“Hyperfocus: how to be more productive in a world of distraction”, is Chris Bailey’s 2nd book. In The Productivity Project he experimented with the 3 ingredients of productivity: time, attention, and energy. In Hyperfocus, he zeroes in on ATTENTION with a practical “how-to” guide to improve focus.
After noticing how difficult it was for him to stay focused, Chris wanted to create an antidote to working in a world of distraction. It’s not the book he wanted to WRITE, but the book he wanted to READ!
The Big Idea
Our attention is the most constrained ingredient we have to living a great life.
If you let your mind get distracted by meaningless emails, shallow social media updates, and constant alerts from your phone… you won’t be able to complete any fulfilling, important tasks.
As a result, when your time is spent mostly on “empty” tasks, you will end up feeling empty inside too. So the key to living a better life is to manage your attention deliberately.
It’s NOT our fault that we’re distracted so often. Our brain is actually wired to focus on anything that’s pleasurable, threatening, or novel. When we’re bouncing around a bunch of apps on our phone, our brain gets fired up and excited.
Sadly, even if you go to an opera, you’ll notice half the people fiddling with their phones. It’s a beautiful experience to soak in a concert or other performance, but people choose to focus their attention on a far less meaningful activity.
So we have to work hard in order to be able to control our attention:
- First choose a productive or meaningful object for your attention.
- Then, eliminate potential distractions by taming what’s novel around you. Maybe move your phone to another room so you can focus on reading a book.
- And when you focus, be mindful. Your attention has a rhythm and your mind will naturally wander off. So you have to be aware of this and draw your attention back.
The Role of Meditation
Managing your attention only gets better with practice. And a great way to practice is to meditate. Because that’s what meditation is all about. Sitting still and focusing on a very mundane thing like your breath. Your mind will soon get bored and wander off, over and over.
But as you heighten your awareness of your mind’s wandering, you can control it. And you can bring your attention back to your breath. After a while, you’ll start noticing the benefits: you should be able to stay focused on meaningful tasks more easily, and control your attention for longer.
You will benefit the most simply by actively choosing what you focus on. Don’t let yourself react to the emails pouring into your inbox. We all spend too much time on autopilot mode, where we simply react to whatever’s coming our way. But our attention is really worth managing deliberately, for a more productive AND better life!