make time book summary

Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky [Summary]

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The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

A productivity book full of short absurd-sounding tactics that promise to change how you use technology. In Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day, the two authors will help you divorce the attention-grabbing infinity pools – i.e. noisy sites and social media – and make you less busy and less distracted. A great read that will remind you what to prioritize plus show you how to design a life absent of wild busywork.

The Core Idea:

Getting more done is not about multitasking or racing through tasks. It’s about figuring out what actually matters and designing a life around those things. In the book, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky offer a framework that will show you how to make time for your family, business, whatever. Then, explain how to set boundaries and obstacles to protect yourself from the Busy Bandwagon (our chaotic culture obsessed with productivity) and the Infinity Pools (apps and sites that always have something new to show).

Highlights:

  • Change your defaults to change your life.
  • Focus on one important thing per day – your highlight.
  • Block Infinity Pools – online places with endless replenishing information.

5 Key Lessons from Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day:

Lesson #1: We Spent Most of Our Time Responding To The Defaults

If your to-do list is crammed with tasks, what you least want to hear? I bet it’s, “let’s add another meeting to your calendar.”

If you know what to do you want more alone, uninterrupted time so you can focus and do your damn job. Not pretend to care about the slides scrolling in a room full of other people thinking the same as you, “this meeting is crap!”

But that’s how our society operates. Instead of focusing on the priorities, by default, we do what other people do or ask us to do.

We strive to be responsive. We fill our calendars with meetings. We engage in meaningless chats and tasks only because other people do them. Eventually, this way of living becomes the normal way of living.

These things became our defaults.

And the biggest defaults in our chaotic world are the following two mentioned in the book:

The two forces that force you to be busy:

  • The Busy Bandwagon: Currently, everyone in our society believes that in order to become successful in life you need to fill every breathing minute of your time with to-dos – more meetings, more emails, more networking. Checking email and responding to requests shouldn’t be avoided, it should be anticipated.
  • The Infinity Pools: The authors call Infinity Pools all the sources of endless replenishing information that aim to keep you inside for as long as possible – imagine social media websites.

These two forces, when not properly managed, become our defaults.

Meaning that we don’t question their existence. We don’t stop ourselves and ask, “Hey, why am I using Facebook? Probably I should stop and finally start writing that novel I always wanted?”

Nope. We don’t have such an internal dialog going on inside our busy heads. We hop on the bandwagon, and we stay inside the pools that offer endless pleasure because everyone else is there.

Sadly, this way of living takes us further away from what we want from life.

Fortunately, though, the authors of Make Time created a 4-step framework (discussed in the other 4 lessons) that can help you set your own defaults and focus on what you consider important.

While the Busy Bandwagon defaults to endless tasks, the Infinity Pools default to endless distraction. Our phones, laptops, and televisions are filled with games, social feeds, and videos. Everything is at our fingertips, irresistible, even addictive. Every bump of friction is smoothed away.” Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky

Lesson #2: Start Your Day With One High-Priority Goal

Setting multiple goals and complex tasks is not the proper way to get more done. You need to focus on one thing.

“What will be the highlight of your day?” ask the authors of the book.

Starting your day with one simple goal in mind will prompt you to actually do it.

Here are a few tactics from the book that will help you find your highlight and explain why it’s important:

  • Prioritize your life: Not quite sure what life is all about? You lack meaning and purpose? Make a list of the things that matter in your life. Think about what’s most meaningful to you (but will also be beneficial) and focus on the important tasks that will help you make progress.
  • Write it down: As obvious as it sounds, writing your main task for the day is the first thing you need to do. By putting our goal on paper we increase the likelihood of accomplishing it. Once you have it on paper you can glue it on your forehead or give it to your wife so she can later keep you accountable.
  • Groundhog it: It’s a new day and you’re not quite sure what to do? Repeat yesterday. If you’re a writer this will be pretty obvious – simply write. For other industries, it can be a bit more difficult (launching rockets) to do the same as yesterday but you surely can find something related to what was important the day before.
  • Design your day: If you want to get shit done you need to design your day around your highlight. This means that you should first schedule time to accomplish your priority for the day. Then, everything else gets planned.
  • Bulldoze your calendar and say no: Rarely things go as we planned. Something happens and then something else happens. Eventually, you end up responding to emails and watching Netflix. When your calendar looks like a shopping mall in the middle of a Black Friday sale – crowded and chaotic – see what you can ditch. As the authors write, “Imagine a tiny bulldozer driving through your calendar, pushing events around.” Re-arrange things to find the time. If this doesn’t work out – just say no to the unimportant tasks.
“When you schedule something, you’re making a commitment to yourself, sending yourself a tiny message that says: “I’m going to do this.” Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky

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