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About Make Time
On the shelves of bookstores, there are hundreds of guides to help you increase productivity, improve time management or get a grip on digital life. These are usually the books I like to throw myself into. At the same time, they suggest to me that there is always something to improve in my already very structured life, so that the already much too hot running engine makes a few more revolutions.
The problem with these books, whose authors certainly mean well with you in principle, is that with the time you have gained, you do exactly the opposite of what you actually read them for. You wanted to be more productive, so that you have more time for yourself, your hobbies or your family. The bottom line is that you simply put more tasks into your planner because you know you are super-productive.
That’s why I was surprised when I got my hands on the book Make Time. I had seen the title in the bestseller lists several times before and although it interested me from the beginning, I postponed the purchase for almost a year, because other topics had just kept me more busy.
To anticipate it: …it’s one of the best and most endearing books I’ve read. Both authors, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, talk about themselves with a lot of self-irony and they take you on a journey of self-awareness about how they gained more time.
About the authors
Jake spent 10 years at Google and Google Ventures where he developed the design sprint process. He has written two books, Sprint and Make Time, and has trained teams in places like Slack, LEGO, IDEO and NASA on design strategy and time management. He was a guest lecturer at MIT and Harvard Business School.
Previously, Jake helped co-found Google Meet and developed products like Gmail and Microsoft Encarta.
He is considered one of the greatest designers in the world.
Jake grew up in Seattle and now lives with his wife Holly and two sons, Luke and Flynn.
John spent 15 years in the technology industry, responsible for design, web development and copywriting.
He was instrumental in building YouTube channels and as a design partner at Google Ventures, he created the design sprint process with Jake.
He is a corporate speaker and moderator and his articles are published in newspapers and magazines such as the Wall Street Journal.
From 2017-2019 he lived with his wife on board their sailboat and travelled the coasts of Central America and in a big “U” from California to Florida.
About the special thing about the book
While in other guidebooks you always have the feeling that you have to do even more, optimize even more and get a better grip on yourself, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky take a step back and advise you not to take everything so seriously. Life is complicated enough as it is, it doesn’t have to be made more complicated by yourself (and by tasks you set yourself). You have not achieved what you set out to do today? OK – tomorrow is a new day. Try again tomorrow.
With self-irony and a lot of humour, the two authors tell about your experiments, which you started in order to get more time. The tips in Make Time don’t give you twenty-fifth hour, or more time to get more done, but they do give you the chance to do more. More time to plan and prioritize the things that are important to you. Want more time to play a computer game that’s important to you? Do it – if that’s what you need at this moment, it can’t be that wrong.
Numerous self-help experts have made suggestions for long-term goals and numerous productivity gurus have also developed systems to get things done even faster. The space in between, that of long-term planning and daily tasks, is often neglected. This missing element is called the highlight.
Jake and JC (as John is called in the book) ask us to start each day by thinking about what personal highlight is today. At the end of the day, if someone asks you, “What was your personal highlight today,” what do you want to answer? When you look back on the past day, what activity, achievement or moment do you want to savour. That is your highlight.
Highlights can be selected with different methods:
Urgency What is the task that needs to be done most urgently? So if something needs to be completed on a particular day, you can make it your highlight.
Satisfaction Which highlight gives you the greatest satisfaction at the end of the day? While the first strategy focuses on what needs to be done most urgently, the second strategy calls on you to focus on what you want to do most. These can be activities that are not urgent, but for which you somehow never found time: An offer for a new work project that you are looking forward to, a research about the next destination with your family, the next chapter of your novel that you want to write.
Joy When you think about today, which task gives me the greatest pleasure? Not every hour must be planned to the optimum and used with maximum efficiency. Reading a good book, visiting friends and romping around the playground with your child. This can also be your highlight.
But how do you choose your personal highlight for a day? Trust your instincts. A good rule, however, is to choose a task that takes one to one and a half hours. Less than an hour will probably not get you in the flow (that’s the point where you can fully focus on your highlight) and not longer, because otherwise your concentration will drop again.
It is best to write down your daily highlight the evening before. This could be apps, sticky notes or notebooks. It is important that you make a contract with yourself, that you try to reach your set highlight the next day.
Besides the daily highlight, you should also set a handful of priorities. It is quite possible that you may have to interrupt your highlight because you are waiting for feedback or additional information. Use the time in between to work on your priorities.
Take your time
For your daily highlight you have to make time for yourself. Schedule the highlight and block the appropriate time in your calendar. If this is not possible, try to compress appointments (shorten or combine several appointments) or cancel an appointment in an emergency. Do you really have to be present everywhere? You are not the center of the world and others can do your tasks too.
Laser focus mode
After you have chosen a highlight for today and entered it in your diary, the time has come and you have to concentrate. However, this can be very difficult if there are disturbances waiting for you in every corner. Laser focus mode refers to a state of mind that focuses your attention like a laser on the present moment.
Distractions can be caused by the so-called Infinity Loops. Our smartphones, laptops and TVs are filled with games, social feeds and videos. And with every minute, the pool is updated and refilled. It never gets empty. According to a 2016 study conducted by a company called Dscout, people touch their smartphone an average of 2,617 times a day. You see – distraction is the new standard.
Don’t wait for technology to give you your time back. Technology companies make money from using your products.
How you can use this book
The book contains almost 90 valuable tips and advice. Some are more to your liking, some less. Start with a few that appeal to you. Test them, and reflect on them after a week or two. Do you find it easy to incorporate them into your day? Then incorporate them into your routine. Or do you find a task difficult or you have to expend a lot of energy to accomplish it? Then cross it off your list again and move on to the next tip.
Start small. You don’t have to revolutionize everything from the beginning.
In addition to many, many pages of helpful strategies, I would now like to present my personal bestseller list. These should help you get into laser beam mode.
- Block your appointment calendar (9) Plan your daily high dress in your appointment calendar. Postpone appointments, or cancel them if necessary (you will see that you can be dispensable – isn’t that nice?). Just block time in your calendar every day to make room for your highlight. Play on attack, not defense. By this I mean that you don’t block time in advance in order to ward off possible appointment requests from your colleagues. Deliberately block time for a specific project and transform the time block into energetic time or time for your highlight. But do not overdo it. Do not plan your calendar completely. It is good to leave room for other things. Take your time blockers seriously. If you don’t take this commitment seriously, no one else will either. Treat it like an important meeting, and if others try to schedule you for other activities during this time, think of a simple and effective answer: “I’m already scheduled.
- Distraction-free smartphone (17) What sounds hard at first has turned out to be a real boon after the first week. The distraction-free smartphone has no (or only the most important) news services, only telephone. No e-mail. Unnecessary programs (Infinity Pool) are uninstalled, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Messages etc. In case of emergency, activate certain messaging apps only for certain people (family members). You will see that you will no longer sit in front of your smartphone in the evening and receive meaningless messages from complete strangers. It is better to plan a time window of 15 minutes twice a day. In this time window you can check mails, social media etc. without having to have a bad conscience.
- Do not log in in the morning (23) Ideally, you have planned your day the day before or the evening before. You have determined your highlight and priorities. The day is young, your brain is rested and there is no reason to be distracted – no new tasks and no new professional emails. Enjoy this moment and resist the temptation to throw yourself into the Infinity Pool.
- Answer emails at the end of the day (34) A slowed down e-mail traffic is one of the most effective ways to reduce your stress. Because email is an infinity pool, something that never stops, the benefits of less email exposure go far beyond laser beam mode. If you check your inbox less often (try checking it twice a day), you will be less stressed and still be up to date. Researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Kostadin Kushlev said “Being less busy with email may have the same stress-reducing effect as if you were to imagine swimming in the warm waters of a tropical island several times a day “ In addition, studies have shown that participants became more efficient if they checked their email less often. By reducing their email frequency, they gained measurable time! (about 20% faster).
- Go for a walk (62) Reports from Harvard and the Mayo Clinic show that walking helps you lose weight, prevents heart disease, reduces the risk of cancer, lowers blood pressure, strengthens bones and improves your mood by releasing endorphins. Walking is practically a miracle drug. Walking also helps you gain time for reflection, daydreaming or meditation.
- Wake up first before you ingest caffeine (70) Your body naturally produces a lot of cortisol in the morning. This is a hormone that helps you wake up. If your cortisol levels are already high anyway, caffeine does not have much extra effect. For an ideal morning energy level, try to have your first cup of coffee around 09:30
- Learn when to drink your last coffee (75) What most people (including me) probably don’t know is that the half-life of caffeine is five to six hours. So if you drink coffee at 16:00, the half is only broken down around 21:00 or 22:00. The other half is still in the blood. But even a little caffeine can block a few adenosine receptors (molecules that have the function of telling the brain to slow down its activity and make you feel tired and listless) for many hours, and for many hours after you have drunk your last coffee. This will most likely cause sleep disorders and affect your energy the next day. A good time for your last coffee would therefore be between 13:00 and 14:00.
- Enjoy the outdoors (77) Studies show that even a short walk in the forest reduces stress, slows down the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. The author Cal Newport describes this in his book “Concentrated Work”: “When you are outdoors, you are freed from focusing your attention on anything specific, as there are hardly any challenges to overcome (for example, crossing a busy road), but you receive enough interesting stimuli that take up your attention without having to actively focus your attention on a specific goal. This state enables you to replenish your resources for targeted concentration. “
- Leave the headphones at home (79) Headphones give everyone the power to dive into their own universe at any time and any place. We spend a large part of modern life with headphones – but if you listen to anything at work, during sports, on the way to work or when you go for a walk, your brain never comes to rest. Take a break. Leave the headphones at home. An occasional headphone-free day is an easy way to get the day off and give your brain a chance to recharge.
- Simulate the sunset (84) When we see bright light, our brains signalize: “It is morning. Time to wake up.” It’s a genetically programmed response. Early man fell asleep when it got dark and woke up when the sun came up. The natural daylight cycle helped regulate sleep and energy. However, this is a problem for modern people. With our screens and light bulbs we simulate daylight until the moment we go to bed. For our brain it’s something like: “It’s day, it’s day, it’s day – FLUSH, AND NOW IT’S NIGHT, INTO BED! No wonder we can’t sleep. So start dimming the lights in time and switch to “night mode” on your computers. If you are a morning person, start the day by letting the night go by. Raise the blinds and take part in the sunrise.
That was just a small part of a really excellent book that I would like to recommend to everyone.
Here are a few more sources and information:
Make Time web site: https://maketime.blog/