20 Quotes from Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey
Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey is another book in the productivity sphere that argues for the importance of intentional focus for creatives and knowledge workers. One of the unique contributions to this field is the idea of scatterfocus, which is simply letting your mind wander. He outlines three different ways to scatterfocus:
- Capture mode: Letting your mind roam freely and capturing whatever comes up.
- Problem-crunching mode: Holding a problem loosely in mind and letting your thoughts wander around it.
- Habitual mode: Engaging in a simple task and capturing the valuable ideas and plans that rise to the surface while doing it. Research has found this mode is the most powerful.
I found this to be a helpful leveling of the emphasis on focus that many of the books in this space talk about. Additionally, his argument for meditation, which is “continually returning your focus to a single object of attention (118)”, was persuasive as well. He argues that out of all his research, meditation is the one practice that always improves ones focus.
Below are 20 helpful quotes from the book:
- Above all else I began to view attention as the most important ingredient we can add if we’re to become more productive, creative, and happy—at work and at home. When we invest our limited attention intelligently and deliberately, we focus more deeply and think more clearly (5).
- One of the most underrated skills: letting other people finish their sentences before starting yours (16).
- Directing your attention toward the most important object of your choosing—and then sustaining that attention—is the most consequential decision we will make throughout the day. We are what we pay attention to (20).
- Spending time on unnecessary work tasks keeps us busy, but such busyness is just an active form of laziness when it doesn’t lead to actually accomplishing anything (21).
- “Attentional space” is the term I use to describe the amount of mental capacity we have available to focus on and process things in the moment. Our attentional space is what we’re aware of at any given time—it’s the scratch pad or clipboard in our brain that we use to temporarily store information as it’s being processed (26).
- Becoming aware of what you’re thinking about is one of the best practices for managing your attention. The more you notice what’s occupying your attentional space, the faster you can get back on track when your mind begins to wander, which it does a remarkable 47 percent of the time (30).
- Habitual tasks like cutting your nails, doing the laundry, archiving emails you’ve already read, and grocery shopping don’t require nearly as much attention as more complex tasks. This makes it possible to multitask without compromising the quality of your actions (32).
- At any one time, your attentional space should hold at most two key things that you are processing: what you intend to accomplish and what you’re currently doing. This isn’t possible 100 percent of the time, especially as you become immersed in a task, but by being mindful of your intention, you can be confident that what you’re immersed in is what you’re actually aiming to get done (39).
- The state of your attentional space determines the state of your life. When your attentional space is overwhelmed, you, in turn, feel overwhelmed. When your attentional space is clear, you also feel clear (40).
- 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 (52).
- Attention without intention is wasted energy. Intention should always precede attention—in fact, the two ideas pair perfectly (58).
- When we begin a new task, working on it for at least one minute with purposeful attention and limited distractions is critical (126).
- Just as hyperfocus is your brain’s most productive mode, scatterfocus is its most creative. Entering scatterfocus mode is easy: you simply let your mind be. Just as you hyperfocus by intentionally directing your attention toward one thing, you scatterfocus by deliberately letting your mind wander (134).
- Scatterfocus lets you recharge. Focusing on tasks all day consumes a good deal of mental energy, even when you’re managing and defending your attentional space (134).
- Scatterfocus fosters creativity. The mode helps you connect old ideas and create new ones; floats incubating thoughts to the surface of your attentional space; and lets you piece together solutions to problems (134).
- I’ve found it helpful to distinguish among a few different styles of scatterfocus: Capture mode: Letting your mind roam freely and capturing whatever comes up. Problem-crunching mode: Holding a problem loosely in mind and letting your thoughts wander around it. Habitual mode: Engaging in a simple task and capturing the valuable ideas and plans that rise to the surface while doing it. Research has found this mode is the most powerful (143).
- Uncompleted tasks and projects weigh more heavily on our minds than ones we’ve finished—focus comes when we close these distracting open loops. We’re wired to remember what we’re in the middle of more than what we’ve completed (173).
- The more abruptly you stop working on a creative task, the more you’ll think about it when you switch to another. Leave some residue in your attentional space for your mind to continue processing the initial task. For example, try stopping work on a complicated report midway through a sentence. Leaving tasks partly completed helps you keep them front of mind as you encounter external and internal solution cues (180).
- Hyperfocusing allows us to remember more, which leads to more valuable connections made in scatterfocus mode. Scatterfocus lets us recharge, which in turn provides more energy to hyperfocus. The insights we unearth in scatterfocus help us work smarter later. In these ways and others, deliberately managing our attention is a practice with compounding benefits (200).
- Hyperfocus can help you get an extraordinary amount done in a relatively short period of time. Scatterfocus lets you connect ideas—which helps you unearth hidden insights, become more creative, plan for the future, and rest. Together they will enable you to work and live with purpose (215).