Have you ever had to do several things and when you failed to complete them you felt like a failure? Do you feel that you can’t prioritize some activities and that you leave out the most important ones? In Make Time, the authors came up with a solution: commit to one task at a time and that will be your focus for today. No distractions, no multitasking. The idea of a daily highlight is simple: you choose the most important activity, you write it down and you do it.
When I first started reading about productivity, one of the books I encountered was Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, two former Google employees. In the book, the authors disagree with the idea of working more to accommodate the activities you want to do. Instead, they encourage people to do their “daily highlights”. So instead of being distracted by technology, we should focus on the activity we want to do the most.
According to the authors, distractions come in different forms, such as notifications. But according to them, some of the worst are “infinity pools”. Infinity pools are endless “sources of information and entertainment”. Think internet browsers, social networks, and video streaming services. Knapp and Zeratsky suggest turning off infinity pools completely. You do this to avoid mindlessly browsing the internet when you should be working. For some, this might mean using a distraction-free phone or installing some browser extensions. The idea is to take control of your life by getting rid of the most distracting apps and services.
Something that’s also very important is that you create barriers around distractions (very similar to the idea of friction). In other words, you make it difficult to use distracting apps or websites. Examples include blocking websites, deleting apps, removing color from your phone to make it less inviting, and so on.
The authors then introduce the idea of the busy bandwagon. We all know people who think being busy is a badge of honor. So instead of focusing on being productive all the time, we should slow down and focus on what’s important. So if we surround ourselves with endless tasks and endless distractions, we have a recipe for disaster. Since we’re always busy, we never reflect and we’re never satisfied.
I also liked the idea of living like a prehistoric human. Before shopping at Gap, humans were hunter-gatherers. We were active during the day and we slowed down at night to get plenty of rest. So instead of trying to find the perfect productivity app, we shouldn’t ignore the human body. We should treat our bedroom as such, spend time with our tribe, avoid blue light before bed, and take a nap every once in a while.
So now you know you should work on your most important task first, but how do you choose just one? As explained in the Make Time blog, you should choose your daily highlight according to urgency, satisfaction, and joy. That means, first, choosing the most pressing activity you have to accomplish. Second, choose the highlight that will bring you more satisfaction. Third and finally, you should do something you like doing because it gives you happiness.
A highlight should take between 60 to 90 minutes which gives you plenty of time to do something meaningful. The more time you perform an activity, the easier it gets, so don’t worry if you make mistakes along the way. The best part about the daily highlight is that it forces you to reflect on your most important activities. Remember that they can be anything from finishing a presentation for work to learning a new song on the guitar. By spending time and energy and what you want, you ignore distractions and focus on what matters to you.
Something I liked a lot about the book is that the authors don’t force this system upon you. Instead, they encourage you to reflect on your life and then create a system that’s right for you. Experimenting with different techniques is part of the process and they don’t pretend to have all the answers.
Although this article summarizes the most important principles of Make Time, there are many other great ideas in the book, so I highly recommend that you read it in its entirety. I’ve been using some of the ideas of the daily highlight framework and I’m always sure that my most important task gets done.