Review and Summary: Hyperfocus, How to Work Less and Achieve More

Hyperfocus Book Cover

Author: Chris Bailey

Publication date: 28 August 2018

Publisher: Viking

Number of pages: 256 pages

Your focus determines your reality.

Qui-gon jinn, star wars: episode 1: the phantom menace

We have a common problem when it comes to living in a fast pace world: managing productivity. Research has shown that we are presented with eleven million “bits” of information at once but we can only process forty of them. What a surprising (and disappointing) fact when there are a lot of deadlines on our to-do list.

This book is extraordinary great to describe how our brain works, how to manage it, and help us to get an incredible amount of tasks done in a relatively short period of time.

What is productivity?

Each of us has different strategies to achieve a productive day. However, let’s agree that being productive is not about being busy. Busyness that doesn’t guide us to accomplish anything significance is not productive. Productivity is cross out our actual to-do list in what we intend to. If one of our to-do list is to have a break and do nothing, then we’re productive.

In this book, Chris Bailey suggests the strategies to develop productivity by dividing up our tasks into four different categories:

  • Necessary work, which is a task that are unattractive but productive.
  • Unnecessary work, is a task that are unproductive and unattractive. The one that we usually do when we’re procrastinating.
  • Distracting work, a blackhole for productivity, such as spending time in social media.
  • Purposeful work, is the task with the most significant impact and require the most engagement from us.

This classification is a first step to help us being productive so we are conscious on what’s really important and make a priority. Still, it is not enough. Keep our mind engaged in what we’re doing is more challenging and not many of us know how to do it. That’s why, in this book, Chris Bailey highlights a tactic to tackle it: hyperfocus.

What is hyperfocus?

Hyperfocus is the most productive state of our brain and a good company for us to do a complex task. In this mode, you only allow one valuable task into your attentional space so you have extra attentional space to spare. Therefore, we are not easy to be slipped by disturbance and enough attention to think, remember, learn, and solve problems. We’re able to bring back our attention to our original assignment if our mind accidentally wanders.

Why is hyperfocus important?

Our mind wanders 47% each day so it is normal for our brain to “go somewhere”. But we have to understand that it occupies more or less 22 minutes for our brain to be back to focus on our actual task when we’re interrupted. So, it is crucial is to understand how to hack our brain and embrace hyperfocus so we can really consume our time on the actual task.

How to do hyperfocus?

To start hyperfocus, we can start with increasing our awareness of making task more complex and drawing on more complex ones so they will use up our attention.

There are four stages of hyperfocus. First, select a productive object of attention. Second, get rid of external and internal distractions. Third, focus on the selected object of attention. The last one is constantly bring your focus back to the object of attention

What about multitasking?

No one ban us from doing stuff in multitasking mode. Nevertheless, too much alteration in between task can be harmful, specifically when our brain have to handle new objects more than its capability.

Research has shown that multitasking relies on part of the brain that’s involved in learning of skill and habits. While when we are in focus state, we rely on brain’s hippocampus which lets us keep and remember the information. Imagine that you are done with something important yet you can’t recall what it is. As a consequence, you don’t really learn and highly possible to make some mistakes in the future.

What about scatterfocus?

Not only hyperfocus, Chris Bailey also introduce a new term to the reader: scatterfocus.

Scatterfocus is the most creative state of our brain. Scatterfocus is about inattention, focusing on nothing specific, and the ability to aim attention inward, inside our mind.

When we’re scatterfocusing, we just let our mind be, visiting the past, the present, and the future which lead our mind to travel across time and link experience, ideas, recharge, and plan for what you want to accomplish. This state enable us to memorize, process ideas and meaningful lessons so we can set greater intentions.

It is essential to spare some time between task to scatterfocus to be more considerate and productive.

Is it possible to improve our attentional space?

Chris Bailey suggests meditation and mindfulness to escalate attentional space.

  • Meditation, which helps our mind wander less and focus longer.
  • Mindfulness, which is not as hard as meditation. We can start with pick one daily task that doesn’t take our complete attention, such as drinking morning coffee, walking around our garden, or while taking a bath, and deliberately be with that experience for a minute or two. Embrace the circumstances and conscious of the current moment and aware of what is filling your mind.

Overall thoughts.

Attention is the most critical aspect in our life and we are the only one who should be in charge of it ourselves.

Recently, I’ve read books about habit and being productive, such as Atomic Habits and Digital Minimalism. This book gives me a remarkable perspective on how to take internal control of our mind and how to manage external distractions that sometimes messing up our focus. Understanding our brain can only takes a thing at once and requires some time to draw focus back is a great reminder to elevate my self-awareness to what’s actually important in the present.


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