Writing 2018-09-09

Book Notes – Hyperfocus, Chapter 10

Working Together

For all that they differ, there are a lot of times when Hyperfocus and Scatterfocus can work together. They complement each other by combining to absorb and utilize information as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Investing in Happiness

A positive mood will expand the amount of attention the mind can devote. This happens regardless of which mode of focus the mind is in. On the other hand, a negative mood shrinks the amount of attention a mind can devote. Unhappy people are less productive and the less happy one feels, the more important it becomes to tame distractions as there is less energy to resist them. People who are unhappy also take longer to refocus after an interruption. Thus, it is a good idea to invest in happiness whenever possible.

Work Around Your Energy Levels

Scatterfocus is useful when mental energy is at its lowest. The brain is less inhibited during these periods and doesn’t hold back the ideas it generates. Schedule tasks for Hyperfocus during peak energy times and schedule tasks for Scatterfocus during low energy times.

Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol removes inhibitions in the brain. This can lead to more creativity and creative problem solving, but be aware that this with a small amount of alcohol. Slightly tipsy is different than hitting the bar after work. Most tasks require creativity and focus, so too much alcohol can rob one of the ability to actually take advantage of creative insight. Alcohol’s use is best preserved for brainstorming or other data-linking tasks when your mind needs to wander freely. Be aware of the difficulty of resisting distractions, however.

Caffeine has the opposite effect. It deepens focus and improves performance on tasks that require verbal memory, quick reaction time and spacial awareness (like putting together a jigsaw puzzle). It’s the analytic counterpart to alcohol’s creativity boost. A single cup of coffee is enough to get things going, but more will not boost the effect. More that two cups should be avoided because beyond that amount it overstimulate the brain and counter the effects mentioned earlier. Further, as the caffeine is metabolized by the body, energy crashes and productivity drops.

Open Offices

Open environments can distract up to 64 percent more often than in a closed office space. This needs to be countered with focused attention. That isn’t to say they aren’t helpful. Open offices support working on projects for longer and interacting with more people. The downside is more interruptions between tasks and therefore less time to recharge the mind.

Creating a Focus Ritual

Enter Hyperfocus mode at least once a day to deal with the most productive tasks. Eliminate any distractions and focus on one important thing at a time. Enter Scatterfocus mode multiple times a day to planfor the future, connect ideas and recharge mental energy. This can be managed with a proper focus ritual. Essentially, a time set aside once a week where one sits down to plan the week. Here it can be decided what the three weekly intentions are, how much Hyperfocus and Scatterfocus is needed and what the best times are to enter these focus modes. It helps to ask the following questions:

  • How much productivity and creativity is need in the upcoming week?
  • What commitments have been made that will get in the way of Hyperfocus and Scatterfocus sessions?
  • How many blocks of time can be committed for one of the focus modes?


Becoming aware of what is capturing the mind’s attention makes a person more mentally agile and able to adjust to changing conditions. One of the best strategies to train the brain is the hourly awareness chime mentioned earlier in the document. In addition, try picking a few cues that are encountered over the course of the day to act as a reminder to check what is occupying attention. Being aware of this enables the redirection of attention back to important tasks and projects. It creates a greater sense of purpose, longer focusing times and increased quality of attention.

About the author

Erik Hentell: I started out in theater before moving to graphic design. I eventually moved into web design while trying to expand my knowledge on software development. I currently work for a media company helping with their digital assets such as source code archives and ebooks.