Two forces are eroding your time: The Busy Bandwagon and Infinity Pools.
When you ask someone at work how they’re doing, they’ll probably tell you, “Busy! Really, really busy.” People wear their busyness like a badge of honor. You and I feel pressure to join the ‘busy’ club and spend the day responding to emails, running from meeting to meeting, and adding tasks to our to‐do lists.
If we step off the Busy Bandwagon to relax, ‘Infinity Pools’ are waiting to pull us into their vortex.
“Infinity Pools are apps and other sources of endlessly replenishing content. If you can pull to refresh, it’s an Infinity Pool. If it streams, it’s an Infinity Pool.” – Make Time
Infinity Pools, like Instagram, YouTube, and Netflix, are powerful because they track our behavior, know what we like, and make it effortless to consume their content.
“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.” – Make Time
“With the average person spending four‐plus hours a day on their smartphone and another four‐plus hours watching TV shows, distraction is quite literally a full‐time job.” – Make Time
To prevent the Busy Bandwagon and Infinity Pools from turning our daily lives into a blur of meaningless activity, focus on daily highlights.
The Daily Highlight
If you answer 100 emails and complete 20 errands but don’t have a big win or a peak moment (i.e., a highlight), your days and weeks will be a blur (like a dream you can hardly remember).
To define your daily highlight, imagine that a friend calls you at the end of the day and asks:
“What was the highlight of your day?”
If you can answer that question at the start of the day, you give yourself the best chance to experience a peak moment. To help you define your daily highlight, authors Jake and John provide three highlight categories:
Find a highlight in the ‘urgency’ category, by asking yourself, “What’s the most pressing thing I need to do today?” This might be a proposal you promised a client or a test you need to study for. I find it helpful to ask, “Of all the urgent things in my life, what would provide the greatest sense of relief?”
When searching the satisfaction category for a potential daily highlight, ask yourself, “At the end of the day, what would give me the most satisfaction?” Maybe that’s drafting 2,000 words for your next book or completing the first module of a computer programming course you’ve wanted to start. Satisfaction highlights are things you want to do but don’t necessarily need to do.
Find a highlight in the ‘joy’ category, by asking yourself, “When I reflect on my day, what experience would give me the most joy?” Stop searching for things you can accomplish, and start identifying the people you enjoy and activities that bring you joy (i.e., activities you do for the sake of doing them). A joy‐based highlight may be going to the playground with your child, or having a guitar jam session with your friend, or taking a cooking class with your spouse.
Select your highlight
- Write down all the potential highlights on a blank piece of paper (call it your “might‐do” list). Each highlight should be bigger than a task but smaller than a major project, and each highlight should take between 60 to 90 minutes to complete.
- Rewrite the top three potential highlights on a new sheet of paper, then circle the one highlight you want to focus on today. Now write that highlight on a Post‐It note and put that Post‐It note in a place you’ll see throughout the day.
- Block out a 60 to 90 minute chunk of time in your calendar to dedicate to your highlight.
That’s it! By identifying and focusing on one highlight each day, you’ll pull yourself away from the Busy Bandwagon and Infinity Pools, and start living more intentionally.
About the author
Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky are obsessed with the idea of redesigning time. They’re the authors of the New York Times bestseller Sprint and the creators of Time Dorks, a popular newsletter about experiments in time management.
Jake spent 10 years at Google and Google Ventures, where he created the design sprint process. He has since run more than 150 sprints with companies including Nest, Slack, 23andMe, and Flatiron Health. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and sons.
John has written for the Wall Street Journal, Time, Harvard Business Review, Wired, Fast Company, and many more publications. For nearly fifteen years, he was a designer at technology companies, including YouTube and Google Ventures. Originally from Wisconsin, John and his wife now live aboard their sailboat, “Pineapple.”
Self Help, Productivity, Personal Development, Business Culture, Psychology, Design, Management, Leadership, Organization and Time Management Skills, Stress and Anxiety Management Success, Motivation and Self-Esteem
Table of Contents
Most of Our Time Is Spent by Default 4
Meet the Time Dorks 7
The Backstory, Part 1: The Distraction-Free iPhone 8
The Backstory, Part 2: Our Dorky Quest to Make Time 14
Four Lessons from the Design Sprint Laboratory 15
HOW MAKE TIME WORKS 19
Make Time Is Just Four Steps, Repeated Every Day 19
Highlight: Start Each Day by Choosing a Focal Point 20
Laser: Beat Distraction to Make Time for Your Highlight 21
Energize: Use the Body to Recharge the Brain 22
Reflect: Adjust and Improve Your System 23
The Make Time Tactics: Pick, Test, Repeat 23
No Perfection Required 24
The “Everyday” Mindset 25
The Missing Months 30
What Will Be the Highlight of Your Day? 34
Three Ways to Pick Your Highlight 35
Trust Your Gut to Choose the Best Highlight 38
CHOOSE YOUR HIGHLIGHT 41
1. Write It Down 43
2. Groundhog It (or, “Do Yesterday Again”) 44
3. Stack Rank Your Life 45
4. Batch the Little Stuff 48
5. The Might-Do List 50
6. The Burner List 52
7. Run a Personal Sprint 55
MAKE TIME FOR YOUR HIGHLIGHT 57
8. Schedule Your Highlight 59
9. Block Your Calendar 61
10. Bulldoze Your Calendar 63
11. Flake It Till You Make It 63
12. Just Say No 64
13. Design Your Day 66
14. Become a Morning Person 69
15. Nighttime Is Highlight Time 73
16. Quit When You’re Done 75
A Love Affair with Email 81
82 Why Infinity Pools Are So Hard to Resist 84
Don’t Wait for Technology to Give Back Your Time 87
Create Barriers to Distraction 88
BE THE BOSS OF YOUR PHONE 91
17. Try a Distraction-Free Phone 93
18. Log Out 98
19. Nix Notifications 99
20. Clear Your Homescreen 100
21. Wear a Wristwatch 101
22. Leave Devices Behind 103
STAY OUT OF INFINITY POOLS 105
23. Skip the Morning Check-In 107
24. Block Distraction Kryptonite 108
25. Ignore the News 110
26. Put Your Toys Away 112
27. Fly Without Wi-Fi 113
28. Put a Timer on the Internet 114
29. Cancel the Internet 117
30. Watch Out for Time Craters 117
31. Trade Fake Wins for Real Wins 119
32. Turn Distractions into Tools 119
33. Become a Fair-Weather Fan 122
SLOW YOUR INBOX 125
34. Deal with Email at the End of the Day 128
35. Schedule Email Time 128
36. Empty Your Inbox Once a Week 129
37. Pretend Messages Are Letters 129
38. Be Slow to Respond 130
39. Reset Expectations 131
40. Set Up Send-Only Email 132
41. Vacation Off the Grid 134
42. Lock Yourself Out 135
MAKE TV A “SOMETIMES TREAT” 137
43. Don’t Watch the News 140
44. Put Your TV in the Corner 140
45. Ditch Your TV for a Projector 141
46. Go a la Carte Instead of All-You-Can-Eat 141
47. If You Love Something, Set It Free 142
FIND FLOW 145
48. Shut the Door 147
49. Invent a Deadline 147
50. Explode Your Highlight 149
51. Play a Laser Sound Track 149
52. Set a Visible Timer 151
53. Avoid the Lure of Fancy Tools 152
54. Start on Paper 154
STAY IN THE ZONE 155
55. Make a “Random Question” List 157
56. Notice One Breath 157
57. Be Bored 158
58. Be Stuck 158
59. Take a Day Off 159
60. Go All In 159
You Are More Than a Brain 165
You Awaken to the Roar of a Saber-Toothed Tiger 168
The Modern Lifestyle Is an Accident 170
Act Like a Caveman to Build Energy 172
KEEP IT MOVING 175
61. Exercise Every Day (but Don’t Be a Hero) 177
62. Pound the Pavement 181
63. Inconvenience Yourself 182
64. Squeeze in a Super Short Workout 184
EAT REAL FOOD 189
65. Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer 191
66. Central Park Your Plate 193
67. Stay Hungry 194
68. Snack Like a Toddler 196
69. Go on the Dark Chocolate Plan 197
OPTIMIZE CAFFEINE 199
70. Wake Up Before You Caffeinate 203
71. Caffeinate Before You Crash 204
72. Take a Caffeine Nap 204
73. Maintain Altitude with Green Tea 205
74. Turbo Your Highlight 206
75. Learn Your Last Call 206
76. Disconnect Sugar 207
GO OFF THE GRID 209
77. Get Woodsy 211
78. Trick Yourself into Meditating 213
79. Leave Your Headphones at Home 216
80. Take Real Breaks 217
MAKE IT PERSONAL 221
81. Spend Time with Your Tribe 223
82. Eat Without Screens 225
SLEEP IN A CAVE 227
83. Make Your Bedroom a Bed Room 229
84. Fake the Sunset 230
85. Sneak a Nap 232
86. Don’t Jet-Lag Yourself 233
87. Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First 235
Fine-Tune Your Days with the Scientific Method 239
Take Notes to Track Your Results (and Keep You Honest) 241
Small Shifts Create Big Results 244
START ” SOME DAY” ‘TODAY 247
“QUICK START” GUIDE TO MAKE TIME 253
SAMPLE AGENDAS 255
FURTHER READING FOR TIME DORKS 260
SHARE YOUR TACTICS, FIND RESOURCES, AND GET IN TOUCH 264
THANK-YOU NOTES 265
ILLUSTRATION CREDITS 270
MAKE TIME TEST READERS 272
From the New York Times bestselling authors of Sprint comes “a unique and engaging read about a proven habit framework [that] readers can apply to each day” (Insider, Best Books to Form New Habits).
Nobody ever looked at an empty calendar and said, “The best way to spend this time is by cramming it full of meetings!” or got to work in the morning and thought, Today I’ll spend hours on Facebook! Yet that’s exactly what we do. Why?
In a world where information refreshes endlessly and the workday feels like a race to react to other people’s priorities faster, frazzled and distracted has become our default position. But what if the exhaustion of constant busyness wasn’t mandatory? What if you could step off the hamster wheel and start taking control of your time and attention? That’s what this book is about.
As creators of Google Ventures’ renowned “design sprint,” Jake and John have helped hundreds of teams solve important problems by changing how they work. Building on the success of these sprints and their experience designing ubiquitous tech products from Gmail to YouTube, they spent years experimenting with their own habits and routines, looking for ways to help people optimize their energy, focus, and time. Now they’ve packaged the most effective tactics into a four-step daily framework that anyone can use to systematically design their days. Make Time is not a one-size-fits-all formula. Instead, it offers a customizable menu of bite-size tips and strategies that can be tailored to individual habits and lifestyles.
Make Time isn’t about productivity, or checking off more to-dos. Nor does it propose unrealistic solutions like throwing out your smartphone or swearing off social media. Making time isn’t about radically overhauling your lifestyle; it’s about making small shifts in your environment to liberate yourself from constant busyness and distraction.
A must-read for anyone who has ever thought, If only there were more hours in the day…, Make Time will help you stop passively reacting to the demands of the modern world and start intentionally making time for the things that matter.
“If you want to achieve more (without going nuts), read this book.”—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
“Too often, we get bogged down in the demands of each day and struggle to find time for what really matters. In this powerful book, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky explain how small changes in the design of our days can give us more time for the people and activities that energize and fulfill us. Essential reading for anyone who wants to create a happier, more successful life. –Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies
“As someone obsessed with time and how to spend it wisely, I loved this fun and useful book. Not your normal productivity fare.” —Ev Williams, founder of Medium and Twitter
“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. It’s smart, entertaining, and packed with field-tested insights.” —Dan Heath, bestselling co-author of The Power of Moments and Switch
“Time is the single biggest ingredient for creative work. Time to focus, time to experiment, time to master creative skills. Make Time provides ways for each of us to find new reserves of that precious commodity. It is an excellent guidebook for taking control of the design of your life.” —Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and author of Change By Design
“Make Time is practical and engaging, offering tips on everything from designing your day to the benefits of cutting out cable news and eschewing plane Wi-Fi in favor of time away from work. Especially useful for me was the guidance on e-mail. It turns out that being slow to respond is a terrific way to take control of your time. (Sorry, colleagues.)” —Harvard Business Review
“In today’s fast-paced, technology-saturated world, readers are sure to glean insights from this powerful book.” —Booklist, starred review
Video and Podcast
Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview
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?
This is a book about slowing down the crazy rush. It’s about making time for things that matter. We believe it’s possible to feel less busy, be less distracted, and enjoy the present moment more. Maybe that sounds a little hippy-dippy, but we’re serious.
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 actually create more time in your day for the things you care about, whether that’s spending time with your family, learning a language, starting a side business, volunteering, writing a novel, or mastering Mario Kart. Whatever you want time for, we think Make Time can help you get it. Moment by moment and day by day, you can make your life your own.
We want to start by talking about why life is so busy and chaotic these days. And why, if you feel constantly stressed and distracted, it’s probably not your fault.
In the twenty-first century, two very powerful forces compete for every minute of your time. The first is what we call the Busy Bandwagon. The Busy Bandwagon is our culture of constant busyness—the overflowing inboxes, stuffed calendars, and endless to-do lists. According to the Busy Bandwagon mindset, 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.
The second force competing for your time is what we call the Infinity Pools. Infinity Pools are apps and other sources of endlessly replenishing content. If you can pull to refresh, it’s an Infinity Pool. If it streams, it’s an Infinity Pool. This always-available, always-new entertainment is your reward for the exhaustion of constant busyness.
But is constant busyness really mandatory? Is endless distraction really a reward? Or are we all just stuck on autopilot?
Most of Our Time Is Spent by Default
Both forces—the Busy Bandwagon and the Infinity Pools—are powerful because they’ve become our defaults. In technology lingo, default means the way something works when you first start using it. It’s a preselected option, and if you don’t do something to change it, that default is what you get. For example, if you buy a new phone, by default you get email and Web browser apps on the homescreen. By default, you get a notification for every new message. The phone has a default wallpaper image and a default ring tone. All these options have been preselected by Apple or Google or whoever made your phone; you can change the settings if you want to, but it takes work, so many defaults just stick.
There are defaults in nearly every part of our lives. It’s not just our devices; our workplaces and our culture have built-in defaults that make busy and distracted the normal, typical state of affairs. These standard settings are everywhere. Nobody ever looked at an empty calendar and said, “The best way to spend this time is to cram it full of random meetings!” Nobody ever said, “The most important thing today is everybody else’s whims!” Of course not. That would be crazy. But because of defaults, it’s exactly what we do. In the office, every meeting defaults to thirty or sixty minutes even if the business at hand actually requires only a quick chat. By default other people choose what goes on our calendars, and by default we’re expected to be okay with back-to-back-to-back meetings. The rest of our work defaults to email and messaging systems, and by default we check our inboxes constantly and reply-all immediately.
React to what’s in front of you. Be responsive. Fill your time, be efficient, and get more done. These are the default rules of the Busy Bandwagon.
When we tear ourselves away from the Busy Bandwagon, the Infinity Pools are ready to lure us in. 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.
Refresh Facebook. Browse YouTube. Keep up on the nonstop breaking news, play Candy Crush, binge-watch HBO. These are the defaults behind the ravenous Infinity Pools, devouring every scrap of time the Busy Bandwagon leaves behind. With the average person spending four-plus hours a day on their smartphone and another four-plus hours watching TV shows, distraction is quite literally a full-time job.
There you are in the middle, pulled in opposite directions by the Busy Bandwagon and the Infinity Pools. But what about you? What do you want from your days and from your life? What would happen if you could override these defaults and create your own?
Willpower isn’t the way out. We’ve tried to resist the siren song of these forces ourselves, and we know how impossible it can be. We also spent years working in the technology industry, and we understand these apps, games, and devices well enough to know that they eventually will wear you down.
Productivity isn’t the solution, either. We’ve tried to shave time off chores and cram in more to-dos. The trouble is, there are always more tasks and requests waiting to take their place. The faster you run on the hamster wheel, the faster it spins.
But there is a way to free your attention from those competing distractions and take back control of your time. That’s where this book comes in. 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.
We want to help you set your own defaults. 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.
The ideas in this book can give you space in your calendar, in your brain, and in your days. That space can bring clarity and calm to everyday life. It can create opportunities to start new hobbies or get to that “someday” project. A little space in your life might even unlock creative energy you lost or never found in the first place. But before we get into all of that, we’d like to explain who the heck we are, why we’re so obsessed with time and energy, and how we came up with Make Time.