These are my notes and summary from the book Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey.

🚀 The Book in 2 Sentences

The book teaches you about two kinds of focus: “hyperfocus” and “scatterfocus”. It offers tactics on how to build an environment that’s conductive for better focus and why that’s useful for you.

🎨 Impressions

How I Discovered It

Last week I bemoaned my lack of focus. I decided to learn more about how focus works to improve my strategies on becoming a better software developer.
The book “Hyperfocus” was one of the top results.

Who Should Read It?

Everyone who’s interested in improving the quality of their (work) life.

The book didn’t contain a lot of brand-new information, but the author managed to package the material in a way that helped me put the advice into practice.

The text is a bit thin on the researches. The author also repeats himself often. The material could have been shortened.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

I’ve thought that my chaotic environment (work from home with two children) is not conductive to “deep focus”. While I cannot avoid interruptions, I’ve learned that there are still tactics to improve my routine.

This is the first book on that topic that helped me implement the knowledge on how to better focus.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

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.

Let’s say you find yourself with an hour to spend however you want. Take a step back to observe your life from afar.
How would you want to see yourself occupying that time if it were sped up into a thirty-second video?
Would you want to see yourself lying like a blob on the couch watching Sherlock on Netflix or mindlessly tapping on your tablet? Or would you rather watch a video of yourself poring over a hundred pages of a book?

Shrink your desired hyperfocus period until you no longer feel resistance to the ritual. Minimize the amount of time you’ll dedicate to focusing on one task until you no longer feel mental resistance to it. Even setting a mental deadline of five minutes will likely be enough to get you started.

📒 My 3 Most Useful Learnings

Hyperfocus is a continous practice.

It’s natural to seek out novel stimuli. Our brain chemistry favors that. If possible, control your environment to limit the amount of distractions.

Negotiate with your inner bastard if you can’t bring yourself to focus until you no longer feel resistance.

Practice hyperfocus:

The most important aspect of hyperfocus is that only one productive or meaningful task consumes your attentional space.

Choose a task, guard against upcoming distractions, focus on the object of your attention, and bring your attention back when it wanders.

Recharge. Take a break at least every 90 minutes.

You have limited attentional space.

Guard your attention.

Constant task-switching may feel good (“novelty bias”). It hinders productivity, though.

Check for emails or messages only if you have the time, attention and energy to deal with whatever might come in. Keep a tally of how often you check for messages. Predecide when you’ll check.

Externalize your tasks and commitments by writing them down/keeping lists. Capture unresolved commitments and ideas and revisit them later.

There are four categories of tasks (think Eisenhower Matrix):

  • necessary work: unattractive, yet productive
  • unnecessary work: unproductive and unattractive (rearranging papers)
  • distracting work: stimulating, unproductive tasks (social media)
  • purposeful work: productivity sweet spot, engaging, useful work

Divide your work into these two categories.

UnattractiveAttractive
Productivenecessary workpurposeful work
Unproductiveunnecessary workdistracting work

Be mindful of what you pay attention to.

Useful information is typically actionable and helps you to reach your goals. They can be either related to what you already know or completely unrelated.

If you’re in doubt about consuming something, ask yourself: How do you think your life will be different knowing this piece of information?

Aim for useful information (books, courses, etc.) and balanced information (both informative and entertaining, e.g., a TED talk, podcasts).

Get things to bid for your attention. You cannot consume everything.

Scatterfocus for ideas and problem-solving.

Scatterfocus is mind-wandering with a purpose. When you have unresolved tasks (“open loops”) your mind tends to revisit them (“Zeigarnik Effect“).

Do something that doesn’t require your full attentional space, and let your mind solve problems. You might want to capture what comes up.

Make it a habit. Go for a nature walk, visit an art gallery, etc.