Anant Jain

Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day

Book Review

This latest book by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky is not your normal bag of productivity tips and tricks to help you get more done in the office. It’s about “making time” for things that truly matter to you — like being fully present around your children, or writing that book you’ve always wanted to. It’s about distilling focus across all your activities so that you can live a fuller life.

As is usually the case with these kind of books, it’s somewhat possible to summarize them with one diagram:


  • Highlight: Set a single intention at the start of each day. You’ll be more satisfied, joyful and effective. The highlight should take 60–90 minutes and will define your day. Of course, it’s not the only thing you’ll do over your day, but it’s the most important one.
  • Laser: Instead of relying on your willpower, create real, physical barriers around distractions to focus your attention like a laser beam on your highlight. Delete all the social apps from your phone.
  • Energize: Living a little more like prehistoric humans will enhance your mental and physical energy. Humans have been around for 200,000 years. Nothing much happened for 188,000 of those years — and suddenly, our hunter-gatherer bodies now find themselves stuck in front of a screen all day. Go with the flow of your DNA — move your body, talk to people, eat clean food and less sugar.
  • Reflect: Lastly, treat each of the 87 tactics in this book as a small scientific experiment on yourself, and reflect at the end of the day on what worked and what didn’t.

There are a lot of tactics in this book, and to be honest, if you’re into productivity, health, and fitness like me, you would be aware of a majority of them. So I’ll list down five of my favorites that I incorporated into my life after reading this book — either because they were new to me, or because I had put them off far too long.

  1. Choose a Highlight: I used to list down tasks that I wanted to get around during the day, but I now realize it’s better to pick a moderately sized project as the highlight and devote all my focus to it till it gets done.
  2. The Distraction-free phone: I’ve logged out of Instagram, Email, Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp from my phone. These were my biggest time sinks. It’s not like I’m cutting off from rest of the world — my friends can still reach me via iMessage or Messenger. And if I really want to share something, these apps make it really easy to log back in again. The point is that once I launch the app, the login screen reminds me that I shouldn’t be sinking my time in this Infinity Pool, so I can get back to work. And, for those rare instances when you need something to burn time because you’re stuck somewhere, I can read the Kindle app instead of the news.
  3. Set A Visible Timer: I’ve had a Time Timer for a long time, but I’ve started using it to time-box my tasks a lot more often.
  4. Slow Your Inbox: I used to clear my inbox first thing in my morning. I don’t know why, but I know I shoud’ve known better. I’m now enforcing the discipline much more ruthlessly and moving to the habit of looking at it only as the last thing in the evenings when the energy levels are low.
  5. Don’t Jet-Lag Yourself: I tend to be an early riser and sleep early over the weekdays. But I also tend to stay up till late on the weekends — by Sunday evening, I can usually feel this jet-lag, and I’m now actively making sure that I sleep around the same time across the entire week.

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky created the Sprint process for solving problems by building prototypes and user-testing them over a span of five days. Their other book, Sprint, is almost a required reading for everyone in the tech industry — from the executives to the engineers (the UX Designers never get tired of recommending it.) I was quite pleased to find out earlier this year the duo was now working on another book — this time on productivity, which happens to be another favorite topic of mine. Make Time is a very charming and quick read. Be sure to pick it up — the time investment would be more than worth it!


  1. The book’s website with links to other resources:
  2. Marc Andreessen’s Guide to Productivity (personal favorite):
  3. My post on “_16 UX Design tools from the Sprint Proces_s”:
  4. My summary of the Sprint Process on Commomlounge:

This is #39 in a series of book reviews published weekly on this site.