Hyper-Focus: How Attention Transforms Productivity
For this week I actually read a book called ‘Hyperfocus’, by Chris Bailey and found the habits mentioned in the book really useful. I would not get into the habits, but what I would like to go over is how he approached attention problem in the 21st century, while still keeping the Buddhist notions intact. As we all know, focusing on breadth, and focusing attention at one task at a time is the advice we come across through meditation lessons or spiritual or self-help books, but with loads of things are to be done, and keeping up with deadlines and managing personal and professional life makes the notion of ‘uni-tasking’ seem impossible. I can tell you that I cannot do that myself. Well, this book gives quite few ideas of how to multitask, if you really have to, and what kind of tasks you can take as a part of multitasking agenda.
The book revolves around attention span, as a primary focus. It started with a plot where the author is sitting and observing other people in the diner and each of their activities. The less attention span you have, the more meaningless your conversation would be. I actually could relate to what Eckhart Tolle spoke of in the book, ‘A New Earth’, when he visited a schizophrenic lady and as Eckhart’s mind wandered, the lady’s words weren’t on track. May be that’s why paying attention provides new insights and meaning. There was a book I read long ago named Jeff’s View by famous biochemist, Gottfried Schwartz, about science and scientists, where he states, ‘The first thing that’s important to be a good scientist is to be a good listener, you should not interrupt a person in a seminar and ask questions, first listen to what the other person has to say.’
In this book, Bailey says, often when your mind wanders, it visits, three main places: the past, the present, and the future. I have noticed that when I am less focused on tasks, or doing tasks that don’t require much attention, I start worrying about things that are in the future, and the worry is just endless. Ozan Varol, the bestselling author of the book ‘Think like a Rocket Scientist’, tells us that disasters rarely happen out of uncertainty. It’s our mind that loses focus and starts engaging in events that’s aren’t present in the real world. There are few tasks that you can do together. You can listen to a podcast and do dishes or set the laundry machine, but you can’t listen and read at the same time or play piano and watch TV. The tasks that are most important always need attention. Bailey says that by doing each important task at a time, you would get a lot done in much lesser time than you would need if you multitask. I have seen that when I start writing, I sometimes put on my headphone and then, I go deep to the writing, and the music seems disturbing. Sometimes keeping the thoughts at the back of the mind helps solve critical problems, which might require breaks In between. That’s what authors and scientists do; they do scatter their attention over time. I think that’s why most ideas crop up while traveling, taking shower or in sleep. Psychologists have proved that the subconscious mind is much more active than the conscious mind, so the “Aha” moments come when you are not involved in the problem actively that you intend to solve.
Albert Einstein says, ‘It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer’. Problem solving of any type requires pure focus. In this digital era with notifications popping up on your screen, it’s hard to not get distracted. Removing distraction is the first step to getting things done and having a schedule. Bailey talks about these tools very vividly in this book. Of course, meditation increases focus, but putting focus on the tasks, already makes you meditate for most part of the day. It’s easier said than done but putting it into practice on each day’s tasks help turn your productivity at a higher rate.