Book Review: Make Time

Let me preface this by saying that I’m a huge fan of Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky – their previous book, Sprint has made a massive impact in my approach to work and has admittedly made me a decent amount of money: we’ve adapted how to run sprints at On-Off Group and our clients love them.

So when I heard they’ve released a new book – Make Time – I had to get a copy. Luckily it was readily available here in the Philippines (you’d be surprised how rarely I can say that about books) and I dove right into it. Regardless, I’ll be as objective as I can in my review of the book – there are parts that I loved and parts that were completely unrelatable to my life.

Here’s a picture of me. Holding the book. With squinty eyes. Credits to @biancadailo for the picture.

The approach

Make Time is unique in its approach. It doesn’t sell you tactics that seem obvious, it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not – it’s written by two “time nerds” who live life the same way you and I do. They get distracted, they get busy, they forget things, they run out of energy and they have hundreds of things on their plates at any given time. The tactics they discuss are tried and tested by them, and they’re not hesitant in pointing out mistakes they made or things that didn’t work.

There are 87 tactics in the book for you to try. They fit into a 4-part framework:

  1. Highlight – this is where the book teaches you how to assess your days and pick things that are truly important to you – the things that you want to make time for.
  2. Laser – this is the most populated category, showcasing different ways to kill the things that distract you and get “in the zone” to pump out your best work. This was by far my favorite part of the book.
  3. Energize – these tactics are designed to help you maintain your energy level – and they don’t require you to get onto a Paleo diet and only eat boiled chicken breast to do so.
  4. Reflect – there’s only really one or two tactics for this part, but it’s all about tracking your progress and improving over a few days.

This approach is really unique. I’ve read a lot of business-related books, self-help books and whatnot – and most of them end up as “do X, don’t do Y.” Make Time is about incremental improvements and mixing any of the different 87 tactics until you find the stuff that works for you. There’s no end-all-be-all solution, but there are 87 potential solution that could work for you. This book is not about productivity, it’s not about “doing more” – it’s simply about ways to make time for the things you want to make time for.

The good stuff that really resonated with me:

The book strikes a great balance between a scientific and anecdotal approach to managing your time better. I say scientific because John and Jake used themselves as test subjects and documented their results with tactic. In the same way, it’s anecdotal – they draw conclusions from their findings in the context of their own lives, taking their habits and personality into accounts.

I love the “Tactic Battles” that are found here and there in the book – which are two opposing views on the same topic – for instance, Jake’s a night-owl kind of guy and John’s a morning person, so they have a different take on when in your day you should make time to work on your highlight.

I also really enjoy that the book doesn’t pressure you – it doesn’t feel like someone’s yelling at you, making you feel inadequate for not striving to have your time management down to the minute. There are several times where the authors point out their own shortcomings and inabilities to stick to certain tactics they tried. They come across as very human, not some super-solider elite product designers that spend 16 consecutive hours writing code for Google. It’s very endearing.

The book is also admittedly funny in some cases. There are some very apt analogies and visualizations of their perspectives on the topics. There are some drawings here and there, and the content is broken up by segments of the authors sharing the context and background of trying out the tactics.

There are several tactics in the book I’ve been trying lately, including apps like Daywise and Headspace, as well as a distraction-free phone. I’ll report back on my success with these tactics in a few weeks, which range from treating my email differently to wearing my wrist watch more as well as having a burner-list approach to structuring my day. There’s one even that I can give feedback on immediately – which is to have a “questions list” next to me at all times when I’m doing focus work. I noticed that I tend to get distracted from my “laser mode” when a random question or idea pops into my head that I then feel the immediate need to research, causing me to lose all focus.

So now I have an open page of my notebook next to me with a pen ready to use – so when a question like “who are the big PR companies in the Philippines” or an idea like “how about a podcast to review business books on” pops into my head, I’ll write them down and look them up when I’m done with my immediate work. It’s been working beautifully for the last few days, and now I have a long-ass list of future projects and ideas.

The stuff that didn’t quite apply to me:

There are some tactics in the book that are clearly aimed at a market which I don’t quite fit into – a few pages and tactics are dedicated to managing Television consumption of all things. I can’t remember the last time I really watched anything on TV, nor the last time I had a meal around a TV, but apparently TV consumption is still massive in many households.

There were also some tactics that barely covered half a page that seemed more as an after-thought when compared to some of the other tactics in the book. They didn’t seem very fleshed out I believe could been either omitted entirely or replaced with something riskier – or generally with something worth discussing more in-depth. Maybe those ones could have been replaced with tactics the authors hadn’t even tried yet, or something more theoretical that they think could work for them but doesn’t fit their circumstances. Or maybe reserve a few of those tactics for tactics sent to them by their readers?

Aside from that, I don’t have much criticism. I foresee that some people reading this are going to be disappointed because they’ll want a 4-step blueprint to becoming some sort of super entrepreneur-time-management-god instead a list of 87 different things that could maybe work for them. But for those that are willing to do some trial and error, and are self-aware enough to critically examine their own habits and preferences, this book is a treat.

I definitely recommend this book. Solid 4/5 for me.

If you have any book recommendations for me – hit me up.



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