if you’re not a neat-freak like me, have no fear: you can use the three T’s to sort the mess:

  • To toss: stuff you don’t need. Like greasy fast-food wrappers and expired coupons.
  • To do: stuff you need to take action on. Like…bills.
  • To keep: all that important stuff you need to file away. Like your 2010 tax return.

Level 2: Electronic Organization

Are you overwhelmed by emails? Yeah, me too. What to do? The author suggests setting up electronic files to sort your emails into, which is highly appealing to those of us with OCD. Just make sure that all those filed emails aren’t piling up like invisible clutter. Also, limit the number of times you check your email, no matter how addicting it is to check. Three times, tops. I’ll add one more tip: unsubscribe to all those newsletters that you don’t have time to read. Like the one about how to submit queries to agents, when you haven’t even started writing your novel.

Level 3: Time Management

How does one get a handle on managing time? By utilizing the three P’s:

  • Plan: all the stuff you want, need, and have to work on. Of course, this could take a huge chunk of time if you have a never-ending to-do list.
  • Prioritize: decide what’s most important, then next, and so on. Surfing the web probably doesn’t qualify as # 1, 2 and 3. Contrary to what you and I might think, we don’t need to know everything about everything on the internet, now.
  • Perform: commit to doing all that stuff, starting with the most important. Hint: it’s not Twitter.

Level 4: Activity-Goal Alignment

Here are some interesting questions: Is whatever you’re doing, or adding to your to-do lists, or spending your time on, in alignment with your goals? Do you even know your goals? Hmm. This is a step I could brush up on.

Level 5: Possibility

More questions: What do you want to do or be? What’s the big picture of your life? Time for the five E’s:

  • Enjoy: spend time doing what you loved to do but stopped doing. Sleeping doesn’t count.
  • Engage: spend time with people, friends, family, community. Yep, that means socializing, my fellow introverts.
  • Enable: spend time taking care of your health, home, and welfare. Get out of that chair for the love of Pete.
  • Evolve: spend time taking whatever you currently enjoy doing to the next level. That doesn’t mean eating more chocolate.
  • Explore: spend time seeking out new challenges. Yes, that means (gulp) stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Now, you might be thinking: all of these action steps are well and good, but who’s got the time to do them? Just reading about the T’s and P’s and E’s makes my head spin.

Well, I discovered one more tidbit in the book. And it’s on the last page.

Are you ready?

Drum roll, please…

Stop saying: “I don’t have the time.” Instead, say: “I had more important tasks on my list,” or “I have other priorities.” So that you’re living in the world of choice management, rather than time management.

And that, my friend, is the biggest secret of all.


  1. Jason says:

    Great post! I hope to one-day explore the productivity pyramid, if I ever make it out of the desert of despair, past the mirage of misery and across the pit of procrastination.

    Maybe if I buy a cool hat and a bullwhip it might inspire me..

  2. Marie Rogers says:

    Thanks. I’ve heard most of this advice before, but not as well organized. I’m taking notes and may look for this book. I may even follow the advice!
    Two questions:
    1. How can a clutter bug have OCD?
    2. Have you been eaves dropping on my emails and to-do lists?

    • Diane says:

      Yes, and yes.

      Clutter bugs can be hoarders, which is an obsessive-compulsive behavior. And since my emails and to-do lists are probably like a million other people’s, I know what’s on them. Either that, or I’m psychic. Or a spy.

      If you follow the advice in this book, let me know how it goes!

  3. Jenny G says:

    Great review thanks

  4. Bun Karyudo says:

    Unfortunately, the more important tasks on my list usually include making cups of tea and buttering toast. It does sound like sensible advice overall, though.

    • Diane says:

      How do you find time to answer the zillions of commenters on your blog, write three blog posts a week, commute back and forth from work, AND make cups of tea and butter toast? You seem to be at the peak of your productivity already!

  5. […] fellow blogger’s book review reminded me of the famous pyramid representing Abraham Maslow’s proposed hierarchy of needs […]

  6. Paula says:

    Sleeping DOES count! Believe this.

  7. Anita says:

    I love it! I’m going to add this book to our library collection.

  8. Joan says:

    Great post Diane! I think you’ve found your “thing”!

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