A newsletter about making time for what matters, from Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky.

Plus, now available:
Make Time, an entire book from the Time Dorks!

Greatest hits:

Six Years With a Distraction-Free iPhone
Jake Knapp on Medium

In 2012, I realized I had a problem. My iPhone made me twitchy. It called to me from my pocket, the way the Ring called Bilbo Baggins.

How I Became a Morning Person (and Why I Decided to Make the Change)
John Zeratsky on Medium, TIME, Observer, and CNBC

It’s early and dark. The alarm sounds, and you reach over to switch it off. After a short pause, you sit up. You swing your legs off the bed, touch the floor with your feet, and reach for your phone. “I’m half asleep,” you think. “I’ll just look at Twitter while I wake up.” Ten minutes pass, then another five. You’re not asleep, but you’re not really awake either.

The “Burner List”—My simple, paper-based system for focused to-dos
Jake Knapp on Medium

Man, I hate to-do lists. But they're not all bad. To-do lists let me capture things so I don’t have to hold it all my brain and stress out. To-do lists let me see everything in one place. They’re a necessary evil. There are a billion to-do list apps and methods out there, and I think I’ve tried 900 million of them. After a lot of ups and downs, I just started doing my own thing, imperfect and simplified. Yes, I know, another to-do list system!

One Big Thing: A Simple Way to Do More by Planning Less
John Zeratsky on Medium, TIME, and InVision

The most important things never showed up on any to-do list. My best work happened when I spent hours in flow, intensely focused on a single task. These projects didn’t need to be sliced into neat to-dos. They didn’t need to be managed — I needed to clear my schedule and do them.

Start With a Full Calendar
John Zeratsky on Medium

I enjoyed a meeting-free stretch last year while we wrote Sprint, but that’s not normal. No… most weeks I have to fight and scrape and resort to dorky tricks to regain control of my time. My favorite trick is to Start With a Full Calendar. Fill your calendar with activities that matter to you, before others can fill it for you.

Recent posts:

The Perfect Workspace Is All In Your Head
John Zeratsky on Thrive Global

I’ve been sitting in front of computers since I was about 10 years old. I’m feeling reflective, so I’ve been thinking back on all those years and all that work. Here’s one thing that stands out: I wasted a lot of time and attention obsessing about my workspace.

Why It's More Important Than Ever to Ignore the News
John Zeratsky on Medium

If you follow the news because you’re an active, engaged citizen—a force for good in a world of bad news—you can’t afford to squander your time and energy in a reactive loop of breaking news. You need to be in charge.

Seven Health Habits You Can Use to Build Energy and Get More Done Every Day
John Zeratsky on Medium

Health is too important to not talk about. I can’t write about productivity and time management tips without acknowledging the role of energy in making those tactics possible. After all, we’re not machines — we’re humans, and our brains need energy, and to energize our brains we must take care of our bodies.

One Thing at a Time
John Zeratsky on Medium

I’m a big fan of doing one thing at a time. This approach is powerful because, among other reasons, it works well at different “zoom levels” in life.

Stuck? Switch to “Play Mode”
Jake Knapp on Medium

I get stuck a lot. I get stuck writing, editing, making slides, doing designs, replying to email. I get stuck anytime I want to get something right. A friend suggested I try a different mindset. Instead of trying to get things right, I should put myself in “Play Mode”.

Wasting Time
John Zeratsky on Medium

Is it possible that wasting time can actually be a good use of time?

How I Tricked Myself Into Meditating
Jake Knapp on Medium

After using Headspace (a meditation app) for 400 consecutive days, I’ve got a few thoughts about meditation: why it works, whether it’s worth it, how to start, and how to make it a habit.

Block Calendar Time for a Daily Highlight
Jake Knapp on Medium

Make Time Month, Week 4: This is kind of a repeat of week 1, when the experiment was to choose a “Highlight” each day, then schedule time to get it done. On most days, I’m setting a Highlight, but I haven’t been good about scheduling time for it. This week I’m going to literally schedule writing time in the calendar, every day. For real this time.

Better Sleep via a Low-Tech Bedroom
Jake Knapp on Medium

Make Time Month, Week 3: This is inspired by my friend John Zeratsky again, and his post about becoming a morning person. I don’t want to become a morning person necessarily, but I do need to get better about going to bed on time (for me, that’s about 11pm). Join me as I experiment with making my bedroom a low-tech sanctuary for sleep.

Blocking Out “Distraction Kryptonite”
Jake Knapp on Medium

Make Time Month, Week 2: This week, I’m trying to dial down distraction. For many years I’ve kept apps like email, Safari, Twitter, etc off of my iPhone, and I have various tools and tricks to limit distraction at the computer. But email continues to plague me — it’s my Kryptonite! So, this week’s experiment is to find your “Distraction Kryptonite” and... get rid of it!

Choosing a “Highlight” Every Day
Jake Knapp on Medium

Make Time Month, Week 1: The “Daily Highlight” is based on John Zeratsky’s approach to task management. Every day, instead of trying to do lots of little things, he writes down a to-do list with just one big thing on it. I’ve tried this approach myself and found it very helpful. But I’ve gotten out of the habit recently, and I think I need to start up again.

“Make Time Month”—I’m redesigning my days and I want your help
Jake Knapp on Medium

I’ve just started a new career, leaving Google to focus on writing books. But writing is really difficult for me. If I’m going to do it every day, I need more focus and more energy. And because I’m a dork, I’ve decided to start off with a series of experiments... and I’m asking you to join me!

The Distraction-Free Android
John Zeratsky on Medium

Why my brand-new Google Pixel is better without Gmail, Chrome, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… or even Google.

I Gave Up on To-Do Lists—Here’s How I Use a Might-Do List and a Calendar to Plan My Days Instead
John Zeratsky on Medium

Last year, I shared my One Big Thing philosophy. The idea is simple: Focusing on one big thing each day is more productive and more satisfying than checking off as many tasks as possible. But my post was also a bit of an anti-to-do-list rant. Indeed, after years of intense fascination with finding the best kind of task-management system, I gave up. Today, I don’t use a to-do list. Instead, I use a “might-do” list.

Distractions are a Nuisance, but Infinity Pools are the Real Problem
John Zeratsky on Medium

If you feel like you’ve lost your ability to focus, and you want to reclaim the time wasted on mindless browsing and pull-to-refreshing, disabling notifications is not the solution.

The Slacker’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions That Stick
Jake Knapp on Medium

My New Year’s Resolutions used to fail every time. Then I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and was quite taken by this line: “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” The next January, I made a resolution to run every day. It worked! Building a small daily habit was way easier than a big sometimes habit.

How I Order at a Restaurant Without Screwing It Up
Jake Knapp on Medium

Maybe my decision paralysis comes from too many options, or perhaps it’s because I don’t get many opportunities to eat at a restaurant. Regardless, I invented a sequence of 7 rules to allow me to order food without screwing it up.

Fancy Tools Are a Distraction—Here’s What I Use Instead
John Zeratsky on Medium

What’s the best to-do app? The most exquisite notepad and pen for taking notes and sketching? The finest watch? On the Internet, it’s not hard to find answers to these questions. And here I am with yet another Medium post about tools. But this one is different. This post argues against fancy tools and in favor of simple, cheap items you can find anywhere.

A Day Without Meetings: How I Started From Scratch to Create the Perfect Workday
John Zeratsky on Medium

In 2015, while we were writing Sprint, for the first time in my professional life, I had days without meetings. What did I do?

How I Used a Vacation Timer to Write a Book (or, Why I Shut Off the Internet at 9PM)
Jake Knapp on Medium

For years, I tried to start a daily writing habit. See, I had this crazy idea to write a book, and I knew I’d need a lot of time and practice to get it done. But with kids and a full-time job, there was no way I could find big blocks of time during the day. If I was going to write regularly, I’d have to make the time… from somewhere.

My Year with a Distraction-Free iPhone (and How to Start Your Own Experiment)
Jake Knapp on Medium and Lifehacker

In 2012, I realized I had a problem. My iPhone made me twitchy. I could feel it in my pocket, calling me, like the Ring called Bilbo Baggins. It distracted me from my kids. It distracted me from my wife. It distracted me anytime, anywhere. I just didn’t have the willpower to ignore email and Twitter and Instagram and the whole world wide web. Infinity in my pocket was too much

How to send (but not receive) email on your iPhone, and why doing it doesn’t mean you’re crazy
John Zeratsky on Medium

When I started using a Distraction-Free iPhone, I was immediately taken with the lack of incoming email; the absence of sounds, buzzes, and badges; the quieting of that nagging voice that used to speak to me: “hey, you might have an email.” But I did miss the ability to send email.

Time is not enough: why “getting in reps” is the best way to learn
John Zeratsky on LinkedIn

Sometimes people ask me for career advice. Usually they want to know about skills to learn, books to read, where to find inspiration, stuff like that. But my favorite advice is not about what to learn; it’s about how to learn.

Why I ignore the daily news and read The Economist instead
John Zeratsky on Medium

I don’t follow the daily news. I don’t read a paper, watch TV news, or follow any news outlets on Twitter. Truly important breaking news always finds me. For everything else, there’s The Economist.

The distraction-free iPhone (or why I’m happier since I disabled Safari)
Jake Knapp on Medium, Lifehacker, and Gizmodo

When people see my iPhone they’re like, “My God, man, do you have some kind of crazy phone virus?” It’s got no web browser. No email. No Twitter, no Instagram, no Facebook. But no, the phone isn’t broken. I actually did it on purpose. It was supposed to be a one week experiment, and now it’s been months, and I don’t want to go back.