Tag Archive: Focus


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?

Noticing

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.

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