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About the book

Canada’s productivity expert returns with a totally fresh angle on how to do more with less.  Throughout his experiments and research, Chris Bailey came across many little-known insights into how we focus (a key element of productivity), including the surprising idea that focus isn’t so much a state of heightened awareness (as we’d assume), but a balance between two frames of mind. The most recent neuroscientific research on attention reveals that our brain has two powerful modes that can be unlocked when we use our attention well: a focused mode (hyperfocus), which is the foundation for being highly productive, and a creative mode (scatterfocus), which enables us to connect ideas in novel ways. Hyperfocus helps readers unlock both, so they can concentrate more deeply, think more clearly, and work and live more deliberately. Diving deep into the science and theories about how and why we bring our attention to bear on life’s big goals and everyday tasks, Chris Bailey takes his unique approach to productivity to the next level in Hyperfocus, while retaining the approachable voice and perspective that made him a fast favourite.

Buy book:   Amazon

Year published:   2018


Quotes from the book

Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction (Chris Bailey)

  • Attention without intention is wasted energy.
  • An unfortunate truth is that the brain is not built to do knowledge work—it’s wired for survival and reproduction.
  • The quality of attention is so integral to productivity that increasing it even slightly makes a remarkable difference in how much we accomplish.
  • We are what we pay attention to, and almost nothing influences our productivity and creativity as much as the information we’ve consumed in the past.
  • One study found that when we continuously switch between tasks, our work takes 50 percent longer, compared with doing one task from start to completion.
  • The concept of hyperfocus can be summed up in a single tranquil sentence: keep one important, complex object of attention in your awareness as you work.
  • Another of my favorite quotes is from Abraham Lincoln, who said, ‘Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.’
  • How much of your time you spend intentionally 2. How long you can hold your focus in one sitting 3.   How long your mind wanders before you catch it.
  • Continually seeking novel stimuli makes us feel more productive—after all, we’re doing more in each moment. But again, just because we’re busier doesn’t mean we’re getting more accomplished.
  • Just as you are what you eat, you are what you pay attention to. Attention is finite and is the most valuable ingredient you have to live a good life—so make sure everything you consume is worthy of it.
  • Directing your attention to the most important object of your choosing—and then sustaining that attention— is the most consequential decision we will make throughout the day. We are what we pay attention to.
  • Directing your attention toward the most important object of your choosing—and then sustaining that attention—is the most consequential decision we will make throughout the day. We are what we pay attention to.
  • Choose a productive or meaningful object of attention; eliminate as many external and internal distractions as you can; focus on that chosen object of attention; and continually draw your focus back to that one object of attention.
  • The most important aspect of hyperfocus is that only one productive or meaningful task consumes your attentional space. This is simply nonnegotiable. Here’s why: the most crucial tasks, projects, and commitments benefit from every bit of extra attention.
  • How important it is to choose what you consume and pay attention to: just as you are what you eat, when it comes to the information you consume, you are what you choose to focus on. Consuming valuable material in general makes scatter-focus sessions even more productive.
  • Whether at work or at home, the quality of your attention determines the quality of your life. At work, the more attention you give to what’s in front of you, the more productive you become. At home, the more attention you devote to what’s in front of you, the more meaningful your life becomes.
  • It’s not a coincidence that so many of the tactics in this book involve making your work and life less stimulating—the less stimulated you are, the more deeply you can think. Each time we eschew boredom for stimulation, we fail to plan, unearth ideas our mind has incubated, or recharge so we can work later with greater energy and purpose.”
  • Research shows that attentional space expands and contracts in proportion to how much mental energy we have. Getting enough sleep, for example, can increase the size of attentional space by as much as 58 percent, and taking frequent breaks can have the same effect. This impacts productivity: when attentional space is approximately 60 percent larger, productivity can grow by just as much, especially when working on a demanding task. The better rested we are, the more productive we become.
  • Some students set a vague intention while others set what [Peter] Gollwitzer calls an ‘implementation intention.’ As he explains the term: ‘Make a very detailed plan on how you want to achieve what you want to achieve. What I’m arguing in my research is that goals need plans, ideally plans that include when, where, and which kind of action to move towards the goal.’ In other words, if a student’s vague goal was to ‘find an apartment during Christmas break,’ his implementation intention could be ‘I will hunt for apartments on Craigslist and email three apartment landlords in the weeks leading up to Christmas.’
  • Hyperfocus can help you get an extraordinary amount done in a relatively short period of time. Scatterfocus lets you connect ideas—which helps you unearth hidden insights, become more creative, plan for the future, and rest. Together they will enable you to work and live with purpose. Your attention is the most powerful tool at your disposal to live and work with greater productivity, creativity and purpose. Managing it well will enable you to spend more time and energy on your most purposeful tasks and to work more often with intention, focus for longer periods, and stumble into fewer unwanted daydreams. I hope you spend it wisely.
  • After years of researching the topic, I’ve found that ‘productivity’ has become a bit of a loaded term. What it usually connotes is a condition that feels cold, corporate, and overly focused on efficiency. I prefer a different (and friendlier) definition: productivity means accomplishing what we intend to. If our plan today is to write three thousand words, rock a presentation with our leadership team, and catch up on our email, and we successfully accomplish all of those, we were perfectly productive. Likewise, if we intend to have a relaxing day and manage to do absolutely nothing, we’re again perfectly productive. Being busy doesn’t make us productive. It doesn’t matter how busy we are if that busyness doesn’t lead us to accomplish anything of importance. Productivity is not about cramming more into our days but doing the right thing in each moment.
  • The science suggests we pass through four states as we begin to focus. First, we’re focused (and productive). Then, assuming we don’t get distracted or interrupted, our minds begin to wander. Third, we make note of this mind wandering. This can take awhile, especially if we don’t frequently check what is consuming our attentional space. (On average, we notice about five times an hour that our mind has wandered.) And fourth, we shift our focus back to our original object of attention. The four stages of hyperfocus are modeled on this framework.” There are four steps to hyperfocusing. The quick recap: “To hyperfocus, you must 1. choose a productive or meaningful object of attention; 2. eliminate as many external and internal distractions as you can; 3. focus on that chosen object of attention; and 4. continually draw your focus back to that one object of attention.
  • When you hyperfocus on a task, you expand one task, project, or other object of attention … so it fills your attentional space completely. You enter this mode by managing your attention deliberately and purposefully: by choosing one important object of attention, eliminating distractions that will inevitably arise as you work, and then focusing on just one task. Hyperfocus is many things at once: it’s deliberate, undistracted, and quick to refocus, and it leads us to become completely immersed in our work. It also makes us immensely happy. Recall how energized you were by your work the last time you found yourself in this state. In hyperfocus you might even feel more relaxed than you usually are when you work. Allowing one task or project to consume your full attentional space means this state doesn’t make you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Your attentional space doesn’t overflow, and your work doesn’t feel nearly as chaotic. Since hyperfocus is so much more productive, you can slow down a bit and still accomplish an incredible amount in a short period of time.
  • Above all else I began to view attention as the most important ingredient we can add if we’re to become more productive, creative, and happy—at work and at home. When we invest our limited attention intelligently and deliberately, we focus more deeply and think more clearly. This is an essential skill in today’s world, when we are so often in distracting environments doing brain-heavy work. This book takes you on a tour through my exploration of the subject of focus. I’ll share not only the fascinating things I’ve learned but also how to actually put those ideas to use in your own life (I’ve road-tested all of them). Productivity research is great—but pretty useless when you don’t act upon it. In this way, I see Hyperfocus as a sort of ‘science-help’ book; one that explores the fascinating research behind how you focus but also bridges those insights with your daily life to explore ways you can manage your attention better to become more productive and creative. These ideas have already changed one life (mine), and I know they can do the same for you too. On the surface, the results can seem a bit like magic, but magic stops being magic the moment you know how it’s done.