The first thing we learned was that something magic happens when you start the day with one high-priority goal. Each sprint day, we drew attention to one big focal point: On Monday, the team creates a map of the problem; on Tuesday, each person sketches one solution; on Wednesday, they decide which solutions are best; on Thursday, they build a prototype; and on Friday, they test it. Each day’s goal is ambitious, but it’s just one thing. (Location 447)

We also learned about the importance of energy for focused work and clear thinking. When we first started running design sprints, teams worked long hours, fueled by sugary treats. Late in the week, energy would plummet. So we made adjustments, and saw how things like a healthy lunch, a quick walk, frequent breaks, and a slightly shorter workday helped maintain peak energy, resulting in better and more effective work. (Location 455)

The first step is choosing a single highlight to prioritize in your day. Next, you’ll employ specific tactics to stay laser-focused on that highlight—we’ll offer a menu of tricks to beat distraction in an always-connected world. Throughout the day, you’ll build energy so you can stay in control of your time and attention. Finally, you’ll reflect on the day with a few simple notes. (Location 500)

The first step in Make Time is deciding what you want to make time for. Every day, you’ll choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. It might be an important goal at work, like finishing a presentation. You might choose something at home, like cooking dinner or planting your garden. (Location 506)

Asking yourself “What’s going to be the highlight of my day?” ensures that you spend time on the things that matter to you and don’t lose the entire day reacting to other people’s priorities. When you choose a Highlight, you put yourself in a positive, proactive frame of mind. (Location 513)

Finally, before going to bed, you’ll take a few notes. It’s super simple: You’ll decide which tactics you want to continue and which ones you want to refine or drop.2 And you’ll think back on your energy level, whether you made time for your Highlight, and what brought you joy in the day. (Location 536)

I loved thinking about big, lofty goals and I was good at getting things done hour by hour, but neither was truly satisfying. I was happiest when I had something I could hold on to in the present—a chunk of time that was bigger than a to-do but smaller than a five-year goal. An activity I could plan for, look forward to, and appreciate when it was done. In other words, I needed to make sure every day had a highlight. (Location 645)

Your Highlight gives each day a focal point. Research shows that the way you experience your days is not determined primarily by what happens to you. In fact, you create your own reality by choosing what you pay attention to.1 This might seem obvious, but we think it’s a big deal: You can design your time by choosing where you direct your attention. And your daily Highlight is the target of that attention. (Location 664)

The second Highlight strategy is to think about satisfaction: At the end of the day, which Highlight will bring me the most satisfaction? (Location 691)

The third strategy focuses on joy: When I reflect on today, what will bring me the most joy? (Location 704)

To other people, some of your joyful Highlights may look like wastes of time: sitting at home reading a book, meeting a friend to play Frisbee in the park, even doing a crossword puzzle. Not to us. You only waste time if you’re not intentional about how you spend it. (Location 707)

A good rule of thumb is to choose a Highlight that takes sixty to ninety minutes. If you spend less than sixty minutes, you might not have time to get in the zone, but after ninety minutes of focused attention, most people need a break. Sixty to ninety minutes is a sweet spot. It’s enough time to do something meaningful, and it’s a reasonable amount of time to create in your schedule. (Location 717)

If yesterday’s Highlight brought you joy or satisfaction, hey, there’s nothing wrong with more of that! Repeat to keep the good times rolling. You don’t have to reinvent yourself each day. Once you’ve identified something that’s important to you, focusing on it day after day will help it take root in your life, grow, and flourish. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. (Location 776)

Use daily “do not schedule” blocks to make room for your Highlight. (Location 992)

Could you squeeze in a new project but worry about giving it the proper attention? “Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to do a great job on this.” (Location 1045)

Our friend Kristen Brillantes uses what she calls the Sour Patch Kid method when she says no. Just like the candy, Kristen’s answers are sour at first but sweet at the end. For example: “Unfortunately, my team won’t be able to participate. But you might ask Team X; they’d be perfect for this kind of event.” The key, says Kristen, is to make sure the sweet ending is authentic, not an empty add-on. If she can, she’ll offer a connection to another person with capacity or interest for whom the invitation might be a cool opportunity. If not, she offers encouragement or gratitude. (Location 1054)

Coffee is also super important to me. Sure, the caffeine is nice, but the preparation routine is essential to my morning. It takes me fifteen minutes to make coffee using a simple pour-over technique: boil water, grind beans, position filter, add grounds, pour water. This process is more labor-intensive than using a machine, but that’s the idea. My slow coffee ritual keeps me occupied during the low-willpower period when I would otherwise check email or look at Twitter, both of which are likely to send me into a reactive vortex of unproductivity. Instead, I stand in the kitchen (or galley), wake up slowly, think about my day, and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee while I settle in to work on my Highlight. (Location 1123)

Finally, adjust your environment to wind down and signal “bedtime” to your body. I begin by lowering the lights. I turn off peripheral lights in the kitchen and foyer, then switch to floor lamps in the living room and bedroom. My favorite routine—and dorkiest by far—is a do-it-yourself turn-down service. Around 7 p.m. each night, I close the curtains in the bedroom, remove the decorative pillows from the bed, and pull back the covers. (Check out #84, “Fake the Sunset,” for more.) (Location 1143)

If I’m planning to stay up and work on a project, I’ll start by refreshing my brain with a real break (#80). After my younger son goes to bed (around 8:30 p.m.), I might sit down with my wife and older son and watch part of a movie. Or I might read a few pages in a novel. Or I might clean the kitchen and put away toys in the living room. These activities take my mind out of “busy mode” and recharge my mental battery—a major difference from the frenzy of checking email, reading clickbait news articles, or watching an intense TV show designed to suck me into a black hole of binge watching.7 (Location 1176)

Around nine-thirty, I’ll switch into Highlight mode, usually for writing but sometimes to prepare a presentation or workshop. Even with a quick battery recharge, my focus is usually not at 100 percent, so I put a vacation timer on the Internet (#28), allowing me to concentrate on my writing with minimal willpower. (Location 1183)

I learned the hard way that I have to spin down my brain after late-night work or I’ll seriously mess up my sleep. Dimming the lights (#84) helps, but most important is getting to bed before I turn into a pumpkin. For me, that magic hour is 11:30 p.m., and if I’m not in bed by then, I’ll tank my energy the next day. (Location 1188)

We evolved to be distractible because it kept us safe from danger (check the flash in your peripheral vision—it might be a stalking tiger or a falling tree!). We evolved to love mysteries and stories because they helped us learn and communicate. We evolved to love gossip and seek social status because that allowed us to form tight-knit protective tribes. And we evolved to love unpredictable rewards, whether from a blackberry bush or a smartphone notification, because the possibility of those rewards kept us hunting and gathering even when we returned home empty-handed. Our caveman brains are the fourth secret ingredient. Of course we love email, video games, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat—it’s literally in our DNA. (Location 1345)

These tactics are all based on the same philosophy: The best way to defeat distraction is to make it harder to react. By adding a few steps that get in the way of checking Facebook, catching up on the news, or turning on the TV, you can short-circuit the cycle that makes these products so sticky. After just a few days, you’ll have a new set of defaults: You’ll go from distracted to focused, from reactive to intentional, and from overwhelmed to in control. (Location 1373)

If you change your priorities, people will notice. Your actions show others what’s important to you. When your friends, your coworkers, and your kids and family see you being intentional with your time, you’ll give them permission to question their own “always on” default and step away from their own Infinity Pools. You aren’t just making time for yourself and your own Highlight; you’re also setting a good example for the people around you. (Location 1392)

My phone used to call to me from my pocket the way the Ring called to Bilbo Baggins. The second I felt even the slightest twinge of boredom, my phone would appear in the palm of my hand as if by magic. Now, without Infinity Pool apps, I feel less twitchy. Those moments when I used to instinctively reach for my phone, I’m forced to pause—and it turns out those moments are not so boring after all. (Location 1418)

Delete social apps. First, delete Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and so on (including whatever else has been invented since we wrote this). Don’t worry. If you change your mind later, it is very easy to install these apps again. (Location 1445)

Delete other Infinity Pools. Anything with an infinite supply of interesting content should be deleted. This includes games, news apps, and streaming video like YouTube. If you might refresh it obsessively and/or lose hours without meaning to, get rid of it. (Location 1448)

Log Out Typing in your username and password is a hassle, so websites and apps make sure you don’t have to do it very often. They encourage you to stay logged in, leaving the door to distraction wide open. (Location 1479)

Notifications are not your friends. They’re nonstop attention thieves. Whether or not you try a distraction-free phone, you should at the very least turn off almost all notifications. Here’s how. (Location 1499)

Leaving your devices behind is a helpful tactic when you want to make time for an “offline” Highlight like reading to your kids or working on a project with your hands. (Location 1549)

When you wake up in the morning, whether you slept for five hours or ten, you’ve had a nice long break from the Busy Bandwagon and the Infinity Pools. This is a golden moment. The day is fresh, your brain is rested, and you have no reason to feel distracted yet. No news items to stress about, no work emails to stew over. (Location 1575)

The morning is prime time for my Highlight, which usually involves the computer. So each night I do myself a favor by closing all my browser tabs (#26) and logging out of Twitter and Facebook (#18). Then, after I wake up and make coffee, I’m ready to start my Highlight without any distractions from the morning check-in. (Location 1585)

We’ve got some breaking news of our own: You don’t need to follow the daily news. True breaking news will find you, and the rest isn’t urgent or just doesn’t matter. (Location 1624)

Reacting to what’s in front of you is always easier than doing what you intend. And when they’re staring you right in the face, tasks such as checking email, responding to a chat, and reading the news feel urgent and important—but they rarely are. If you want to get into Laser mode faster, we recommend putting your toys away. (Location 1661) - Note: This is especially true for me

Because you’re literally buckled into a chair, I’ve always found planes a terrific spot to do a lot of writing and reading and drawing and thinking. —AUSTIN KLEON (Location 1671)

Tens of thousands of years ago, a 150-foot-wide chunk of rock smashed into the earth’s surface, blasting a crater about a mile in diameter. A young Jake stood on the blistered rock and imagined the awesome force of impact. The crater is thirty times the size of the meteor! It’s crazy to think about such a small object making such a big hole. Or maybe it’s not so crazy. After all, the same thing happens in our daily lives. Small distractions create much larger holes in our day. We call these holes “time craters,” (Location 1732)

Sports have a powerful grip on us. They satisfy an innate tribal urge. We grow up watching local teams with our parents, families, and friends. We discuss sports with colleagues and strangers. Each game and season has an unpredictable story line, but (unlike real life) they all finish with clear-cut win-or-lose outcomes that we find deeply gratifying. (Location 1797)

Eventually, our email took on a life of its own. We were supposed to be clearing it out of the way so that we could do our work, but instead, on most days, email was the work.11 It was a vicious cycle: The faster we replied, the more replies we got back and the more we strengthened the expectation of immediate responses. (Location 1835)

If you check email less often, research suggests that you’ll be less stressed and just as on top of things. A 2014 study by the University of British Columbia found that when people checked their email just three times a day (instead of as often as they wanted), they reported remarkably lower stress. As researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Kostadin Kushlev put it, “Cutting back on email might reduce stress as much as picturing yourself swimming in the warm waters of a tropical island several times a day.” Maybe more surprising, checking less often made the participants better at email. During the week when they checked three times a day, people answered roughly the same number of messages, but they did so 20 percent faster. Checking email less often measurably made time! (Location 1841)

Instead of checking your email first thing in the morning and then getting sucked in and reacting to other people’s priorities, deal with email at the end of the day. That way, you can use your prime hours for your Highlight and other important work. (Location 1850)

When you know you’ve got time set aside later, it’s easier to avoid wasting time on email now. And if you schedule your email time before a firm commitment such as a meeting or leaving the office, you’ll get an additional boost: When email time is done, it’s done. (Location 1856)

you’re better off treating email like old-fashioned paper letters—you know, the kind with envelopes and stamps. Snail mail gets delivered only once a day. Most letters sit on your desk for a while before you do anything about them. And for 99 percent of communications, that works just fine. Try slowing down and seeing your email as what it really is: just a fancy, dressed-up, high-tech version of regular old mail. (Location 1867)

Of course, when you limit your email time or increase your response time, you may need to manage the expectations of your colleagues and others. You could say something like this: “I’m slow to respond because I need to prioritize some important projects, but if your message is urgent, send me a text.” (Location 1891)

As we see it, all that TV time is a gold mine: a large pile of perfectly good hours just lying there, ready to be reclaimed. As usual, all you have to do is change your default. (Location 1986)

Nothing’s better for focus than a deadline. When someone else is waiting expectantly for results, it’s a lot easier to get into Laser mode. The trouble is that deadlines are usually for things we dread (like doing taxes), not for things we want to do (like practicing the ukulele). But this is an easy problem to solve. You can invent a deadline. (Location 2067)

When you’re not sure where to start, try breaking your Highlight into a list of small, easy-to-do bits. For example, if your Highlight is “Plan vacation,” you can explode it into bits like these: Check calendar for vacation dates. Skim guidebook and make list of possible destinations. Discuss destinations with family and choose favorite. Research airfare online. Note that each item includes a verb. Each one is specific. And each one is small and relatively easy. We learned this technique from productivity shaman David Allen, who has this to say about breaking projects into physical actions: Shifting your focus to something that your mind perceives as a doable, completable task will create a real increase in positive energy, direction, and motivation. (Location 2091)

How to Break Down A Task

If you use the Time Timer when you’re getting into Laser mode, you’ll feel an instant, visceral sense of urgency in a totally good way. By showing you that time is elapsing, the Time Timer will get you to focus on the task at hand. (Location 2127)

Paper improves focus, because you can’t waste time picking the perfect font or searching the Web instead of working on your Highlight. Paper is less intimidating, too—while most software is designed to guide you through a series of steps that will lead to a finished product, paper allows you to find your own way to a cohesive idea. And paper opens up possibilities, because whereas Word is designed for lines of text and PowerPoint is designed for graphs and bullet points, on paper, you can do anything at all. (Location 2164)

With a full battery, you have the power to be present, think clearly, and spend your time on what matters, not default to what’s right in front of you. (Location 2315)

Exercise for about twenty minutes… Research shows that the most important cognitive, health, and mood benefits of exercise can be attained in just twenty minutes. …every day… The energy and mood boosts from exercise last about a day, so to feel good every day, get some exercise every day. As an added bonus, daily habits are easier to keep than sometimes habits. (Location 2442)

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Well, we read Pollan’s books and tried his advice, and darned if it didn’t work. Eating real food—in other words, nonprocessed ingredients Urk would recognize, such as plants, nuts, fish, and meat—made a huge difference in our energy levels. (Location 2591)

What’s interesting in this (at least to us) is that caffeine doesn’t technically give you an energy boost; instead, it blocks you from having an energy dip caused by adenosine-induced sleepiness. But once the caffeine wears off, all that adenosine is still hanging around, ready to pounce. If you don’t recaffeinate, you crash. And over time, your body adjusts to more and more caffeine by producing more and more adenosine to compensate. This is why, if you normally drink lots of caffeine, you probably feel extra groggy and headachy when you don’t have it. (Location 2712)

Wake up without caffeine (in other words, get out of bed, eat breakfast, and start the day without any coffee). Have the first cup between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Have the last cup between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. (Location 2718)

For most folks, cortisol is highest between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., so for ideal morning energy, experiment with having that first cup of coffee at 9:30 a.m. (Location 2734)

What most people (including us before Camille explained it to Jake) don’t realize is that the half-life of caffeine is five to six hours. So if the average person has a coffee at 4 p.m., half the caffeine is out of the bloodstream by 9 or 10 p.m., but the other half is still around. (Location 2777)

Your music, podcast, or audiobook prevents boredom, but boredom creates space for thinking and focus (#57). Take a break and leave your headphones at home. Just listen to the sounds of traffic, or the clack of your keyboard, or your footsteps on the pavement. Resist the itch to fill the blank space. (Location 2887)

It’s a cruel irony of modern life that we’re surrounded by people yet more isolated than ever. This is a big deal, especially if you consider the findings from Harvard’s 75-year Study of Adult Development: People with strong relationships are more likely to live long, healthy, fulfilling lives. We’re not claiming that talking to strangers in the grocery store checkout line will help you live to be 100—but spending time with people face-to-face can be a big energy booster. (Location 2931)

Not every person lifts our spirits, of course, but we all know a few people who give us energy most times we talk to them. Here’s a simple experiment to try: Think of one of those energy-giving people. Go out of your way to have a real conversation with her or him. You can talk in person or on the phone, but your voice must be involved. Afterward, note your energy level. (Location 2939)

Even if it’s only once a week, reach out to friends whom you admire, who inspire you, who make you laugh, who let you be yourself. Spending time with interesting, high-energy people is one of the best—and most enjoyable—ways to recharge your battery. (Location 2945)