We’ve all heard of productivity gurus explain HOW to get focused and get in the zone… but why is it so difficult to actually DO IT?

As designers, co-authors Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky think a lot about creating things that are useful, and they’ve been fascinated by time management techniques.

So they wrote  “Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day” as a guide to help us actually USE all these productivity ideas we hear about, instead of treating them like nice philosophies.

The big idea: choose 1 highlight per day

The biggest insight is the idea of choosing only 1 highlight each day.  At the end of your day, what do you want the day’s highlight to have been?  Perhaps you want to make sure you’ve spent quality time with your kids, or that you focused on following up with key clients to grow your business.

Whatever it is, create a block of ultra-focused, distraction-free time for 60 to 90 minutes.  And then, reverse engineer your entire day so you can actually dedicate that amount of your attention to your highlight of the day.

The result will be that at the end of the day you’ll have succeeded.  Because instead of being reactive throughout the day, you proactively allocated your time and energy.

Key lesson

One key lesson is that we need to shift from thinking about big goals and always driving towards them.  Back off and design your time one day at a time.

Every day, decide what’s the ONE thing you have to get done.  What’s most important to you THAT day.  It may not drive you closer to your ultimate goal, and it may be incongruent with your 5-year plan.

But it will be the one thing that will fulfill you the most by having completed it at the end of the day.  And when you look back, THAT’s how you’ll gain the most satisfaction.  This approach will make you happier and feel more accomplished.

Why “Make Time”?

So why “Make Time”?  Because everyone has something that they want to make time for.  Maybe you wish you had more time to play with your son and his wooden train.  But you find yourself often pushing things back in order to put out fires at work.

The thing is, you actually have a lot of the time available.  It’s there, but it’s damaged… your attention is fragmented.  Maybe you’re jumping around throughout the day, from meeting to meeting, or from client call to client call.

What if you looked very critically at everything that eats up your time?  If you prioritize and say no, you’re proactively managing your time instead of reacting to the situations that come up.

And THAT’s how you can get some time back.  You can make time for what’s truly important.