Book Summary — Make time

Yannawut Kimnaruk
14 min readJan 16, 2023


Make Time book cover

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Repeat 4 steps every day: Highlight → Laser + Energize → Reflect.
  2. Try to have a highlight every day instead of clearing a to-do list.
  3. Several tips are given to try out.

🎨 Impressions

For someone who likes productivity like me, this book shifted my perspective on how to spend time. I try to make time to do what is important to me instead of chasing an unfulfilled goal.

📒 Summary + Notes


Make Time is not about productivity. Instead, it’s a framework designed to create more time in your day for the things you care about.

Life is so busy and chaotic these days due to 2 very powerful forces:
1. Busy Bandwagon is our culture of constant busyness
2. Infinity Pools are apps and other sources of endlessly replenishing content such as Facebook, and Youtube.

While the Busy Bandwagon defaults to endless tasks, the Infinity Pools default to endless distractions. Moreover, productivity isn’t the solution, there are always more tasks and requests waiting to take their place.

Make Time Framework will help you set your own defaults with new habits and new mindsets. This framework was inspired by the Design Sprint Laboratory at Google.

Make Time Is Just 4 Steps that repeated every day

Make Time Framework

The first step is choosing a single highlight to prioritize in your day. Next, you’ll employ specific tactics to stay laser-focused which require energy building for your body and brain. Finally, you reflect on the day to adjust and improve your system.

There are several tactics that will be proposed in the following section for you to try. However, you should try 1 tactic from each step each day. Forget the idea of perfection since it is a continuous improvement process. Try to make these tactics part of your normal life.

⭐ Highlight

Doing more doesn’t help you create time for what matters. You should slow down, and actually experience the moments you want to savor.

I was happiest when I had something I could hold on to in the present — a chunk of time that was bigger than a to-do but smaller than a five-year goal. An activity I could plan for, look forward to, and appreciate when it was done. In other words, I needed to make sure every day had a highlight.

Begin each day by thinking about what you hope will be the bright spot. You can design your time by choosing what you pay attention to. Your daily Highlight is the target of that attention.

3 Ways to Pick Your Highlight

Start by asking yourself a question:
“What do I want to be the highlight of my day?

There are 3 different criteria to choose our Highlight.

1. Urgency
“What’s the most pressing thing I have to do today?”

2. Satisfaction
“What do you want to get done?”

They’re important, they are not time-sensitive, and that makes them easy to postpone. Use your Highlight to break the “someday” cycle.

3. Joy
Doing some things just because you like doing them.

The best way to choose a Highlight is to trust your gut.
Choose a Highlight that takes 60–90 minutes.


Choose Your Highlight

  1. Write It Down
    The things you write down are more likely to happen.
  2. Groundhog It (or, “Do Yesterday Again”) → Repete your highlight
    Repeat for a second chance
    Repeat to build momentum
    Repeat to create a habit
    Repeat to keep the good times rolling
  3. Stack Rank Your Life
    List 3–10 big things that matter in your life and choose only 1 most important thing. Write this again in but order by priority and circle the first one. You can use this list to help you choose your highlight. You can reshuffle this list when you want to.
  4. Batch the Little Stuff
    Bundle up the small tasks and use batch processing to get them all done in one Highlight session.
  5. The Might-Do List
    Projects sit on your Might-Do List until you decide to make them your Highlight and schedule them on your calendar.
  6. The Burner List
Example of a burner list

Divide a sheet of paper into two columns. Have only one project, activity, or objective on the front burner. Then, list the to-dos for that top project. Put your second most important project on the back burner. About halfway down the right-hand column, list any miscellaneous tasks that you need to do but that doesn’t fit with the first 2 projects.

7. Run a Personal Sprint
You’ll do better work and make faster progress if you keep at it for consecutive days. Just choose the same Highlight for several days in a row. You can break it up into steps for each day if you need to.

Make Time for Your Highlight Tactics

8. Schedule Your Highlight
Put your Highlight on the calendar.

9. Block Your Calendar
Use daily “do not schedule” blocks to make room for your Highlight.

Don’t be greedy. It’s good to leave unblocked space for opportunities. Treat these blocks like important meetings.

10. Bulldoze Your Calendar
Try to compress one meeting by fifteen minutes and another by thirty to have more time.

11. Flake It Till You Make It
Ask yourself what you can cancel.

12. Just Say No

13. Design Your Day
A completely planned day provides the freedom to focus on the moment. Instead of thinking about what to do next.

14. Become a Morning Person
That early hour is a couple of “free” hours. Design how much sleep you need. Pay attention to how food and drink affect your sleep.

Becoming a morning person is not for everyone. Some people will have more success making time at night.

15. Nighttime Is Highlight Time
Use nighttime to plan your highlight

16. Quit When You’re Done
End each day before feeling exhausted. You can find a perfect time of day to stop work or use your highlight as quitting time approaches.

🔦 Laser

When you’re in Laser mode, your attention is focused on the present. Distraction is the enemy of Laser mode. Willpower alone is not enough to protect your focus.

You can’t wait for companies or government regulators to give your focus back. If you want to control, you have to redesign your own relationship with technology.

Create Barriers to Distraction

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

Jake Knapp. Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day (Kindle Location 1163). Kindle Edition. You’ll go from distracted to focused, from reactive to intentional, and from overwhelmed to in control. It’s all about creating a little inconvenience. There’s a switching cost. Your brain has to load a different set of rules and information into working memory.

It’s like compound interest. The longer you remain focused on your Highlight, the more engaging you’ll find it and the better work (or play) you’ll do.

Short focus time
Long focus time

It’s the fear of missing out — FOMO. If you change your priorities, people will notice. Your actions show others what’s important to you. You’ll give them permission to question their own “always on” default and step away from their own Infinity Pools. You’re also setting a good example for the people around you.


Be the Boss of Your Phone

17. Try a Distraction-Free Phone
Removing email and other Infinity Pool apps like social apps, and streaming apps from your phones

18. Log Out
When you’re done using email, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever, log out.

Jake Knapp. Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day (Kindle Locations 1255–1256). Kindle Edition.

19. Nix Notifications
Notifications are not your friends. They’re nonstop attention thieves. Leave only the really critical and useful ones enabled,

20. Clear Your Homescreen
Try making your home screen blank. Move all the icons to the next screen over.

21. Wear a Wristwatch
A wristwatch replaces the need to check your phone whenever you want to know the time.

22. Leave Devices Behind
Make time for an “offline”. Put your phone in a place you can’t see it.

Stay Out of Infinity Pools

23. Skip the Morning Check-In
When you wake up in the morning, your brain is rested. Don’t reach out for email, Twitter, Facebook, or the news right away.

24. Block Distraction Kryptonite
One especially powerful Infinity Pool we just can’t resist. We call it “distraction Kryptonite.”. Try to remove it from your life.

25. Ignore the News
Suggest reading the news weekly. True breaking news will find you; the rest isn’t urgent or doesn’t matter.

26. Put Your Toys Away
Signing out of apps like Twitter and Facebook, closing extra tabs, and turning off email and chat at the end of each day. Like a well-behaved kid, clean up after yourself when you’re done.

27. Fly Without Wi-Fi
airplane cabin can be the perfect opportunity to read, write, knit, think, or just be bored — in a good way. if your airplane has Wi-Fi, don’t pay for it.

28. Put a Timer on the Internet
When it’s time to get into Laser mode, try turning the Internet off. you can cut off your Wi-Fi or find browser extensions and other apps to limit your time on specific sites

29. Cancel the Internet
Doesn’t have home Internet service at all. That’s

30. Watch Out for Time Craters
Small distractions create much larger holes in our day. We call these holes “time craters”. A tiny tweet can easily smash a thirty-minute crater in your day.

31. Trade Fake Wins for Real Wins
Fake wins are like sharing tweets, Facebook updates, and Instagram photos. Your Highlight is the real win.

32. Turn Distractions into Tools
There’s some real utility and purpose for every Infinity Pool app. The trick is to use them purposefully, not mindlessly.

33. Become a Fair-Weather Fan
Watch sports games only on special occasions.

Slow Your Inbox

34. Deal with Email at the End of the Day
Instead of checking your email first thing in the morning and then getting sucked in and reacting to other people’s priorities, deal with email at the end of the day. That way, you can use your prime hours for your Highlight and other important work.

35. Schedule Email Time
add “email time” to your calendar.

36. Empty Your Inbox Once a Week

37. Pretend Messages Are Letters
Most letters sit on your desk for a while before you do anything about them.

38. Be Slow to Respond
Respond slowly to emails, chats, texts, and other messages. Try to answer in batch. If their thing is really and truly urgent and important, they will track you down in person or on the phone.

39. Reset Expectations
You may need to manage the expectations of your colleagues and others. You could say something like “I’m slow to respond because I need to prioritize some important projects, but if your message is urgent, send me a text.”

40. Set Up Send-Only Email
Although not receiving email on your phone is wonderful, sometimes it’s still useful to have the ability to send an email.

41. Vacation Off the Grid
When you go on vacation, tell your colleagues that you are off the grid and will not reply to an email.

42. Lock Yourself Out
An app called Freedom can schedule times to lock you out of email.

Make TV a “Sometimes Treat”

43. Don’t Watch the News and read the news instead.

44. Put Your TV in the Corner

45. Ditch Your TV for a Projector
Make it harder to watch TV.

46. Go à la Carte Instead of All-You-Can-Eat
Try canceling cable, and Netflix and instead rent or buy movies and episodes one at a time.

47. If You Love Something, Set It Free
Get extreme by not watching TV for 1 month.

Find Flow

48. Shut the Door

49. Invent a Deadline
you can simply tell a friend what your Highlight is today and ask them to hold you accountable for getting it done.

50. Explode Your Highlight
try breaking your Highlight into a list of small, easy-to-do bits. Each item includes a verb. specific, small, and relatively easy.

51. Play a Laser Sound Track
Use music as your cue for Laser mode. Try playing the same songs every time you start your Highlight.

52. Set a Visible Timer

53. Avoid the Lure of Fancy Tools
It’s easier to get into Laser mode when you adopt simple tools that are readily available.

54. Start on Paper
Turn off our laptops and use pens and paper instead. Paper improves focus and is less intimidating.

Stay in the Zone
Getting into Laser mode is only half the battle — you have to stay in the zone and maintain attention on your Highlight.

55. Make a “Random Question” List
When you have pop-up questions during laser time, write them down and deal with them later after finishing your highlight.

56. Notice One Breath

57. Be Bored
Boredom gives your mind a chance to wander, and wandering often leads you to interesting places.

58. Be Stuck
When you’re stuck, you know exactly what you want to do — your brain just isn’t sure how to proceed. Don’t give up. Stare at the blank screen, switch to paper, or walk around, but keep your focus on the project at hand.

59. Take a Day Off
Try taking real breaks throughout the day and switching to a joyful Highlight that’ll help you recharge.

60. Go All In
Wholeheartedness is complete commitment, holding nothing back. Throwing yourself into the moment with enthusiasm and sincerity. Wholeheartedness is fundamental to this book.


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.

Imagine you’ve got a battery inside you. When your battery is empty, you’re totally exhausted. This is when you’re most likely to get distracted by Infinity Pools.

The secret sauce is Energize. If you have energy, it’s easier to maintain your focus and priorities and avoid reacting to distractions and demands. When you don’t take care of your body, your brain can’t do its job.

Homo sapiens evolved to be hunter-gatherers, not screen tappers and pencil pushers. The key is to act like a caveman to build energy including keeping it moving, eating real food, optimizing caffeine, going off the grid, making it personal, and sleeping in a cave.


Keep It Moving

61. Exercise Every Day (but Don’t Be a Hero)
Exercise for about twenty minutes every day.

62. Pound the Pavement
Walking helps you lose weight, avoid heart disease, reduce the risk of cancer, lower blood pressure, strengthen bones, and improve your mood. A daily walk doesn’t have to be “one more thing to do.”

Try substituting walking for your usual mode of transportation. If you change the default from “ride when possible” to “walk when possible,” you’ll see opportunities everywhere.

63. Inconvenience Yourself
Reset your default from “convenient” to “energizing,”

64. Squeeze in a Super Short Workout
High-intensity interval training.

Eat Real Food

65. Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants and nonprocessed ingredients

66. Central Park Your Plate
Put the salad on your plate first, then add everything else around it.

67. Stay Hungry (Fasting)

68. Snack Like a Toddler
Choose high-quality snacks and snacks when your body and brain need them.

69. Go on the Dark Chocolate Plan
Avoiding sugary treats is a great way to keep your energy up. Eating dark chocolate is fine.

Optimize Caffeine

Caffeine molecules look a lot like a molecule called adenosine, whose job is to tell the brain to slow down and feel sleepy or groggy. The caffeine binds to the receptors where the adenosine is supposed to go. The adenosine is left to just float around, and as a result, the brain doesn’t get the sleepy signal.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula. Every person processes and reacts to caffeine in a slightly different way.

70. Wake Up Before You Caffeinate
Cortisol is highest between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., so for ideal morning energy, experiment with having that first cup of coffee at 9:30 a.m.

71. Caffeinate Before You Crash
If you wait to drink it until you get tired, it’s too late. Think about when your energy regularly dips and have coffee thirty minutes beforehand.

72. Take a Caffeine Nap
Wait till you get tired, drink some caffeine, then immediately take a fifteen-minute nap.

73. Maintain Altitude with Green Tea
Try replacing high doses of caffeine with more frequent low doses. Green tea is a great option.

74. Turbo Your Highlight
Time your caffeine intake so that you’re wired right when you start your Highlight.

75. Learn Your Last Call
You’ve got to experiment to figure out your own unique “Last Call for Caffeine” when you can still fall asleep easily.

76. Disconnect Sugar
Separating the caffeine from the sweets.

Go Off the Grid

77. Get Woodsy
A little exposure to nature can make you measurably calmer and sharper.

78. Trick Yourself into Meditating
The benefits of meditation are well documented. It reduces stress. It increases happiness. It recharges your brain and boosts focus. It is also exercised for your brain.

79. Leave Your Headphones at Home
if you put on headphones every time, your brain never gets any quiet.

80. Take Real Breaks
Try to take breaks without screens and try to move your body.

Make It Personal

81. Spend Time with Your Tribe
Spending time with people face-to-face can be a big energy booster. Know a few people who give us energy most times we talk to them.

82. Eat Without Screens

Sleep in a Cave

83. Make Your Bedroom a Bed Room
Remove all electronic devices from your bedroom.

84. Fake the Sunset
When we see a bright light, our brains think, “It’s morning. Time to wake up!”. You should avoid looking at your phone or laptop in bed.

85. Sneak a Nap
Napping makes you smarter.

86. Don’t Jet-Lag Yourself
Sleeping late on weekends is basically like giving yourself jet lag: It confuses your internal clock and makes it even harder to bounce back from the original deficit.

87. Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
The tactics in this section are all meant to give you the energy to make time for the things that matter. If you’re caring for a loved one, what could matter more?


Fine-Tune Your Days with the Scientific Method:
Observe → Guess → Experiment → Measure

The tactics in this book are eighty-seven experiments for testing these hypotheses. You need to measure the data.

Take notes to track your results. Every day you’ll 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.

Reflection note

After a few days of taking notes, you’ll find yourself more aware of your energy and attention throughout the day and more in control of where you direct it.

Perfection is not the goal and you can restart your experiments at any time. The goal is to make time for what matters, find more balance, and enjoy today a little more.