Make Time

Make Time: How to focus on what matters every day

Although I now subscribe to the 12 Week Year approach to planning , one of my overall goals for 2020 is to read more.

I’ve got the year off to a good start reading Make Time: How to focus on what matters every day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, the team behind the popular Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days.

This book was a kind Christmas gift from my mum—thanks Mum!

I really enjoy reading different people’s approaches to productivity. I always pick up something new, something that challenges me to consider how I am doing things. As the authors write, “Small shifts can put you in control. if you reduce a few distractions, increase your physical and mental energy just a bit, and focus your attention on one bright spot, a blah day can become extraordinary […] The goal is to make time for what matters, find more balance, and enjoy today a little more.”

How Make Time works

Image from Make Time blog

You can find out more on the Make Time blog but, in short, the method comprises four steps, repeated daily:

  1. Highlight—start each day by selecting a focal point. Choose a single activity to prioritise and protect in your calendar.
  2. Laser—use various strategies to tackle distractions so that you can give your highlight laser focus and get it done.
  3. Energise—recognise that you body is more than simply a way to move your brain around. Find ways to energise your body with exercise, food, sleep, quiet and face-to-face time with friends and family.
  4. Reflect—Before the end of the day, reflect on how you’ve done through the day. What was your highlight? Did you may time for it? How was your focus? How was your energy? What tactics did you use to improve your energy and focus? What can you do to improve? And lastly, for what were you grateful today?

This plan-do-check-act approach shares a lot in common with agile, so it’s not surprising that I find this attractive.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been using this approach to set myself a focus for each day—what is the single most important thing that I need to achieve today? I’ve found it very helpful. It has given each day a purpose, it helps me to track my progress and feel that I have achieved something, even if it’s small.

Over the last few years, as I have blogged elsewhere, I’ve been trying to live a more simple, disciplined life. The Make Time approach complements it well. I too have been trying to live slower, focus on eating well, attending to my energy levels, learning how to sleep longer and more deeply. I’m sure to draw on some of Knapp and JZ’s energise strategies.


For the last few years, I have tried to keep a daily ritual to consider what I feel grateful for. I have read about the important of gratitude elsewhere, heard about it in podcasts about happiness. It has been an important aspect of many cultures for thousands of years, in Buddhism, Stoicism, in the Bible, as part of Japanese tea ceremonies, to name only a few.

JK and JZ’s reason for including it in Make Time is that “quite often you’ll find that even if lots of things didn’t go your way, your hard work of making time still paid off with a moment you’re grateful for.” (p.243)

What I need to do is get better at recognising these and more disciplined in writing them down so that I can look back at them and notice patterns.

The authors have made available their Make Time daily notes for download on their website.

This is definitely something I shall attempt to incorporate into my daily journaling habit.


I really enjoyed reading Make Time: How to focus on what matters every day. It complements a lot of other approaches that I’ve adopted including Getting Things Done and Cal Newport’s Deep Work by providing a simple, focused approach that offers plenty of very practical tips on how to banish distractions and ensure you have more energy.

The daily review, I feel is one of the most powerful aspects of Knapp and Zeratsky’s approach and something that I hope I will make time for each evening.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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