Writing 2018-09-09

Book Notes – Hyperfocus, Chapter 3

The Power of Hyperfocus

Remember this single sentence: “Keep one important, complex object of attention in your awareness as you work”.

Hyperfocus is that state of being completely engrossed in something to the exclusion of everything else. It is a state of mind that is entered deliberately and with purpose. The focus is on one task and one task only and distractions are removed or blocked out to the greatest extent possible.

This is done by determining tasks ahead of time. This allows one to focus completely on one task in the moment without worrying about how to go about the rest of the day. When it comes to the actual task, the fewer things to focus on, the more productive the working time actually is.

Hyperfocus is best used on complex tasks broken down into small individual tasks. Don’t waste time hyperfocusing on habitual tasks because Hyperfocus requires a great deal of mental energy and willpower. Saving Hyperfocus for more serious work is a more valuable use of one’s mental energies.

The Four Stages of HyperFocus

  1. Choose a meaningful subject of attention
  2. Eliminate as many distractions as possible
  3. Focus on that one subject of attention
  4. Be aware of drifting away from the focus and come back to it

The most important step is deciding what to focus on. The more productive and meaningful the subject is, the productive the Hyperfocus will be.

The second most important step is eliminating distractions, both in the enviroment and within one’s own mind. Human beings are wired to seek out new and interesting things, but this can work against the use of focus.

Hyperfocus is also most productive on a time scale. Choosing a set amount of time that is both comfortable and reasonable gives a conceptual “space” for working through a problem. This part relies on the proper preparation of steps 1 and 2, however.

Returning back to the subject of focus is critical. It can take up to 22 minutes to continue working after a distraction or interruption occurs. When that distraction or interruption is self-inflicted, it can take even longer.

Choosing What to Focus On

Attention without Intention is wasted energy. It’s important to deliberately decide what to focus on and why before doing so. Otherwise, the attention will be squandered and easily interrupted. Always take an active role in choosing what to spend time on.

  1. At the start of each day, choose three things to accomplish by day’s end. Keep those three intentions where they can be seen throughout the day
  2. Rank the action items by determining which is the most consequential. That is, the action items that lead to the greatest possible consequences
  3. Set an hourly awareness alert. Use this as a reminder to reflect on whether focus is being paid on an action item or if attention has wandered. Do not be angry about drifting off. This is a natural trait that just needs to be hemmed in a little until a habit of focus forms. When the chime goes off, check the following:
    1. Are there wandering thoughts?
    2. Has the focus has been on a productive task?
    3. What is the most consequential task could be right now?
    4. Is the task being worked on?
    5. Are there distractions?
    6. How much attention is being devoted to the task? Is there enough?
  4. Setting specific intentions can as much as triple the odds of success. Because of this don’t be generic in intentions like “Go to the gym”. It’s much more effective to set a task as “Do 20 reps on the bicep machine”

Starting a Hyperfocus Ritual

  1. Start with an estimate of how long to Hyperfocus. The estimates will get more accurate over time. As beginning suggestion, start with about 15 minute blocks with 5 to 10 minute distraction breaks in between
  2. Anticipate obstacles ahead of time. If possible, schedule time so that no one will interrupt with last-minute tasks, questions or other distractions. A little planning here can save hours later
  3. Set a timer as mentioned above, and for the same reasons
  4. Remember to re-orient attention whenever possible. The mind will wander. This isn’t worth getting upset about, but personal discipline is important here.
  5. Schedule Hyperfocus time blocks whenever reasonable to do so
  6. Account for time and energy constraints. Dependin on the work environment, it may not be possible to work around certain distractions and this must be taken into account.
  7. The more undesirable a task is, the more distractions have to be tamed to focus on it properly. Be aware of feelings toward a task and compensate accordingly

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.