Writing 2018-09-09

Book Notes – Hyperfocus, Chapter 5

Making Hyperfocus a Habit

Our brain likes to wander at the exact time we’re trying to focus. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Stress. This happens when the demands of the situation exceed our ability to cope with them. This is handled by preventing stimulation overload by clearing out distractions
  2. Boredom. This happens when moving from a higher stimulation moment to a lower one. This also is handled by removing distractions to begin with. In this case, the stimulation gap becomes smaller and experienced less often
  3. Thinking about personal concerns. This can be dealt with by externalizing those thoughts and concerns into task lists, worry lists, notes and so on
  4. Questioning on whether the current task is the best immediate thing. This can be resolved through intentional selection and prioritization of tasks as mention earlier
  5. Attentional space. The smaller the object of attention, the more likely that the mind will wander. Pick tasks that require and demand attention

The last point is worth noting. Consciously picking complex tasks is an avenue into Hyperfocus. When the challenge of completing the task is roughly equal to the ability to do so, one becomes totally immersed in the task. In fact if immersion in a task is not occuring, question whether the task is complex enough. If that is not the case, question the skill set available to handle the task. It may be the task is more complex than the ability to carry it out.

Busy Work

Busywork is detrimental to Hyperfocus. Measure how much of the day is spent on unproductive work. A lot of busy work may indicate that something can be removed for more engaging and productive work.

Increasing Attentional Space

The size of attentional space (the ability to focus attention) is determined by working memory capacity. That is, the amount of information that can be held in the mind at once. This is usually about 4 chunks of information. Having a higher attentional space means contributes to less mind wandering and increases the ability to think about and plan for the future and less on the immediate moment.

One way to help increase attentional space is meditation. This need not be complex. It could be as simple as sitting quietly somewhere and paying attention to the rhythm of breathing. The exact length of time for meditation is less important than doing it every day. This is because the power of meditation is holding one single intention in the mind for a given length of time. Even a few minutes a day will help immensely.

At work, the more attention that is focused on a task the more productive the work would be. At home, the more attention that is focused on a task the more meaningful life can be.

Habit Strategies

  1. Shrink the desired Hyperfocus period until resistance to the task is removed
  2. Notice when there “isn’t time” for something. There is always time. It’s only a question of what it is being spent on. Find out what can be done to clean up the schedule to spend more time on productive tasks
  3. Continually practice Hyperfocus. Try it at least once per day
  4. Be aware that being rested is an important part of Hyperfocus. Take time to recharge


  1. Understand the four types of productive and unproductive work tasks. Figure out what is important and stop working on unimportant tasks
  2. Recognize the limits of attention and be aware of how few things can actually be focused on at one time
  3. Hyperfocusing on the more complex tasks activates the most productive mode in the brain and can get a large amount of work done in a relatively short amount of time
  4. Set strong daily intentions to work on the most productive tasks
  5. Remove distractions whenever possible to prevent the mind from wandering
  6. Simplify the work and living environments to be able to take stock of the distractions that surround people
  7. Externalize thoughts stored in the mind into task lists, worry lists, notes and so on
  8. Be a good custodian of the attentional space and how much is occupying it. Try to manage attentional space by expanding the limits of attentional space and working on appropriately complex tasks

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.