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Make Time Summary

15 min read ⌚ 

Quick Summary: “Make Time” is “a book about slowing down the crazy rush.” However, it isn’t a book about productivity, but a simple four-part framework (highlight → laser → energize → reflect) encompassing no less than 87 different tactics which should help you create more time in your day for the things you actually care about.

Make Time Summary

Who Should Read “Make Time”? And Why?

Let us answer these questions with questions—the ones posed by the authors at the very beginning of Make Time:

“Do you ever look back and wonder ‘What did I really do today?’ Do you ever daydream about projects and activities you’ll get to someday—but ‘someday’ never comes?”

If so, then Make Time is the book for you.

It is a book about reclaiming your time—and thus making your life your own again—and about getting enough moments in your life to spend them on the things that really matter.

Make Time Summary

The epigraph to Make Time—a quote by none other than Mahatma Gandhi—reveals a lot about its authors’ objectives: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

In other words, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky (or Jake and JZ as they refer to themselves) believe that “it is possible to feel less busy, be less distracted, and enjoy the present moment more. Maybe that sounds a little hippy-dippy,” they add, “but we’re serious.”

Make Time is the product of this line of thinking. It is, in its essence, a collection of 87 tactics framed within four steps which should help you reclaim your time.

We’ll have a look at some of the tactics in the final one of our “Key Lessons”—but we strongly encourage you to buy this book and try out some other tactics as well.

Because, as we reveal in our “Summary,” this book is a sort of an encyclopedia for making time for the things that matter.

So, let’s see why and how this book works.

Most of Our Time Is Spent by Default

In the chaotic existence that is the twenty-first century, two very powerful forces compete for every minute of your time.

The first is what the authors call the Busy Bandwagon, aka the “culture of constant busyness—the overflowing inboxes, stuffed calendars, and endless to-do lists.”

“According to the Busy Bandwagon mindset,” write Jake and JZ, “if you want to meet the demands of the modern workplace and function in modern society, you must fill every minute with productivity. After all, everyone else is busy. If you slow down, you’ll fall behind and never catch up.”

You know how that feels, don’t you?

The second force is something called the Infinity Pools, i.e., “apps and other sources of endlessly replenishing content,” aka Facebook, YouTube, Google News, Netflix, HBO, Candy Crash, etc.

A simple rule-of-thumb is that if you can pull to refresh and/or if it streams—it’s an Infinity Pool. “This always-available, always-new entertainment,” write Jake and JZ, “is your reward for the exhaustion of constant busyness.”

The questions pose by themselves really: “But is constant busyness really mandatory? Is endless distraction really a reward? Or are we all just stuck on autopilot?”

You already know the answers: no, no, and yes.

In other words, in a world which operates by the rules “react,” “respond,” “fill your time,” “be efficient,” and “get more things done,” it’s only normal that when something is irresistible and at your fingertips, you’re bound to become addicted to it.

It’s not like you want to watch the next YouTube video or that you actually want to scroll down to see some newer social posts after doing that for the past five hours; it’s that you’re in your default mode—and your brain likes that.

Fortunately, there is a way out: setting your own defaults.

Make Time Is Just Four Steps, Repeated Every Day

And this is where Make Time comes in.

In the words of its authors:

Make Time is a framework for choosing what you want to focus on, building the energy to do it, and breaking the default cycle so that you can start being more intentional about the way you live your life. Even if you don’t completely control your own schedule—and few of us do—you absolutely can control your attention.”

And then they go on:

“With new habits and new mindsets, you can stop reacting to the modern world and start actively making time for the people and activities that matter to you. This isn’t about saving time. It’s about making time for what matters.”

And you can do that in four simple steps which should be repeated daily, and which, in essence, are both sequential and circular: 1. Highlight → 2. Laser ⇄ 3. Energize → 4. Reflect → 1. Highlight…

In short:

• First, you need to choose a single highlight to prioritize in your day (there are 16 tactics that can help you with this);
• Then, you need to employ specific tactics (one of 44) to stay laser-focused on the highlight;
• Of course, to stay laser-focused on anything, you’ll need some energy, and you can do this by using one of the 27 tactics offered and described by Jake and JZ;
• Finally, you’ll reflect on the day to see where the tactics you’ve used brought you.

But let’s learn something more about each of these tactics.

Highlight: Start Each Day by Choosing a Focal Point

As we said above, the first step in the Make Time framework is deciding what you want to make time for.

Contrary to what the Busy Bandwagon advocates shout around every corner (“Get more done. Be more efficient”), Jake and JZ think that doing less is what actually makes life worth living.

Slowing down to the speed of life, however, may seem scary at first: all of the other guys are rushing through life, you might think, and if I do less, I’m bound to fall behind them.

That’s not true!

Because doing less is primarily about doing what you want to do the most—and then doing the rest.

So, start every day by asking yourself a simple two-part question:

“If, at the end of the day, someone asks you, ‘What was the highlight of your day?’ what do you want your answer to be?”

Or, to put that in another way, “when you look back on your day, what activity or accomplishment or moment do you want to savor?”

Well, that’s your Highlight, your focal point for the day, the one activity you’ll prioritize and protect in your calendar.

It can be anything, from your musts through the have to-s to the want of your day. But it has to be one, and it has to be the answer to the question: “What do I want to be the highlight of my day?”

To answer this question, use these three criteria:

Urgency: What’s the most pressing thing I have to do today?
Satisfaction: At the end of the day, which Highlight will bring me the most satisfaction?
Joy: When I reflect on today, what will bring me the most joy?

Choose Your Highlight

A good rule of thumb is to choose a Highlight that takes sixty to ninety minutes. And to choose the best one, use one of these seven Highlight Tactics (see the “Key Lessons” section for more):

1. Write It Down
2. Groundhog It (or, “Do Yesterday Again”)
3. Stack Rank Your Life
4. Batch the Little Stuff
5. The Might-Do List
6. The Burner List
7. Run a Personal Sprint

Make Time for Your Highlight

Choosing your Highlight is not enough; you need to make time for it (i.e., prioritize it). And you can do this using any one of these nine tactics:

8. Schedule Your Highlight
9. Block Your Calendar
10. Bulldoze Your Calendar
11. Flake It Till You Make It
12. Just Say No
13. Design Your Day
14. Become a Morning Person
15. Nighttime Is Highlight Time
16. Quit When You’re Done

Laser: Beat Distraction to Make Time for Your Highlight

Now that you’ve chosen and made time for the Highlight of your day—the really hard part comes: you need to put all your energy to focus and really execute the job.

And to focus, you need to go into a peculiar state of mind called Laser:

“When you’re in Laser mode,” write JZ and Jake, “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. When you’re laser-focused on your Highlight, it feels fantastic—it’s the payoff for proactively choosing what’s important to you.”

The problem?

Distraction—the #1 enemy of your Laser Mode of being. Distraction, say the authors, is “like a giant disco ball in the path of your laser beam: Light goes everywhere except in the direction of the target. When that happens, you can easily end up missing out on your Highlight.”

And, of course, distractions (social media, email, breaking news, Netflix, cat GIFs, etc.) are just about everywhere.

For example, Apple reports that people unlock their phones an average of 80 times a day. Moreover, according to a customer-research firm called Dscout, people touch their phones an average of 2,617 times per day.

“Distracted,” conclude JZ and Jake justly, “has become the new default.”

And this is nothing strange—due to at least four reasons:

• The appeal of—and our passion for—technology
The fast evolution of technological products
The sheer number of competitors on the market
Our caveman dopamine-addicted brains

There are, fortunately, ways you can change this, and, even more fortunately, they don’t include willpower and discipline (as you know full well, they, alone, don’t help).

Here’s a list of tactics which can help you instead:

Be the Boss of Your Phone

17. Try a Distraction-Free Phone
18. Log Out
19. Nix Notifications
20. Clear Your Homescreen
21. Wear a Wristwatch
22. Leave Devices Behind

Stay Out of Infinity Pools

23. Skip the Morning Check-In
24. Block Distraction Kryptonite
25. Ignore the News
26. Put Your Toys Away
27. Fly Without Wi-Fi
28. Put a Timer on the Internet
29. Cancel the Internet
30. Watch Out for Time Craters
31. Trade Fake Wins for Real Wins
32. Turn Distractions into Tools
33. Become a Fair-Weather Fan

Slow Your Inbox

34. Deal with Email at the End of the Day
35. Schedule Email Time
36. Empty Your Inbox Once a Week
37. Pretend Messages Are Letters
38. Be Slow to Respond
39. Reset Expectations
40. Set Up Send-Only Email
41. Vacation Off the Grid
42. Lock Yourself Out

Make TV A “Sometimes Treat”

43. Don’t Watch the News
44. Put Your TV in the Corner
45. Ditch Your TV for a Projector
46. Go à la Carte Instead of All-You-Can-Eat
47. If You Love Something, Set It Free

Find Flow

48. Shut the Door
49. Invent a Deadline
50. Explode Your Highlight
51. Play a Laser Sound Track
52. Set a Visible Timer
53. Avoid the Lure of Fancy Tools
54. Start on Paper

Stay In The Zone

55. Make a “Random Question” List
56. Notice One Breath
57. Be Bored
58. Be Stuck
59. Take a Day Off
60. Go All In

Energize: Use the Body to Recharge the Brain

“To achieve focus and make time for what matters,” write JZ and Jake, “your brain needs energy, and that energy comes from taking care of your body.”

Even though the lifestyle defaults of the 21st century make it hard to believe, charging your batteries (whether through exercise, food, sleep, quiet, or face-to-face time) is an all-important part of the human existence.

Sneaking a nap, exercising, learning how to use caffeine strategically—these are all just simple shifts which can get you some energy necessary for you to go both through your day and through your to-do list.

Because what all of those productivity books don’t tell you is one of the simplest truths you’ll ever hear: the modern brain-based lifestyle is an accident caused by the Industrial Revolution, and you still have a hunter-gatherer body roaring for health and energy.

Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to change things:

Keep It Moving

The hunter-gatherers from the past were constantly on his feet, walking, carrying, lifting, and working. Consequently, your brain performs better when in motion. You don’t need to be a bodybuilder or train for a marathon to wake up the caveman inside you: these four tactics should help you recharge your brain batteries just as well:

61. Exercise Every Day (but Don’t Be a Hero)
62. Pound the Pavement
63. Inconvenience Yourself
64. Squeeze in a Super Short Workout

Eat Real Food

Let’s face it, it’s pretty simple when it comes to food, both with regard to health and energy: eat only what the cavemen could find and catch (fruits, vegetables, animals, nuts) and avoid invented and manufactured foods. Do this with one of these five tactics:

65. Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer
66. Central Park Your Plate
67. Stay Hungry
68. Snack Like a Toddler
69. Go on the Dark Chocolate Plan

Optimize Caffeine

OK, cavemen didn’t really drink coffee, but, as far as caffeine is concerned, we are the ones with the upper hand: caffeine reenergizes quickly and effectively, and, if you use it well, you’re doing a good job.

70. Wake Up Before You Caffeinate
71. Caffeinate Before You Crash
72. Take a Caffeine Nap
73. Maintain Altitude with Green Tea
74. Turbo Your Highlight
75. Learn Your Last Call
76. Disconnect Sugar

Go Off the Grid

In the world of our ancient ancestors, almost nothing ever happened. That’s why the Bushmen sleep a lot better and work much less than you: quiet is the norm for them, and the noise of the distractions around you are a disaster for your energy levels. So:

77. Get Woodsy
78. Trick Yourself into Meditating
79. Leave Your Headphones at Home
80. Take Real Breaks

Make It Personal

How many Facebook friends do you have? How many of them are your real friends? Well, cavemen didn’t have the former: all of their interactions were face-to-face. Kick it old school and charge your batteries by spending some distraction-free time with the people who make you happy. The best shortcut toward happiness:

81. Spend Time with Your Tribe
82. Eat Without Screens

Sleep in a Cave

Of course, it’s metaphorical; but that doesn’t make it less true. Start a sleep revolution in your bedroom by, well, sleeping. No screens, no schedules, no caffeine, no nothing besides a bed in your bedroom. Well, that’s the first of the five tactics which will help you rest better—and feel rested more:

83. Make Your Bedroom a Bed Room
84. Fake the Sunset
85. Sneak a Nap
86. Don’t Jet-Lag Yourself
87. Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Reflect: Adjust and Improve Your System

Though at first glance somewhat negligible, the final step of the Make Time framework may be the most important—because it’s actually what separates the scientific method from pseudoscientific activities.

Namely, the scientific method consists of no more than four steps:

#1. Observe what’s going on.
#2. Guess why things are happening the way they are.
#3. Experiment to test your hypothesis.
#4. Measure the results and decide whether you were right.

Well, that’s what you’ll be doing before going to bed: taking a few notes, and, subsequently, using these notes to decide which tactics you want to continue, which ones you want to refine, and which ones you’d rather drop.

Over time, this kind of behavior will help you build “a customized daily system tailored to your unique habits and routines, your unique brain and body, and your unique goals and priorities.”

Speaking of—

The Make Time Tactics: Pick, Test, Repeat

Even though Make Time includes dozens of tactics, it is fairly obvious that many of these tactics won’t work for you.

Fortunately, that is nothing strange there.

Make Time is like a cookbook: “you wouldn’t try all the recipes at once, and you don’t need to do all the tactics at once, either.”

Instead, you’ll pick, test, and repeat.

Begin by taking note of all the tactics you want to try. Look for the ones your guts tell you are the best: may they be both doable but a little challenging as well; above all, may they be fun.

And the first day you’ll try to put Make Time into practice, the authors suggest that you pick one tactic from each step.

In other words, choose one of the 18 Highlight tactics, one which will keep you laser-focused by changing how you react to distractions, and one for building energy; so, that’s three tactics total.

Now that you’ve picked the tactics, test them for a few days.

Since the fourth step of the Make Time manual includes reflecting upon results, you’ll know by the end of, say, your third day whether any one of the tactics works. If it does—keep it; if not—modify or switch.

And then—repeat the process.

In time, you should be able to combine more tactics within a single step, and even invent new ones through modifications. Each day is a chance to experiment—until you get the perfect version of the Make Time system.

And when we say “perfect,” we mean “perfect for you.”

Because that’s what this book is about: building a personalized Make Time system version which you could fit into your existing lifestyle to better its quality.

When that happens—throw away the book!

Key Lessons from “Make Time”

1.      Get Off the Busy Bandwagon (But Stay Out of the Infinity Pools as Well)
2.      Make Time Is a Four-Step Framework
3.      Quick Start Guide to Make Time

Get Off the Busy Bandwagon (But Stay Out of the Infinity Pools as Well)

In the dynamic world of the 21st century, two powerful forces compete for every single minute of your waking life: The Busy Bandwagon and the Infinity Pools.

The Busy Bandwagon is this “culture of constant busyness,” and the Infinity Pools are all those “apps and other sources of endlessly replenishing content.”

In more practical terms, the Busy Bandwagon is everything you have on your calendar, and to-do lists and the Infinity Pools are all the distractions that keep you from completing these tasks (Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, etc.)

The Busy Bandwagon says, “get more things done;” the Infinity Pools say “fuhgeddaboudit.”

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky (JZ) say that the trick is to listen to neither: you should get fewer things done by not forgetting about the world happening around you.

That’s what quality of life actually is.

Make Time Is a Four-Step Framework

In other words, Jake and JZ advise that you need to make time in your day for the things you really want to do. And that’s a four-step process which is both sequential and repetitive:

#1. Highlight: the process starts with choosing a single activity you’ll prioritize over all others in your calendar, the thing you want to be the answer to the question “What was the highlight of your day?” posed at the end of it;
#2. Laser: now that you know the task you want to prioritize, devise tactics to focus on its completion;
#3. Energize: move, eat real food, optimize caffeine, and sleep well, to energize your body so that your brain can stay focused for longer periods of time; and, finally:
#4. Reflect: spend at least ten minutes each night to see what worked and what didn’t so that you can modify or switch tactics the following day.

Quick Start Guide to Make Time

Now, Jake and JZ offer no less than 87 tactics—only some of which may work for you. We’ve listed all of them above, but you don’t need all of them: you just need the ones that will work for you.

To discover them, of course, you’ll need to experiment. And here’s a quick start guide to make time right away (if you’re not sure where to begin):

Write Down Your Highlight (Tactic #1) and Schedule It (Tactic #8)

Nothing could be simpler than this: just write down your highlight, decide how much time you need for it, and schedule it on your calendar next to a note “I’m going to do this within this time period, no matter what.”

Block Distraction Kryptonite (Tactic #24)

Every one of us has a distraction kryptonite: it may be Facebook or lichess.org; either way, “if after spending a few minutes (or, more likely, a few minutes that become an hour) with this website or app you feel regret, it’s probably Kryptonite.”

Free yourself any way you can from this one Infinity Pool, and see how your attention would change.

Pound the Pavement (Tactic #62)

We are born to walk and sitting all day does nobody any favors. Fortunately, it’s easy to incorporate walking within your daily schedules: just jump off the bus two stops early or park far away (bonus: you won’t lose time searching for the perfect spot!). “A few minutes of walking each day provides a boost for the body and quiet for the mind.”

Reflect Every Evening for Three Days

Don’t commit to any of the tactics above: try them for three days and take notes. If they don’t work—modify or try another tactic. It’s obvious where we’re going with this, right?

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

Make Time Quotes

If, at the end of the day, someone asks you, ‘What was the highlight of your day?’ what do you want your answer to be? Click To Tweet The best way to defeat distraction is to make it harder to react. Click To Tweet If you want energy for your brain, you need to take care of your body. Click To Tweet Meditation is nothing to be ashamed of. Meditation is just a breather for your brain… Meditation is also exercise for your brain. Click To Tweet Make Time is not about productivity. It’s not about getting more done, finishing your to-dos faster, or outsourcing your life. Instead, it’s a framework designed to help you create more time in your day for the things you care about. Click To Tweet

Final Notes

Described as “a charming manifesto, as well as an intrepid do-it-yourself guide to building smart habits that stick” by Charles Duhigg, Make Time is more than just another book on time management.

It is a refreshing read which is both practical and engaging and works like an encyclopedia (or a cookbook, as the authors say): skip around the tactics while reading, choose the ones you like, test them, and repeat until you make your perfect schedule.

Remember: the goal is not doing more, but doing what makes you feel fulfilled.

“I defy you to read this book and not come away with ideas that make you happier and/or more effective in accomplishing what you want in life,” wrote Dan Heath in his review of Make Time.

And he should know, shouldn’t he?

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