Make Time: How to Focus on what Matters Every Day

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Introducing Make Time Founder John Zeratsky Make Time founder John Zeratsky is today's guest on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots business coaching podcast. He is the author and founder of Make Time: How to Focus on what Matters Every Day a productivity company showing the way to more profit and productivity. For nearly 15 years, John was a designer for technology companies. At Google Ventures, he helped develop the Design Sprint and worked with startups like Uber, 23andMe, Flatiron Health, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Nest. Previously, John was a designer​ at YouTube, Google, and FeedBurner, which Google acquired in 2007. John studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin and graduated from the UW School of Human Ecology, where he’s now an advisor to the Dean and faculty. However this just shows that this guy was once mega-busy. Probably running from meeting to meeting, desperate crisis chats and everything else we get sucked into whilst in the corporate world. How The Dots Joined Up For John Now things are very different...he might be just as busy, but now its busy doing the things he wants to do. For example he spent 18 months travelling in Central America aboard their sailboat Pineapple before moving to Milwaukee in 2019. Now he is a keynote speaker, and the bestselling author of Sprint and Make Time. He helps leaders, entrepreneurs, and professional teams make better use of their time (opens in a new tab)">better use of their time at work and become happier, more engaged humans. So why do people need his help, when we all know how to do it by and large? And what is the quickest way that we can increase our happiness in our lives? Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots, with the one and only John Zeratsky Show Highlights During the show we discussed such weighty topics with John Zeratsky such as: John shares why time is our most valuable commodity and the steps that we should take everyday to use it wisely. Why so many struggle with controlling their time due to companies restrictions placed on them everyday. John shares his fledgling steps into entrepreneurship and the reasons why he took these steps into the unknown. And lastly…….. Why we should all focus in on the present moment, as this is the time that truly makes the difference in our day. John Zeratsky Books How To Connect With John Zeratsky Website Twitter LinkedIn Return To The Top Of Make Time With John Zeratsky If you enjoyed this episode with John Zeratsky, why not check out other inspirational chat with Clayton Morris, Dorie Clark, and the amazing Niall Doherty You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here – enjoy Full Transcription Of Make Time Founder Interview Outro 0:00 When we're young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here's your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph. John Zeratsky 0:25 Yes, hello. Good morning, everybody. Good morning and welcome to Join Up Dots. Yes, it's that podcast again. And today is not gonna be a solo show. It's got we've got we've got a guest we got a guest on the other end of the line, who for nearly 15 years was a designer for technological companies at Google Ventures. He helped develop the design sprint and work with startups like Uber 23andme, flatiron health, Blue Bottle coffee and a nest. Now previously, he was a designer at YouTube, Google and Feedburner, which Google Of course acquired in 2007. Now before that he studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin and graduated from UW School of Human Ecology, where he's now an advisor to the dean and the faculty. However, this just shows that this guy was once mega busy, probably running from meeting to meeting desperate crisis chats and everything else we get sucked into. Whilst in the corporate world now things are very different. Now he might be just as busy, but now he's busy doing the things that he wants to do in a way he wants to do it. For example, He spent 18 months travelling in Central America aboard a sailboat pineapple with his wife. But before moving to Milwaukee in 2019. He's a keynote speaker and a best selling author of sprint and make time and he helps leaders, entrepreneurs and professional teams make better use of their time at work and become happier and more engaged humans. So So why do people actually need his help? And we all know how to do it by and large Get away from the computers, connect with real life people and try to limit what we do every day. But what is the quickest way that we can increase our happiness in our lives? If we're doing all that? Well, let's find out as we bring them to the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Mr. John Zeratsky. Morning John, how are you? Good morning, David. How are you doing? David Ralph 2:25 I'm always doing well, john. Don't do it. All right. Yeah. As we were talking. Yeah, I've got no Corona virus. I've got nothing I've got. I've got a slight pain in my shoulder. But I think that sitting at a computer all the time, other than that job, pretty damn good. Now let's get into it and cut to the chase because we've you it's all about time and making time. Now, can you really make time or can you just make the most of your time John Zeratsky 2:52 you're on to me, it's impossible to make time and that's what makes it such an important thing to focus on. To think about because time is our only finite resource, you know, if we, we lose our money, we can make it back. Again, if we gain weight, we can we can shut it off. If we're weak, we can become strong. If we're sick, we can become well, but we can never make more time, we only get so much. And we don't know how much we get until it's gone. So it's a really important really precious resource. But like you mentioned, so many of us just kind of let it slip by we live in a crazy world with all sorts of default settings, settings in our technology products and in our cultures and workplaces and the norms and the beliefs that we accept. And we just sort of react to those defaults. Most of our time is spent by default. And so while it's not in a in a in a medic metaphysical sense, it's not possible to create more time, we can effectively Make time by resetting those defaults and choosing to spend our time on the things that really matter. Instead of just reacting to what's in front of us. David Ralph 4:10 I agree with this. I agree with this totally. And I also agree, and I'm going to point this in into the conversation, because sometimes just wasting time is perfect. It's right. I'll give you an example. I just come back from Iceland. And we had one day we had beautiful weather. It was freezing cold, but beautiful weather and one day you went out and it literally was scraping the skin off your face. It was so cold. And so me and my wife, we just sat in a bar drinking Icelandic beer, buying drinks for Americans, it was always the Americans I always rolled up and and we said what a wonderful day it was and it was such a waste of time, but it just felt good to do that. John Zeratsky 4:51 Absolutely. Well you experienced in that, in that wasted time you experienced a number of benefits that we You know, sometimes if we're lucky, or if we're intentional about it, we find ourselves enjoying, you got to spend time face to face with other humans. So that's something that we we evolved to to need and to thrive on. You experienced the relative quiet or calm of not having a million new bits of information popping into your feed or onto your phone. You experienced the feeling of generosity of giving something to those thirsty Americans David Ralph 5:36 a one time back, those Americans weren't very good at buying rounds back I promise you. And happily I mean, cleared off. John Zeratsky 5:44 Perhaps they have a few things to learn from you. But But yeah, that that it's absolutely true that that sometimes wasting time or things that that don't look very productive are actually the best uses of our time and in particular, Things like what you just mentioned, are great because they pack so many benefits together. Another one of my favourites is, is cooking dinner at home. So, you know sure if you're mister you know, ultra productive optimised, you know, outsource your life use every last second to maximise your your income or whatever. Sure, you're not going to cook your own dinner, that's nuts, you're gonna have somebody cook it for you, you're gonna have it delivered, you're gonna have pre made meals, whatever. But I love cooking dinner because it tends to be more affordable and healthier than going to a restaurant or ordering in. It forces me to get up from the computer and do something with my hands. And it creates a little bit of space very much like you just sitting in that bar disconnected from all the feeds and and sources of information in our world cooking requires you to be a bit different. connected. And I also like how it marks the end of the day. It's a natural transition between the daytime which for me is usually focused on some project that I'm excited about and the nighttime which is a time to tell our body it's, you know, it's, it's time to wind down, it's time to relax so that we can sleep well and be prepared for another great day tomorrow. David Ralph 7:22 Now let's spin it into sort of entrepreneurial venture because I'm this is gonna, you may not notice, john, but my listeners will go Oh my God, he's mentioning again, but I think it's important. I think it's important. And I don't have a mobile phone. I don't have a mobile phone or a tablet or anything. So when once I leave my office, Fassett is gone. I don't have any sort of connectivity. But in the early days of starting my business, I found myself sucked into my office a lot. Because there's always something to do and yet no matter how big businesses or how successful it is, there's still something that is sitting half and done. Now what I had to do was I actually had to say, no, that office is closed. I'm not just sneaking up there for 10 minutes. I'm not because my family kept on laughing. Yeah, we know it's gonna be 10 minutes. We'll see you in three hours. I now do that. And I say, right. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, I don't go up to my office at all. And then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I jam everything in to give myself that breathing space again. Is that something that I am lucky to be able to do? Or can most people do that being kind of legit mentally flexible with that time? John Zeratsky 8:39 I think probably a bit of both. I think that I think that I would be I wouldn't be completely honest. If I were to say that any bit. Anybody out there could choose to, you know to jam all their work into three days a week because Most people are not as lucky or as privileged as we are. And so they, they have normal jobs. And they don't necessarily have the same kind of control. But on the other hand, there's a lot of, there's a lot of space to work with. There's a lot of room for flexibility. And when I work with people who feel like they don't have enough time for the things that matter to them, one of the first things we do is we talk about where their time goes now. And more often than not a good chunk of that time goes into what my co author Jake and I call infinity pools. So these are apps like Facebook and Twitter and even the breaking news and games and Netflix streaming things where there's always more content there. There's always more water in the pool, you can dive back in at any time. And the data on this stuff shows that at least in the United States. The average American spends about four hours a day on their phone and four hours a day watching TV. So In a very real sense of distraction is a full time job. And so we usually start there and we say, well, let's, let's figure out which of those things really are important to you, which matter because they connect you to other people, or they allow you to do something that's helping you learn or grow or helping you build something. And which parts are just really waste of time, which parts feel, you know, don't make you feel good. They feel like you're sort of being mindlessly pulled through instead of intentionally choosing to dive in. And so we start by cutting those off and then the next thing we do is exactly what you suggested, which is we compartmentalise that time. So instead of doing, you know, basically checking email throughout the day, or having a bunch of little meetings with these little scraps of time in between them. I help people kind of structure their calendars so that when they're doing something, they're doing that one thing. They're completely focused on it. They're doing it Great job at it. And then when they're done, they move on to the next thing. And this works amazingly well, even for something as seemingly innocuous as email, it turns out, there's actually research on this, it turns out that if email, David Ralph 11:14 there's always research, there's always reasons why people doing research on these kind of things. John Zeratsky 11:19 Well, because it matters because, like we we talked about it at the intro time is our only finite resource. And so this stuff matters. These are important questions, you know, these are not just sort of trivial matters. these are these are really at the heart of what it means to be human, what it means to be alive. And so I think these are important research questions and and research on email shows that people who are in an experiment forced to check email fewer times during the course of the day, actually become measurably better at doing email so they become faster, they become more efficient at it, and they feel less stressed so they feel better about themself. And so it's the exact opposite of what you'd expect. You know, if you want to be Mr. productivity and you want to be ultra efficient, you think, Oh, well, I need to be on top of my email at all times. But it's actually, the opposite is true. And so that's I think that speaks to the power of compartmentalization, which is really just kind of a long and complicated word for doing one thing at a time. David Ralph 12:20 Well, I'm gonna throw it back at ya. I agree with you everything you're saying. But I'm going to throw I'm going to tell you how I operate. Now that there's three laws, there's two laws that are like very, very much one. One is Parkinson's Law, which I'm sure you know all about Parkinson's Law, john. Yeah. John Zeratsky 12:37 That's about work expanding. You're very good. David Ralph 12:41 Yeah, you're very good. And so if you give yourself 20 minutes to deal with all your emails you're doing in 20 minutes. If you give yourself three hours, you'll get three hours. And so I do everything based on time. So with my emails, I log on first thing in the morning, and I give myself 15 minutes to deal with them all. Anything that comes in I get a load of emails is ridiculous, but I make sure I only read them once. So I read them make a decision and deal with it, delete it, respond or whatever. Because once you leave it half done, it then builds up into some big monstrous inbox that you can't deal with. And so yeah, literally every day my inbox is totally clean. I batch everything. So like today is my podcasting day. So the only thing I do is podcasting. And I do about three Thursdays in the month and nothing else gets involved in there. And biggest thing but I think so many people miss out on and I'm going to, you know, ask your point of view and this is the 8020 looking at everything that you do and things actually what part is bringing value back into your business. If it's Facebook when brilliant if it's not get rid of it. If it's Pinterest, get rid of it. Just look at all the stuff and I realised for myself business, but nothing was making a difference in my business other than podcasting, and then personally connecting with people, listeners. So when they come through to me, and then we chat, and then sometimes they become clients, sometimes they don't. And I realised I was wasting so much time doing everything else I thought I had to do. Well, the bottom line was connection, you make the right connections. John Zeratsky 14:27 That's fantastic. Yeah. And I think that that's, that that is a really important way of looking at everything we do, not just the work that we're doing. So certainly, you know, the 8020 rule is very important in the context of your work, you want to be focused on the things that actually produce the desired results. But I think just in general, when we think about our time we we would be wise to apply that rule. It's funny people are used to being very analytical and critical about their work. You know, they're used to doing it. Post mortems and retrospectives and you know, big reports on things but, but most people don't have a habit of looking analytically at their own time. And so that's very much the approach that we take when it comes to the use of technology in particular. So like you like you mentioned, if something like Facebook works for your business, and that's an important part of your work, then by all means, use that as a tool use that for its desired purpose. But give it a time give it a space. We've actually heard from some folks who, if they need to use something like like Facebook or Twitter or a really kind of addictive infinity pool app if they need to use that for their business, they will even set up a separate device so they'll have a separate phone and this is actually really important for for Instagram because Instagram is one of the few if not the only of these, these apps were talking about that really is mobile only, like you can't really meaningfully use Instagram on a computer. And so if you know if if that's a big part of your business, then then we've actually heard from people who will set up a dedicated device so that for their 30 minutes a day, or their their one hour a day, or their two hours a week, or whatever the right allocation of time is, they can get out that device, they can power it up, they can do what they need to do, and then they can put it away. And I think it's when we, when we allow everything to just be on and be there and be in front of us by default. And we allow the notifications to be on we allow apps to check in the background. That's when we develop the sense that we're we're not in control of how we're spending our time. And that's when we develop the feeling that we're not spending our time on things that matter because we're not because we're just reacting to what what shows up in front of us instead of what we have. So So wisely and intelligently as you decided is important to us. David Ralph 17:01 One of the things that I did as well john, and I've got it in my hand at the moment was I bought a book called The disciplined pursuit of less essentialism by Greg McKeown. Yeah. Great book, brilliant book. It's a brilliant book. There's only two books, but I will always recommend and one was the four hour workweek by Tim Ferriss that really launched me into entrepreneurship, and this book, and I read it, and I read it three times back to back, because it made me realise, you know, leading on from what we're talking about, but so much of the stuff that I was spending my time wasn't really important and wasn't things that I really wanted to do anyway. You know, I, I used to sit with my wife watching TV in the evenings because she used to like to sit there watching TV with me. And then we came to a discussion I said, I don't really like your programmes anyway. You know, I don't care. It's all CSI, this CSI VAT and murders and God knows Well, you know, I'd rather not do that. I hope we like watching TV. No, you like watching TV and I sit next to you. So what we've done now we've got a point where on a Sunday evening, we watch a film together, and we sit and watch a film together. And the other time, she can just dip into that box set, she can do what she wants, and I can do what I want. And we made that conscious decision. It was essential to her but not essential to me. Now, when you look at that, that book, there's one title and I'm going to ask you about it. Not that you're going to remember this from the book, but it's very, very important. And it's the the unimportance of practically everything. John Zeratsky 18:40 Now, remember that David Ralph 18:41 that's a powerful statement, I kept on coming back to thinking to myself, you know, I always say to the kids, you can always find time to do what you want. You know, when when I say to him, oh, you ain't clean your bedroom? I haven't had time. Yeah, but you've told him to do everything else you want to do. It's always that kind of stuff. Everything else is unimportant. Really. Sure, John Zeratsky 19:01 yeah, there's there's a similar sentiment that comes from the world of personal finance, which is that you can afford anything but not everything. And there's actually a great podcast that sort of takes its title from that, that line which is called afford anything that hosted by Paula pant. And, yeah, I completely, I completely subscribe to that philosophy. But I will admit that it's something that I am not always great at applying and I, I somewhat recently have become an entrepreneur myself I, after many years of helping other people build their businesses, as a partner at a venture capital firm and as sort of an advisor and an author and things like that. I have. I have recently started my own business and I find myself overwhelmed by all the possibilities and all the opportunities. And, and well I know all the things that you're saying and I agree with them. It's a, I'm constantly reminded that, that these things are simple, but they're not easy. And that we are all struggling. We're all going through this process. We're all on this journey of trying to figure things out of trying to focus our time on what matters. And we're we're pushing up against some pretty powerful forces. And so I'm glad that you brought it up because it's yet another reminder to me that I need to perhaps use some of the some of the blank spaces in my calendar coming up in the future to re revisit those things. And the reason I mentioned blank spaces is that at the time we're recording this, a lot of events are being cancelled or postponed because of the The outbreak of the corona virus and so I'm finding myself with some unexpected free time and rather than rather than let that time just sort of be eaten up by by unimportant things or reactive things I ought to use it to, to kind of reassess and reevaluate some of the bigger decisions about how I'm spending my time. David Ralph 21:21 We're talking to john as a rat ski about time and we will be back after these words. Unknown Speaker 21:29 Are you ready to make a full time living online? Unknown Speaker 21:31 Check out the amazing Join Up Dots business coaching. Unknown Speaker 21:34 Hello, my name is Alan. And I've just completed the excellent eight week course with David before I started working with David Actually, I had no idea at all Unknown Speaker 21:42 where to start. Unknown Speaker 21:44 I had a lot of ideas about what I probably bought was going to be good business. David was able to help me through that though, to find that passion. Within literally minutes. We had we had a business idea and for the last seven weeks, we'll be Building on and building on and the position I'm in now, but I've got an Unknown Speaker 22:03 ever got here Unknown Speaker 22:04 on my own because of the amount of information that David gives the structure. He's got the full package here, and he explains it in a way that I can understand. His support is is phenomenal. I feel like this is the way business is supposed to work. David Unknown Speaker 22:19 helped me understand, okay, what were the next logical steps that I should do? How can I get this up and running? So I would really recommend this as an excellent course helping you if you have an idea if you have no idea, really teasing that out and at some of the practicalities and steps to take to really launch your business, whether as a full time job or as a side hustle. So it was really excellent. I recommend it for anybody thinking about setting up their own business. But both it's Unknown Speaker 22:45 an exaggeration to say David will totally save you years. Unknown Speaker 22:49 Thank you, David for all your amazing help and support which keeps on going and we certainly couldn't be where we are today without you. So you're awesome. David Ralph 23:00 If you would love to become my next success story and have your own life changing online business following my step by step system, fine tuned over many years to take away the effort and expense that others struggle with, and come across to Join Up dots.com and book a free call with myself. Let's get you living the easy life, as it says waiting for you to get it that is Join Up dots.com business coaching. Now, he leading on from that kind of advert, but tying into time as well. What I have found through doing Join Up Dots is the amount of people that waste time doing stuff that doesn't bring any rewards where they aren't doing Facebook, were doing some kind of marketing. And when I say to them, you know, how's it going for you by can't really justify that. Now with yourself as a fledgling entrepreneur. How did you begin to get clients to come to you, john, how did you save it as good The worst thing is, you know, I'll give you an example. We had a time management person come into our company many, many years ago. And we were there at nine o'clock. And he didn't turn up because he didn't realise it was that time and he was late. And we thought, What a stupid time management person you are. So how do you manage to look Zen like, but appeals to people without, you know, burning yourself out in the process? John Zeratsky 24:25 Sure. Well, I don't try to look Zen like I have. It's actually an important part of my philosophy and the philosophy that I write about and teach about that. That perfection and ultra regimented structure and optimised use of time is not a realistic or sustainable goal for any of us. So I try to be I try to be honest about it. I try to be very authentic about the fact that that this is a real challenge for me. One and that that includes me and that I'm struggling with it as well. But the the thing that I think is, is unique about my perspective is that I worked for nearly 15 years as a designer in the tech industry. And so, as a part of that experience, I, I gained two unique perspectives. One is sort of inside perspective on understanding how and why technology products are designed and configured in the ways that they are. And, and that allows me to help people sort of understand the role of defaults in shaping how they use their time and then help them reconfigure those technology products, or perhaps choose not to use certain technology products because of how it will affect their their time. But the other perspective is that technology companies are very eager adopters of new technology products in and I worked At Google, and Google is sort of famous or infamous, one or the other for having tonnes of internal products. So special tools for communicating or collaborating or organising projects that were developed internally, by engineers for internal use. And so Google in particular, and I'm sure you know, other companies are similar but but my experience at Google was that while there were amazingly brilliant people working on incredibly interesting opportunities, doing doing great work, we also we we were just inundated by email and meetings and, and information and tasks and administrative work that we needed to stay on top of, and the people around me, they, they all struggled to spend their time on the work that really mattered to them, not to mention the stuff that they wanted to do outside of work and so, as a as a person in that environment, I sort of You know, I wondered, what about me, you know, how can I create space and time for myself in this world and so that's the thing that has allowed me to sort of develop a unique, unique perspective on this and and to get a bit more tactical. My approach for reaching customers has really always been through telling stories, specifically writing and sharing very concrete, very practical tips and suggestions on how to do things. And hopefully, you know, wrapping those concrete suggestions in a, in a forgiving, flexible approach or framework that makes people feel like you know, it's that it's okay to, to not be perfect because there is no such thing as perfection but that if people can be empowered with sort of a process for experimenting with themselves and and and have a daily frame Work for are continuing to, to make tweaks and make things a little bit better for themselves that eventually they will get to a point where they feel like their time is their own and that they're free to focus on the things that matter to them. David Ralph 28:13 Now I've pondered many, many times recently that Join Up Dots has become so successful for me because I haven't deviated I've just kept him doing it, but seven years. But through that process, I've had burnout. I've had loads and loads of issues due to overwork. And I've often pondered whether your business is the right business for me. I have learned so much about reclaiming my personal energy and freeing myself from distractions and reconnecting with nature, and travelling and all the kinds of things th

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