Productivity and performance expert Chris Bailey is back with his second book Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction, available in stores today. Following his international bestseller The Productivity Project, it provides profound insights into how we can better manage our attention in a distressed world.
Enjoy this excerpt from Hyperfocus where Chris defines what this accelerated state of productivity is and how you can reach it.
Think back to your last uber-productive work day, one when you accomplished a huge amount. On that day, chances are a number of things were true.
For starters, you were probably focusing on only one thing — maybe out of necessity, driven by a deadline. This one task filled your attentional space.
You were also likely able to dodge distractions and quickly got back on track every time an interruption did come up. While you were working with intense focus, you weren’t working frantically, constantly switching between tasks. When your attention wandered — which it still did often, but less than usual — you quickly brought it back to the task at hand.
Your work was probably also at a comfortable level of difficulty: not so hard as to be intimidating; not so easy that it could be done out of habit. Because of this, you may have even become completely engrossed in your work, entering a “flow” state, where each time you looked at the clock another hour had flown by, even though you experienced that time as only fifteen minutes. Miraculously, you managed to accomplish the equivalent of several hours of work in each of them.
Finally, once you overcame the hurdle of getting started, you experienced little resistance to continuing. Even though you were working hard, you weren’t exhausted afterward; curiously, you were less tired than after slower workdays. Your motivation remained strong even if you had to stop working because you got hungry or had a meeting or it was time to head home.
On this day you activated your brain’s most productive mode: hyperfocus.
When you hyperfocus on a task, you expand one task, project, or other object of attention so it fills your attentional space completely.
You enter this mode by managing your attention deliberately and purposefully: by choosing one important object of attention, eliminating distractions that will inevitably arise as you work, and then focusing on just that one task. Hyperfocus is many things at once: it’s deliberate, undistracted, and quick to refocus, and it leads us to become completely immersed in our work. It also makes us immensely happy. Recall how energized you were by your work the last time you found yourself in this state. In hyperfocus you might even feel more relaxed than you usually are when you work. Allowing one task or project to consume your full attentional space means this state doesn’t make you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Your attentional space doesn’t overflow, and your work doesn’t feel nearly as chaotic. Since hyperfocus is so much more productive, you can slow down a bit and still accomplish an incredible amount in a short period of time.
This mode may feel like an elusive luxury in the on-the-go environments in which we work and live today. But nothing could be further from the truth. Hyperfocus means you’re less busy, because you’re permitting fewer objects into your attentional space. Picking which tasks to work on ahead of time lets you focus on what’s actually important in the moment. This has never been more crucial than in our knowledge — work environments, where not all tasks are created equal. You’ll often accomplish more in one hour of hyperfocus than in an entire day spent filling your attentional space to the brim with multiple — and often undeliberate — concerns. This is counterintuitive but absolutely essential advice: the more demands made on your time, the more essential it becomes to choose what — and how many — things you pay attention to. You’re never too busy to hyperfocus.
When it comes to your most important tasks, the fewer things you pay attention to, the more productive you become.
From HYPERFOCUS by Chris Bailey, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2018 by Chris Bailey.
Called “the most productive man you’d ever hope to meet” by TED Talks, a “productivity mastermind” by Fast Company, and “a quirky and energetic guide through the productivity thicket” by the Harvard Business Review, Chris Bailey transforms how people think about productivity in the workplace and beyond.
His new talk “How to be More Productive in a World of Distraction” is modeled after Hyperfocus, and merges the latest scientific research with practical takeaways on how to focus more deeply and transform how you think about and manage your attention on a daily basis.
Interested in learning more about Chris and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].