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A simple framework for product managers to increase focus and eliminate distractions from your day.
How would you like to get more done this year? That begins by getting more done today and our guest has the four-part framework for making that happen.
This is not just another time management approach, but what the creators and authors of the Google Design Sprint found to be the practices to get more done.
Our guest is John Zeratsky co-author of Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day, He previously wrote the New York Times bestseller Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, which describes the Google Design Spring process invented by Jake Knapp. By the way, Jake is the other co-author of the four-part Make Time framework we are about to discuss in detail.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:51] How did you become interested in time management?
As a kid, I would spend hours on end diving into something that interested me and it was the best feeling. A lot of what I do now is trying to get back to that feeling. After I graduated college, I went to work at a startup called Feedburner, which was later acquired by Google. I didn’t have much experience and burned out on productivity, organization, and time management. Jake and I realized that our experience finding a better way might be useful to others in their day-to-day lives. With the book, we wanted to create something that was lightweight but effective and customizable.
[10:52] You highlight a four-part framework in the book: Highlight, Laser, Energize, Reflect. Let’s start with Highlight.
The idea behind highlight is to choose one thing that you want to prioritize or protect in your day. Find one medium-sized activity that you can build your day around. It has a powerful effect on your ability to have a good day. If you can make time for the highlight, the rest of the day is gravy. For me, it’s usually something that requires deep work and uninterrupted focus. I like to wake up early and work on it during the first few hours of the day. My co-author is not a morning person and came up with some strategies to work on his highlight in the evening after his kids go to bed.
[14:10] Next up is Laser. Tell us about that.
This is all about having laser-like focus and removing the distractions that our phones and computers bring. Laser is about reconfiguring those technologies so we can take back the time we spend on our phones or watching TV. If you put those hours together, you wind up with the equivalent of a full-time job that we’re not intentionally doing. We don’t wake up thinking we’ll spend 2-3 hours staring at our phones, it just happens. Jake and I worked on some of those technology products so we know how much effort goes into making them compelling and attention-grabbing as possible.
[20:50] Let’s talk about Energize.
This is all about building energy for your body and your brain so you can make the most of the things that are important to you. Our perspective is that the modern world encourages our brains and our bodies to be separate, but they are very much connected. When our body feels better, our brain works better and vice versa. We suggest ways that people can approach diet and exercise with this relationship in mind. We recommend finding time for 20 minutes of movement each day. It doesn’t have to be going to the gym; walking is a great activity and something everyone can do.
[26:23] The last part of the framework is Reflect.
As the name suggests, this is all about taking a few minutes each day to reflect on the day. We suggest a simple series of questions that takes about two minutes: What did you make time for? Which of the tactics in the book did you use and did they work? What can you do differently tomorrow? For example, if you get sucked into your email when you don’t want to, maybe you need to delete the email app from your phone or give yourself 30 minutes to respond to urgent emails so you don’t have feelings of anxiety overwhelming your focused time. It’s all about focusing on today instead of waiting for someday to come.
[30:21] What are you thoughts on time management apps?
It’s very rare that any app will have a meaningful impact on helping you make good use of your time. I spent a lot time trying to-do list apps and organizational apps. What I learned is that fancy tools are rarely worth the effort that they require and can even be a distraction from what we’re trying to do. They’re also fragile because they can break or we can leave them at home if it’s a physical planner. Adopting new tools is like taking on debt. It can be transformative, but it has a cost that you need to consider.
- Make Time, the book
- Connect with John on Twitter
“E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.” –Anne Lamott, from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social network.