Title: Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction
Author: Chris Bailey
Publisher: Random House of Canada
Buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
Our attention has never been as overwhelmed as it is today. Many of us recognize that our brains struggle to multitask. Despite this, we feel compelled to do so anyway while we fill each moment of our lives to the brim with mindless distraction. Hyperfocus provides profound insights into how you can best take charge of your attention to achieve a greater sense of purpose and productivity throughout the day.
It’s been a few months since I’ve originally read this book, but I have continued to reference this book whenever speaking to someone or talking about productivity in general. Part of the reason is that this book was on the reading list for The Productivity Lab podcast and as such, we needed to discuss this and perform a few challenges.
The author, Chris Bailey, breaks this book into two parts. The first Hyperfocus, and the second Scatterfocus. This is as a result of his testing varying productivity methods and compiling what he has learned. This book does not go into great detail in providing you detailed steps to follow, but it does a really good job of explaining things and providing you a framework to follow.
The first portion of this book is about becoming focused and in this, he talks a lot about intentionality. But here are a few top things I enjoyed the most:
Rule of 3
I’m familiar with making a to-do list for the day, or at the previous day, listing out what I need to do. These were typical, as one would expect, a list of things that needed to be done. As you can imagine, I had a varying degree of success with this and it was not consistent.
When reading this section, I immediately thought of an old practice I used to do to help direct focus called “Power Hour.” This was time booked for the first hour of my day where I would work on the most difficult task that I needed to get done. The task was defined the day prior as to minimize the time needed to choose what to work on the day of. I knew, immediately, what that task was going to be. This method was such a success for me that I had even blogged about it.
The rule of 3 continues this by allowing you to choose just three tasks that will allow you to get the most out of your day and goals. It is also designed so that you think about the consequences of each task in order to help you make that decision.
Chris talks about setting a “specific intention” to increase your odds of success and I can’t help but think of the SMART method for goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relative, and Time-bound. The definition of each letter changes depending on the framework you’re using. Changing your goals from something vague to more specific aids in you completing the said goal.
We are what we consumeChris Bailey
Chris talks about simplifying your environment in an effort to reduce your risk of distractions. This is also something one does to either break or create a habit. James Clear talks about this in his book “Atomic Habits.” How does one modify their environment to make it more productive? First, you start by removing distractions like mobile phones and other things that can easily distract.
Though, this isn’t the lone way to reduce distractions. Adding things to your environment can have an increase in your focus for the task at hand. Having readily accessible books can help spark creativity and or inspire you. Since reading this book, I now keep a few books on my desk that are related to any writing projects I have to gain inspiration. I read a paragraph or chapter to get me going and the words go tumbling out when I sit down to write.
The most interesting piece of already interesting work is the latter portion of the book that speaks to scatterfocus. This deals with the Zeigarnik effect in which states that we remember incomplete tasks more than the completed tasks. It also notes that we would have a higher level of detail in our recall of the incomplete task until that task has been completed. Scatterfocus lives in this but gives you ways to wield it.
Picture this – you’re working away on a task and you’ve hit the wall. No matter how much you push yourself, you simply can’t figure it out. Frustrated, you push away from your desk and declare your need for more coffee. As you retrieve the coffee mug from the cabinet, you see a water droplet. You then think of the chemical formula for water, H2O. And then your mind wanders to what makes up the formula – two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen. And by golly, you’ve figured out your problem. Armed with the answer, you rush back to your desk to complete your task.
That is scatterfocus – it’s letting the mind rest from the task at hand and since the task is incomplete, it will be at the front of mind and all the information you intake, will be to connect the dots until you’ve found a solution. It is connecting the dots that Chris helps you control this chaotic form of productivity.
In short, this is a book I’ve very much enjoyed and one that I continually find myself referring to. The scatterfocus section, in particular, is one that I’ve used the most as I am more familiar with the methods presented for hyperfocus. While the author doesn’t go into great detail, I think this book is fantastic in providing you a framework for you to do with what you wish.
Definitely, give this book a read.