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Make Time - Book summary

There are many books about productivity to help you do more in less time. However, instead of trying to cram more into each day, perhaps it’s time to fundamentally change the default way we work and live. This book by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky is about regaining control over your time and making time for the things you truly want to do. In this Make Time summary, you’ll learn the 4 simple but powerful steps to create time and space for what matters most to you.

Make Time: Introduction

Where has all the time gone?

People in the 21st century are perpetually busy because of 2 things: the “busy bandwagon” and “infinity pools”.

Make Time summary - busy bandwagon infinity pool

The Busy Bandwagon refers to the hectic culture of modern societies. We’re expected to respond quickly to everything, from an email to a new project. We keep trying to pack more into our schedule for fear of falling behind.

Whenever we get a breather, we’ll reach automatically for our phones and devices, only to get sucked into Infinity Pools. These refer to apps or platforms with an endless supply of interesting content, e.g. newsfeeds, social media and video games.

Caught between the Busy Bandwagon and Infinity Pool, we have no time by default. To regain control of your life, you must reset your default settings.

The authors (Jake and JZ) are product designers and self-proclaimed geeks who helped to build services like YouTube, Gmail, and Google Hangouts. Realizing how busy and distracted they were, they started to experiment with ways to make time for themselves, and to improve their focus and energy levels. Through their experiments, Jake finally found the time to start writing (something he’d wanted to do since young), while JZ finally started to live his dream of taking long sailing trips with his wife.

How to Make Time

The Make Time formula involves 4 daily steps: Highlight, Laser, Energize, and Reflect. These were inspired by design sprint principles (an innovation approach invented by Jake), the authors’ personal experiments and feedback from readers who tried the approach.

Make Time summary - 4 steps to make time
We’ll dive into these 4 steps with just 2-3sample tactics each below. Check out our complete 17-page Make Time summary, if you’d like to learn more details about the 4 steps along with tips for all 87 tactics.

The 4 Daily Steps to Make Time

You’ll naturally get in the zone when you (i) are doing something meaningful that you care about, (ii) have enough energy to focus, and (iii) can keep distractions at bay. That’s why all 4 components in the Make Time formula are crucial.

1. HIGHLIGHT: Start each day with 1 focal point

Doing more isn’t the same as doing what matters. Start by choosing 1 activity to prioritize for the day. Highlights are the bright spots that you look forward to each day. This is an activity, moment or achievement that you can savor when the day is over. It provides a focal point to keep you away from the Busy Bandwagon or the Infinity Pool.

You can choose your Highlight in one of 3 ways:
Urgency: Go for something that’s time-critical and must be completed that day. Ideally, the task should be mid-sized and important, e.g. sending a proposal to a customer, or helping your son to finish a school project.
Satisfaction: Choose something you want to do, not something you need to do. Ideally, look at projects or activities that are not urgent, because these are the ones you’re the most likely to defer indefinitely, e.g. researching your next vacation, or drafting the outline for a novel.
Joy: Go for something you feel like doing that day, e.g. going to the beach, learning a new song on the piano.

Here are 2 sample tactics for choosing your Highlights and making time for them:

Rank your life priorities and use it as a guide. List down 3-10 major priorities in your life (e.g. family, music, getting promoted). Choose the 1 most important thing (e.g. something that requires the most work, or something that you care about the most). Rank the other priorities and rewrite the list in order of priority, then circle out the top priority and use this list to guide your daily priorities.

• Don’t squeeze your Highlights into leftover pockets of time. Instead, block your calendar in advance. Indicate “Do Not Schedule” in your time blocks so others know that you’re occupied. Respect these appointments with yourself and turn down other requests during the same time. Start with 1-2 hours a day and adjust from there.

In our complete Make Time summary, you can learn a host of other tactics including the Burner List, Might-Do List, bull-dozing your calendar, etc.

2. LASER: Remove distractions and be laser-focused

This step is about blocking out distractions so you can work with laser-sharp focus for extended periods of time. One of the best ways to remove distractions is to make it hard or inconvenient to access them in the first place.

Here are 2 sample tactics to eliminate distractions:

Log out of your apps and websites every time. The hassle of entering your username and password will discourage you from accessing them unnecessarily.

• Each of us is susceptible to different distractions, e.g. Instagram, newsfeeds, email. Block your #1 distraction. Delete that app from your phone, log out each time, or at least turn it off during Laser time.

In our full Make Time summary, you can find many more tactics to regain control over your phone, stay out of infinity pools, slow down your emails/inbox, reduce TV time, get in flow and stay in flow.

3. ENERGIZE: Recharge your body and brain

Our body is like a battery. When your battery is flat, it’s hard to think clearly or resist Infinity Pools. When your battery is full, you feel sharp, alive and ready to take on the world. Recharge your body and brain throughout the day, so you have enough energy to stay disciplined and focused.

Here are 3 sample tactics to recharge your body and mind daily:

Exercise daily in moderation. Ideally, exercise for about 20mins a day. If that’s too ambitious, then just aim for whatever’s doable and celebrate every progress. Even exercising for 10mins 3-4x a week can make a difference!

Try intermittent fasting, e.g. have an early dinner, skip breakfast and have a big lunch, so you’ll go almost 16 hours without food.

• Create a conducive sleep environment. Gradually reduce the mental stimuli at the end of your work day so you can wind down. Ideally, keep all devices (including phones and TV) out of the bedroom. Use a physical alarm clock and read paper books/magazines. If you must read digital content, use a distraction-free device.

Get our complete Make Time summary for more tactics to keep moving, eat real food, use caffeine optimally, get off the grid, improve your sleep quality, and make human connections.

4. REFLECT: Adjust and improve your system

The tactics in the book came from the authors’ research and experiments. However, what worked for them may not work for you. This final step is about refining your strategies/tactics to suit your lifestyle and goals.

Use a few simple notes to reflect on your day and decide on the tactics to continue, refine or drop.

Conclusion and Other Details in “Make Time

Although the book includes 87 tactics, you don’t have to try all of them. The idea is just to choose any of the tactics, try them out and repeat the process in a pick-test-repeat cycle.
• Initially, just try 1 tactic for each of the 4 steps. Then, add new tactics or stick to the ones that work for you.
• Don’t worry about perfection. Just keep testing, changing and refining your system. You may also prefer different tactics for different situations (e.g. when you’re in office or traveling).

If you’re ready to start making time for what really matters to you, do get details for each of the 4 steps and 87 tactics from our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, a 17-page text summary, and a 26-minute audio summary.

Make Time summary - book summary bundleThis a fun, humorous book packed with illustrations, personal snippets and anecdotes, including the authors’ own experiments and experiences. The book also includes sample templates, reading lists and extracts from Jake/JZ’s typical day. You can purchase the book here or visit for more details/tips.

Looking for more productivity tips?  Check out the summaries for Get in the Go Zone and The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.

About the Authors of  Make Time

Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day is written by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky.

Jake Knapp is an American author and designer. He spent 10 years at Google and Google Ventures, where he invented the Design Sprint process. Jake also co-founded Google Meet and helped to build products like Gmail and Microsoft Encarta. He has written two books, Sprint and Make Time, and coaches teams on design strategy and time management. For more details, visit

John Zeratsky is an investor, designer, speaker, author and co-founder of seed VC firm Character. He was a designer for nearly 15 years, working with technology companies including YouTube and Google Ventures. He co-authored 2 bestselling books (Sprint and Make Time), wrote for several publications (e..g The Wall Street Journal, TIME, Harvard Business Review, Wired), spoke at various events and gave guest lectures several universities. For more details, visit

Make Time Quotes

“You only waste time if you’re not intentional about how you spend it.”

“Most to-dos are just reactions to other people’s priorities, not yours.”

“Reacting to what’s in front of you is always easier than doing what you intend.”

“Notifications are not your friends. They’re nonstop attention thieves.”

“Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” —Howard Thurman

Click here to download the Make Time summary & infographic

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