Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky: Summary and Lessons

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Make Time Summary

Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky is a framework designed to help you create more time in your day for the things you care about. It consists of 4 steps, repeated every day: Highlight, Laser, Energize, and Reflect. The book also includes 87 different tactics to custom tailor the framework for you.

Executive Summary

Make Time is a framework designed to help you actually create more time in your day for the things you care about.

  1. Laster. Specific tactics to stay laser-focused on your highlight
  2. Energize. How to charge your battery with exercise, food, sleep, quiet, and face-to-face time
  3. Reflect. How to adjust and improve your system
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  1. Satisfaction. “Which Highlight will bring me the most satisfaction?”
  2. Joy. “When I reflect on today, what will bring me the most joy?”

Step 1: Highlight

To choose your daily Highlight, ask: “What do I want to be the highlight of my day?”

  1. Satisfaction. “Which Highlight will bring me the most satisfaction?” Focus on what you want to get done
  2. Joy. “When I reflect on today, what will bring me the most joy?” Not every hour has to be optimized for maximum efficiency
  • Highlights should take 60–90 minutes
  • It’s never too late in the day to choose (or change) your Highlight

Highlight Tactics: Choose Your Highlight

1. Write It Down

  • Record it on an app, calendar, notebook, or sticky notes
  • Stick it to your laptop, phone, fridge, or desk to create a persistent reminder
  • Repeat to build momentum and create a habit
  1. Choose the one most important thing
  2. Now choose 2–5
  3. Rewrite the list in order of priority
  4. Draw a circle around number one
  5. Use this list to help you choose Highlights
  1. Write your most important project (just one) in the top left-hand corner. List the to-dos for that project
  2. Leave the rest of that column empty
  3. Write your second most important project at the top of the right-hand column. List the related to-dos
  4. Make a kitchen sink. About halfway down the right-hand column, list any miscellaneous tasks that you need to do but that don’t fit with project 1 or project 2
  • Break it up into steps for each day if needed

Highlight Tactics: Make Time for Your Highlight

8. Schedule Your Highlight

  • Schedule your Highlight on the calendar
  • Block an hour or two each day and adjust from there
  • When people try to double-book you, say: “I’ve already got plans”
  • Compress meetings or move them all to the same day
  • There’s a big middle ground between blindly serving your calendar and being an unreliable flake
  • Can’t give proper attention: “Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to do a great job on this”
  • Something you don’t enjoy: “Thanks for the invitation, but I’m not really into softball”
  • Replan throughout the day as things change and evolve
  • Design the nights before
  • Go offline
  • Don’t forget to wind down
  • Use time as a cutoff or your Highlight

Step 2: Laser

When you’re in Laser mode, your attention is focused on the present like a laser beam shining on a target. You’re in the flow, fully engaged, and immersed in the moment.

Laser Tactics: Be the Boss of Your Phone

17. Try a Distraction-Free Phone

  • Remove the Web browser
  • When you’re done using a website or app, log out
  • Don’t check the “Remember me on this device” box
  • Don’t check the “Remember me on this device” box
  • Leave only the really critical and useful ones enabled, such as calendar reminders and text messages
  • Leave just one way for people to interrupt you with time-sensitive things (text messages, for example)
  • Have only one row of apps on each screen
  • When you get home, put your phone in a drawer, shelf, or your bag

Laser Tactics: Stay Out of Infinity Pools

23. Skip the Morning Check-In

  • If it requires a password, log out. If it’s a website, block it
  • Remove the app, account, or browser from your smartphone
  • Hide the bookmarks bar
  • Make your browser homepage something unobtrusive, like a clock
  • Switch off the Wi-Fi on your laptop and put your phone in airplane mode
  • Lock yourself out by temporarily blocking the Internet
  • Ask a friend to change your password and keep it secret for 24 hours
  • Figure out your time craters
  1. Think about how much time you want to spend on that activity
  2. Consider whether this app is the best way to accomplish it
  3. Finally, consider when and how you’d like to use that app to achieve your goal
  • Stop reading the news when they’re losing

Laser Tactics: Slow Your Inbox

34. Deal with Email at the End of the Day

  • For other urgent issues, ask friends and family to contact you via text or phone
  • Answer messages in batch
  • For truly urgent and important things, people will track you down in person or on the phone
  • Say: “I’m slow to respond because I need to prioritize some important projects, but if your message is urgent, send me a text.”
  1. Set up email forwarding so that any replies to the new account will instantly go to your normal account
  2. Add the new account to your phone instead of your regular account
  • Example: “I’m on vacation this week, off the grid without access to email, but I’ll reply to your message when I return.”

Laser Tactics: Make TV a “Sometimes Treat”

43. Don’t Watch the News

  • This hassle is a good thing because it switches the default to off
  • Unplug the TV, put it in the closet, or take it to a storage locker and hide the key

Laser Tactics: Find Flow

48. Shut the Door

  • Examples: register for a 5K run or invite your friends over for a homemade pasta dinner before you’ve learned how to make it
  • Each item should include a verb, be specific, small and easy
  • Try playing the same song or album every time you start your Highlight
  • Or choose a specific song or album for each type of Highlight
  • Adopt simple tools that are readily available
  • And paper opens up possibilities because you can do anything at all

Laser Tactics: Stay in the Zone

55. Make a “Random Question” List

  • Then you can stay in Laser mode, secure in the knowledge that those pressing topics have been captured for future research
  • The next time you are feeling understimulated for a few minutes, just sit there
  • Stare at the blank screen, or switch to paper, or walk around, but keep your focus on the project at hand
  • Switch to a joyful Highlight that’ll help you recharge
  • Seek out moments when you can be passionate about your efforts

Step 3: Energize

If you can increase your energy every day, you’ll turn moments that might otherwise be lost to mental and physical fatigue into usable time for your Highlights.

  1. Eat Real Food
  2. Optimize Caffeine
  3. Go Off the Grid
  4. Make It Personal
  5. Sleep in a Cave

Energize Tactics: Keep It Moving

61. Exercise Every Day (but Don’t Be a Hero)

  • Give yourself partial credit: if you can’t manage 20 minutes every day, get out there for ten
  • Go small and go every day — or as close to every day as possible
  • If the distance is too far, maybe you can walk part of the way
  • Take the stairs
  • Use a suitcase without wheels
  • Examples: the 7 Minute Workout or the 3x3 workout
  • 3×3 Workout: 3x times a week, complete the following 3 steps: as many push-ups as possible in one set (rest 1 min); as many squats as possible in one set (rest 1 min); as many lifts (pull-ups, curls, whatever) as possible in one set (rest 1 min)

Energize Tactics: Eat Real Food

65. Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer

  • Real food: non-processed ingredients such as plants, nuts, fish, and meat
  • Quick and easy snack: almonds, walnuts, fruit, and peanut butter
  • How to fit fasting into normal life: eat an early dinner, then skip breakfast and have a big lunch as your next meal
  • Snack when your body and brain need it

Energize Tactics: Optimize Caffeine

70. Wake Up Before You Caffeinate

  • When cortisol is high, caffeine doesn’t do much for you
  • For ideal morning energy, experiment with having your first cup of coffee at 9:30 a.m
  • Experiment with cutting yourself off earlier and earlier and note if and when it becomes easier to fall asleep

Energize Tactics: Go Off the Grid

77. Get Woodsy

  • Spend a few minutes in a park and take note of what it does for your mental energy
  • If you can’t get to the park, step outside for a breath of fresh air
  • To get started, use a guided meditation app
  • Try guided meditation while riding the bus, lying down, walking, running, or even eating
  • An occasional headphone vacation for a day or an hour is an easy way to put some quiet in your day and give your brain a moment to recharge
  • Gaze out the window (it’s good for your eyes)
  • Go for a walk (it’s good for your mind and body)
  • Grab a snack (it’s good for your energy if you’re hungry)
  • Talk to someone (it’s usually good for your mood unless you talk to a jerk)

Energize Tactics: Make It Personal

81. Spend Time with Your Tribe

  • Go out of your way to have a real conversation with energy-giving people
  • Spending time with interesting, high-energy people is one of the best — and most enjoyable — ways to recharge your battery
  • More likely to have an energizing face-to-face conversation with another human
  • You’re creating space in your day to give your brain a rest from its constant busyness

Energize Tactics: Sleep in a Cave

83. Make Your Bedroom a Bed Room

  • You can read in bed, but paper books or magazines are best
  • A Kindle is okay if you turn off the bright white backlight
  • Turn on your phone, computer, or TV’s “night mode”
  • Use a simple sleep mask over your eyes
  • Use an automatic “dawn simulator” alarm clock (like this)
  • Resist the temptation to oversleep and try to stick as closely as possible to your regular schedule
  • Keep that alarm set to the same time every day whether it’s a weekday, weekend, or holiday
  • Find a way to take little breaks and maintain your sanity

Step 4: Reflect

Fine-tune your days with the Scientific Method:

  1. Guess why things are happening the way they are
  2. Experiment to test your hypothesis
  3. Measure the results and decide whether you were right

“Quick Start” Guide to Make Time

If you’re not sure where to begin, try this recipe:

  1. Laser: Block Distraction Kryptonite (#24). Free yourself from one Infinity Pool, and see how your attention changes
  2. Energize: Pound the Pavement (#62). A few minutes of walking each day provides a boost for the body and quiet for the mind
  3. Reflect every evening for three days. Just try the three tactics above and, for three days straight, take notes in the evening. See what you learn and take it from there

Get my full guide on how to Work Smarter and get back control of your time (it’s free) ->

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