Make Time

Make Time is a book that helps you create more time in your day for the things you care about. It has a lot of useful tips to get you started right away! They bring it down to 4 steps: Highlight, Laser, Energize, and Reflect. The book is set up around those main themes and guides you along the way.

Table of Contents

Why should I read it?

The authors observe the complexities of modern life and describe them as following:

  1. The Busy Bandwagon (the collective demand to be productive)
  2. The Infinity Pools (the endless streams of content we consume, e.g. social media, television, etc.)

When that’s what we’re up against, how can we ever make time?

I’ve read a lot of books and blogs about being productive and getting things done, but I always felt like it didn’t really fit. There was always the struggle between being really productive and planning vs. being spontaneously and spending time on what actually matters.

This book really made me think there is a good middle way between the two camps. 💡

It was like being lifted out of a fog.

It describes habits that developed slowly for us modern day humans and gives you insights in the things we do automatically.

Short summary

Observations

Change your defaults

Like our devices, we have set defaults in many aspects of our lives. Like in the office, every meeting defaults to 20 to 60 minutes even if the task requires just a chat.

The default of Busy Bandwagon is to remain busty in endless tasks. The default of Infinity Pools is to be hooked on endless distractions like television, social feeds, and YouTube videos.

Part of the problem lies in the big gap between our hunter-gatherer roots and our digital modern world. We should change our defaults so that we can make distractions harder to access instead of relying on willpower to constantly fight them.

Stop Reacting to Distractions

Every day we react to things like your calendar, incoming email, an infinite amount of content on the internet. You find it difficult to find time with your family. Being productive does not mean you are doing the most important work, it only means you are reacting to other people’s priorities.

The make time system

Make Time is 4 steps, repeated every day:

  1. Highlight. Choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar
  2. Laster. Specific tactics to stay laser-focused on your highlight
  3. Energize. How to charge your battery with exercise, food, sleep, quiet, and face-to-face time
  4. Reflect. How to adjust and improve your system

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

LASER: The key to getting into Laser mode and focusing on your Highlight is to create barriers to distraction.

ENERGIZE: When you don’t take care of your body, your brain can’t do its job.

REFLECT: Fine-tune your days with the Scientific Method: Observe -> Guess -> Experiment -> Measure.

Extensive summary and tactics

Highlight

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

Your Highlight is not the only thing you’ll do each day.

But choosing a Highlight gives you a chance to be proactive about how you spend your time instead of letting technology, office defaults, and other people set your agenda.

You can design your time by choosing where you direct your attention. And your daily Highlight is the target of that attention.

3 Ways to pick your Highlight:

  1. Urgency. “What’s the most pressing thing I have to do today?” Find urgent Highlights on your to-do list, email, or calendar.
  2. Satisfaction. “Which Highlight will bring me the most satisfaction?” Focus on what you want to get done
  3. Joy. “When I reflect on today, what will bring me the most joy?” Not every hour has to be optimized for maximum efficiency

How to choose a Highlight:

  • Trust your gut to decide whether an urgent, joyful, or satisfying Highlight is best for today
  • Highlights should take 60-90 minutes
  • It’s never too late in the day to choose (or change) your Highlight

Tactics

  • Choose highlight
    • Write it down
    • Groundhog it (“Do yesterday again”)
    • Stack rank your life
      • Write the 3-10 big things that matter in your life
      • Choose the one most important thing
      • Now choose 2-5
      • Rewrite the list in order of priority
      • Draw a circle around number one
      • Use this list to help you choose Highlights
    • Batch the little stuff (use batch processing to get small tasks done in one Highlight session)
    • Might-Do list (projects sit on this list until you decide to make them your highlight)
  • Make time
    • Schedule your highlight
    • Block your calendar
    • Bulldoze calendar
    • Flake it till you make it (ask yourself what you can cancel)
    • Just say no
    • Design your day
    • Quit when you’re done

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.

The key to getting into Laser mode and focusing on your Highlight is to create barriers to distraction.

The best way to defeat distraction is to make it harder to react.

When distraction is hard to access, you don’t have to worry about willpower.

Tactics

  • Distraction free Phone
    • Delete email and Infinity Pool apps (social media, news, games, streaming)
    • Remove browser
    • Log out (when you’re done using a website or app)
    • Turn off notifications
    • Clear your homescreen
    • Wear a watch (for checking time)
    • Leave devices behind
  • Stay out of infinity pools
    • Skip the morning phone check-in
    • Ignore the news
    • Put your toys away
    • Put a timer on the internet
    • Cancel the internet
  • Slow your inbox
    • Deal with email ad the end of the day
    • Schedule email time
    • Empty inbox once a week
    • Pretend messages are letters, be slow to respond above
    • Reset expectations (I’m slow because of some big other projects)
    • Set up send-only email (on phone)
    • Vacation: go off grid
  • Find flow
    • Shut te door
    • Invent a deadline
    • Explode your highlight (break down in smaller doable tasks)
    • Play laser soundtrack (focus music, or start of a habit)
    • Avoid the lure of fancy tools
    • Start on paper
  • Stay in the zone
    • Make a list where you can put ideas that come up
    • Notice on breath
    • Be bored
    • Be stuck
    • Take a day off
    • Go all in

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.

When you don’t take care of your body, your brain can’t do its job.

To increase your energy, all you need to do is travel back in time.

Going back to basics represents a big opportunity. Because life today is so out of sync with our hunter-gatherer bodies, there’s a huge margin for improvement. 

How to fuel our caveman brains and bodies:

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

Tactics

  • Keep it moving
    • Exercise Every Day (but Don’t Be a Hero)
    • Pound the pavement (try substituting walking for usual mode of transport, or if the distance is too far, walk a part)
    • Inconvenience yourself (cook dinner, take the stairs, suitcase without wheels)
    • Squeeze in a super short workout (7-minute workout, short pushup session, etc.)
  • Eat real food
    • Eat like a hunter-gatherer (eat food, not too much, mostly plants).
    • Real food, not processed
    • Quick and easy snacks: almonds, walnuts, fruit
    • Central park your plate (salad first and then everything around)
    • Stay hungry (intermittent fasting, for example skip breakfast and after dinner no snacking)
    • Snack like a toddler (high quality snacks when body and brain need it)
    • Go on the dark chocolate plan
  • Optimize caffeine
    • Wake up before caffeine
      • In the morning, your body naturally produces lots of cortisol, a hormone that helps you wake up
      • first cup around 9.30
    • Caffeinate before you crash (Have coffee 30 minutes the period when your energy regularly dips)
    • Take a Caffeine nap (Wait till you get tired, drink some caffeine, then immediately take a 15-minute nap)
    • Turbo Your Highlight
    • Learn your last call (easier to fall asleep, usually in the afternoon)
    • Disconnect sugar
  • Go off the grid
    • Get woodsy (exposure to nature makes you calmer)
    • Trick yourself into meditating (guided meditation, or when taking the bus, etc.)
    • Leave your headphones at home
    • Take real breaks (without screens, look out the window, grab a snack, talk to someone)
  • Make it personal
    • Spend time with your tribe
    • Eat without screens
  • Sleep in a cave
    • Make your bedroom a bed room (remove electronic devices, only reading allowed)
    • Fake the sunset
    • Sneak a nap
    • Don’t jet lag yourself (sleeping late on weekends is basically giving yourself jet lag)
    • Put on your own oxygen mask first
      • If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be a great caretaker
      • Find a way to take little breaks and maintain your sanity

Reflect

Fine-tune your days with the Scientific Method:

  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

You are a sample size of one, and your results are the only results that really matter. This kind of everyday science is what “Reflect” is all about.

Take notes to track your results (template here).

Every day, reflect on whether you made time for your Highlight and how well you were able to focus on it. You’ll note how much energy you had. You’ll review the tactics you used, jot down some observations on what worked and what didn’t, and make a plan for which tactics you’ll try tomorrow.

If you fail at first, don’t be hard on yourself. Give it time and use the notes to track and tweak your approach.

How I started

  • Reading news only once a week (this includes twitter)
  • Changed my iPhone into a distraction free iPhone
  • Setting a highlight for the day
  • Unsubscribed some media streaming services