Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day

Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day
Author: Jake Knapp
Publisher: Currency
Published: 9/25/2018
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.

Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day

Key Takeaways

Wouldn’t it be great if you had some extra time every day? You could spend an extra hour doing something productive, sleeping, or just relaxing. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to give you that extra hour (we would if we could!). However, creating extra time in your schedule is possible, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Let's face it: if the solution to better time management was as simple as more discipline and fewer distractions, we would all be able to do it. Luckily, with John Knapp’s Make Time, you can learn how to master your schedule and be more productive. Read on to learn his most useful tips: including how to work with your brains hardwiring to increase energy, tips for preventing caffeine slumps, and how to resist the lure of time-wasting applications like Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Ever noticed that it seems like in some applications, you can scroll infinitely and there will always be more content to distract you? These applications can take up huge amounts of time. The author calls these sorts of distractions Infinity Pools because they deliver seemingly infinite content - and consequently can waste infinite amounts of time. Research shows people will often spend 4 hours or more per day on distractions like phone applications. That’s a lot of time! Infinity Pools often combine with another problem for those wanting to make the most of their time: The Busy Bandwagon. The Busy Bandwagon is the tendency of most modern folks to keep attempting to complete tasks that are seemingly never completed. Having a to-do list is an example of this phenomenon. You’ll be chipping away at your list of tasks, and once you finally accomplish all of the ones on your list, you get another task. It's a never-ending cycle. The most aggravating part? Usually, these items aren’t anything you’d chose to do, they’re tasks you must accomplish for other people. And as you’re doing these things for others, you abandon the projects and ideas that actually mean something to you. The exhaustion and stress of the Busy Bandwagon lead you back to Infinity Pools for some relief and distraction. You might think a little self-discipline should be enough to help you get over distractions that cause you to fall into infinity pools. However...

Applications that suck you in and distract you are expertly designed to be that way. They play into how our brains have always been hardwired: what was useful to us in prehistoric times is being manipulated by these applications. Innate tendencies like our reactivity to a sudden noise, the draw of an unpredictable reward, or our desire to feel connection can be manipulated to make you obsessed with an application or game. This is why self-discipline can be so hard to muster in situations where you are faced with your favorite time-waster: your biology is being played upon. Ok, this all sounds like a total nightmare, right? If it's so deeply hardwired, how can we stop? Well, there is an answer: becoming conscious.

Think about when you get an alert on your phone. Do you check it instantly? If so, that’s perfectly normal. Biologically, it is innate to automatically respond to our environment. However, if you are immediately and unconsciously responding to every notification, you’re not making a conscious choice to engage anymore. Just like with infinity pools and the busy bandwagon, you’re not making a choice, you’re being sucked in unwillingly. You can escape these distractions by becoming conscious. This consciousness is not just about how often you’re on your phone, or whether or not you’re working on your to-do list, but it's about being more intentional about the way you live your life. There are four steps to help gain a higher consciousness (and stop wasting time!): highlight, focus, energize, and reflect.

Let's start with highlighting. Most of us have been asked at the end of a long day what the highlight or best part was. This is similar, but instead of thinking retroactively about your day, determine at the beginning of the day what you want your highlight to be. The highlight can be a daily goal that feeds into a larger, long term goal or any number of things, it is up to you. Before you engage in your activities of the day, think about what you want your highlight to be. Choosing a highlight seems simple, but can be a bit complex in practice. So, how do you choose a highlight? There are three types: important, meaningful, and joyful. For the first approach, ask: “What do I absolutely need to get done today?”. For the second approach, ask, “What will make me feel most satisfied today?”, and for the third, ask, “What will bring me the most joy today?”. Oh, and try to choose something that takes 60-90 minutes. If you’re still stuck on a highlight, making a list of tasks you need to accomplish can help. Rank them by importance and choose the most important one. You can also repeat yesterday’s highlight, combine a bunch of tasks into one highlight, or string a large project into a multi-day highlight. It is up to you!

One key aspect of accomplishing your highlight is to make sure you have time to do it. This means being intentional about your schedule. If you’d like to make time for yourself at the end of the day, you’ll have to resist sleeping in late or scrolling through Facebook late into the night. To make more time in the morning, go to bed earlier by darkening your environment before bed and putting all of your devices on night mode. To become a more productive night owl, set aside time to work, and make sure to log off those social media sites!

To accomplish your highlight, you’ll need to get to the second item: focus. In order to do this, there are many ways you can eliminate distractions. For instance, logging out of your social media accounts can be a good first move: it prevents mindless scrolling. You can also delete distracting applications off of your phone: Facebook, Twitter, and even your email application can be eliminated to increase focus. You can also write down questions for google on a piece of paper instead of immediately googling, preventing you from googling, then getting distracted multiple times a day. Also: there’s no need to keep up with the news on an hourly basis. Check-in once a week and save yourself some time.

Now, as far as energizing goes, taking care of your body is essential. Our system of barely sleeping, sitting around, eating processed food, and staring at screens isn’t much like the environment we evolved from, or one that makes us most happy and productive. There is a significant connection between your mind and your body: utilize this knowledge to give yourself more energy. To fully take care of ourselves, we need exercise, connection, a healthy diet, and sleep. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated: sometimes a 7-minute burst of pushups can be sufficient. If you’ve got a bit more time, 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day has been shown to increase intellect, health, and happiness. As far as diet, focus on eating good food in moderation. Eat plants, meats, nuts, and fish. Oh, and avoid pesky caffeine crashes by re-caffeinating 30 minutes before you crash, usually after lunch. As tempting as it may be, don’t catch up on sleep: stick to a sleep schedule. Finally, for social connection, spend time with people who lift your spirits, and do things like exercise or eat healthy if you want to knock some things off of your to-do list!

Now, take time to reflect. Take a few of your newly available moments at the end of each day to think about your highlight, what tactics you used to make it happen, what worked, and what didn’t. You can also keep score of your focus and energy levels by rating them on a scale of 1-10. This can help you better understand what methods work for you, and which don’t. Following the steps outlined here can lead to great things. One person followed these steps, and realized that his job at Google just wasn’t cutting itt: and he pursued a meaningful career writing. Another guy went from working at YouTube to spending most of his time sailing. Where could your adventures take you? Now you’ll finally have the time to find out!


Wouldn’t it be great if you had some extra time every day? With John Knapp’s Make Time, you can learn how to master your schedule and be more productive with the time you DO have. Read on to learn his most useful tips, including how to work with your brains hardwiring to increase energy, tips for preventing caffeine slumps, and how to resist the lure of time-wasting applications like Facebook, Twitter, and more.


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