Jake and JZ mix personal experience, academic studies and humour to deliver an excellent list of tactics to help focus, and improve energy and productivity.
Personally, it was good to see the changes I’ve made in my life in the last two years listed in the book. More comforting was that their reasoning was similar to mine in deciding at those changes.
The best bit was the list of more changes I can now experiment with to further improve focus, productivity and calmness.

Loved this book. This should be required reading for.. everyone.


“What’s going to be the highlight of my day?”

Single activity to prioritise and protect each day.

Criteria for selection:

  1. Urgency
    What’s the most pressing thing I have to do today?
  2. Satisfaction
    At the end of the day which Highlight will bring me the most satisfaction?
  3. Joy
    When I reflect on today, what will bring me the most joy?

Rule of thumb: Choose an activity that will take 60-90 mins, aka 1 work session.

Don’t be afraid to change the highlight midway


Choosing highlight

  1. Write it down - post-it, calendar, notebook
  2. Do yesterday, again
  3. Stack rank
    1. Make a list of big things in your life (don’t order them yet) - work, future, family, exercise, ..
      • Choose 3-10 things
      • Use 1-2 word descriptions to keep them high level
    2. Rank the list in order of priority
      • Choose the most important thing at the moment to you
      • Choose the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th most important things
    3. Circle the top activity to highlight it
    4. Keep the list handy to remind yourself, and to help decide the daily highlights and priorities
  4. Batch small stuff
    1. Combine small stuff - follow-ups, emails, phone calls, chores into one highlight
    2. Use only occasionally
  5. Might-do list
    Might-do → Highlight → Calendar Might-do → Highlight → Calendar

  6. Burner list

    1. Burn through the list every few days (once a few tasks have been ticked off), then recreate it
    2. Recreating helps remove tasks that no longer matter
    3. Recreating helps revisit priorities for front and backburner projects
  7. Do a personal sprint

    1. Choose the same highlight several days in a row (sprint == 1 week)
    2. Helps stay focused while minimising switching (booting) time and costs

Making time for highlight

  1. Schedule your highlight - that time is inviolate
  2. Block calendar with ‘Do not schedule’ blocks marked as busy
    1. Use these blocks as energize or highlight time
    2. If using as highlight, block when you are most productive
    3. Don’t over use them
    4. Treat them seriously - “I’ve already got plans”
  3. Bulldoze your calendar - move things around, reduce appointment times - to create time for the highlight
  4. Flake/bail appointments on calendar
  5. Just say no
    1. Be nice, but honest
    2. Start sour (no), finish sweet (appreciate, connect, suggest)
  6. Design your day

  7. Quit when you’re done

    1. Don’t do “*just one more thing*”


Remove distractions; adjust technology to find the laser mode.

Create barriers to distractions


Boss your phone

  1. Distraction free phone
    1. Delete social apps
    2. Delete other infinity pools - news, youtube, video, games
    3. Delete email
    4. Remove web browser
    5. Keep the rest - maps, music, calendar, productivity, travel, weather, …
    6. “If an app is a tool, or it doesn’t make you twitchy, keep it”
  2. Log out
    1. of websites, disable ‘remember me’
    2. sign-in every time you use them to create a hurdle
  3. Nix notifications
    1. Calendar & text messages → yes
    2. email & messaging → no
    3. new apps → no
  4. Clear your home screen
  5. Wear a wrist watch
    1. Don’t need to take out phone to check time
  6. Leave your devices behind

Stay out of infinity pools

  1. Skip the morning check-in
    1. no news, email, social media, stats, reviews etc
    2. Put it off till 9, 10, or even after lunch
  2. Block distraction Kryptonite
  3. Ignore the news
  4. Put your toys away (laptop)
    1. Sign out of chat and soc med apps
    2. Close extra browser tabs
    3. Hide the bookmarks bar
    4. Set homepage to something non-distractive - plain clock instead of collection of links
  5. Fly without wifi
  6. Put a timer on the Internet
  7. Cancel home Internet
  8. Watch out for time craters
    1. Short time events that take more time by occupying the mind, slowing it down, or preventing us from starting a new activity
    2. tweeting - checking responses - thinking of next tweet - browsing timeline, etc
    3. 15 min burrito lunch - 3 hour food coma
    4. not starting highlight because meeting in 30 mins
  9. Trade fake wins for real wins
    1. Highlight vs tasks that get done without achieving anything or contributing to the highlight
  10. Turn distractions into tools
    1. Identify why you use an app
    2. Think how much time - daily/weekly - you want to spend on it
    3. Consider when and how you’d like to use the app to achieve its goal
    4. Restrict access at other times
  11. Become a fair weather fan

Slow your Inbox

  1. Deal with email at end of the day
  2. Schedule email time
  3. Empty your inbox once a week
  4. Pretend messages are letters (delivered once a day)
  5. Be slow to respond
    1. From “as fast as possible” to “as slow as you can get away with”
  6. Reset expectations
    1. “I’m slow to respond because I need to prioritise some important projects, but if your message is urgent, send me a text”
  7. Set up ‘send-only’ email
    1. Set up a new email address on the phone
    2. Set up filter so all incoming mail on that address is autoforwarded (and deleted) to main account
    3. Use that account only to send email
  8. Vacation off-the-grid
  9. Lock yourself out (freedom app)

Make TV a sometime treat

  1. Don’t watch the news
  2. Put your TV in a corner We still can and do watch shows together, but the new arrangement makes it much easier to talk. And that black rectangle isn’t sucking the light of the room.

  3. Ditch your TV for a projector

    1. Cheaper than a big screen TV
    2. Hassle to set up
  4. Go a la carte

    1. Cancel subscriptions
    2. Rent movies/shows for a while to watch
    3. Get Netflix just for a month
  5. Go cold turkey

    1. Remove the TV, pack it up, and store it away for a month

Find flow

  1. Shut the door
  2. Invent a deadline
  3. Explode your highlight
    1. Break into a list of simple, easy to do parts
    2. Each part starts with a verb - think to do
  4. Play a laser sound track
  5. Set a visible timer
  6. Avoid the lure of fancy tools
  7. Start on paper
    1. fewer distractions on presentation, fonts, other apps, etc

Stay in the zone

  1. Make a random question list
    1. The ones I google or wikipedia or amazon
    2. That way I have a place to store them without wasting time on them now
  2. Notice one breath
  3. Be bored
    1. boredom gives your mind a chance to wander, and wandering often leads to interesting places
  4. Be stuck
    1. Stare at the blank screen, switch to paper, or walk around, but keep your focus on the project at hand
  5. Take a day off
  6. Go all in


Charge your battery with food, sleep, exercise, quiet and face-to-face time.

Act like a caveman to build energy

  1. Keep it moving
  2. Eat real food
  3. Optimize caffeine
  4. Go off the grid
  5. Make it personal
  6. Sleep in a cave


Keep it moving

  1. Exercise every day (but don’t be a hero)
    1. Exercise for about 20 mins
    2. Every day
    3. Give yourself (partial) credit
  2. Pound the pavement
    1. walk wherever you can
  3. Inconvenience yourself
    1. Cook dinner
    2. Take the stairs
    3. Get a suitcase without wheels
  4. Squeeze in a super short workout
    • 7 minute workout
    • JZ’s 3x3 workout

Eat real food

  1. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
  2. Central park your plate

  3. JZ: Stay hungry

    • Intermittent fasting
  4. Jake: Snacking

    • Many small meals multiple times a day
  5. The dark chocolate plan

Optimize caffeine

  1. Wake up before you caffeinate
    • body produces cortisol in the morning that wakes you up, don’t need coffee
  2. Caffeinate before you crash
    1. If you wait until you’re tired, you’re too late
    2. Think about when your energy regularly dips (usually after lunch), and have caffeine 30 mins before that
  3. Take a caffeine nap
    1. Take a 15-min nap immediately after drinking caffeine
  4. Maintain altitude with green tea
    1. Replace a big cup of coffee with 2-3 cups of green tea
    2. Same amount of caffeine but spread out in smaller even doses
  5. Turbocharge your highlight
    1. Time your caffeine to when the highlight will be
  6. Learn your last call
  7. Disconnect sugar

Go off the grid

  1. Get woodsy
  2. Trick yourself into meditating
  3. Leave your headphones at home
    1. brain never gets any quiet time
    2. resist the itch to fill the blank space/time
  4. Take real breaks
    1. without screens
    2. gaze out the window
    3. go for a walk
    4. grab a snack
    5. talk to someone

Make it personal

  1. Spend time with your tribe
    1. Think of one of energy-giving people
    2. Go out of your way to have a real conversation with them - preferably in person, but at least voice should be involved
    3. Afterward, not your energy level
  2. Eat without screens

Sleep in a cave

  1. Make your bedroom a bed room
    1. No electronic devices (incl kindle with backlight)
    2. Reading is ok - preferably books, or kindle with backlight turned off
    3. Keep alarm clock away from the bed to reduce distraction, and to force to get up to switch it off
  2. Fake the sunset
    1. Starting with dinner, or few hours before bedtime, dim all the lights in the house. Use table lamps instead of bright ceiling lights
  3. Sneak a nap
    1. 10-20 mins
    2. don’t even need to sleep, just laying down and resting is enough
  4. Don’t jet lag yourself
    1. Same routine on weekends as weekdays
  5. Put on your own oxygen mask first
    1. Take care of yourself first, so you are in a state to take care of others


Daily notes before clock off
Reflect on what worked, what didn’t.