Book:  Free to Focus

Author:  Michael Hyatt

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Hyatt, M. (2019). Free to focus : a total productivity system to achieve more by doing less. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Three Big Takeaways

  • Past fifty hours of work in a week and there's no productivity gain for the extra time. In fact, it goes backwards. Fifty hours on the job only produces about 37 hours of useful work. At 55 hours, it dropped almost to 30. The more work beyond a 50 hour threshold, the less productive you become. This is called the "Rule of Fifty." Our most productive time each day will amount to four hours, maybe five. We can only sustain concentration for so long before diminished returns set in. (pg. 66)

  • The trick to improving feelings of well-being and life satisfaction is simple and straightforward - buy more time. You can't buy happiness, but you can buy back your time by offloading tasks you deem stressful and unlikeable. Delegation boosts well-being by reducing our number of stressful, disliked tasks by helping us regain a sense of control over our schedules. (pg. 138)

  • Delegation means focusing primarily on the work only you can do by transferring everything else to others who are more passionate about the work or proficient in the tasks. Most of us acknowledge delegation is smart and sound. The trouble is we view it as an ideal situation that won't work in our specific circumstances. "I have too much responsibility" or "I can't trust someone else to get this done" or "It's faster for me to do it myself." In the long run, training and trusting others frees up time. Delegation is like buying time. (pg. 139)

Other Key Ideas:

  • Professionals with smartphones engage with their work more than seventy hours a week. And US workers spend more than six hours every day checking email, with 80 percent of people checking their mail before going in to work and 30 percent checking email before they get out of bed in the morning. Almost 40 percent check email after 11:00pm. And three quarters do it on the weekends. (pg. 15)

  • Our brains aren't designed to run nonstop. When we drop things into neutral, ideas flow on their own, memories sort themselves out, and we give ourselves a chance to rest. Most of your breakthrough ideas come when you've relaxed enough to let your mind wander. Creativity depends on times of disengagement, which means doing nothing from time to time is a competitive advantage. (pg. 37)

  • You can increase your quantity of sleep by adding a short nap to your daily schedule. Don't laugh; naps are my secret productivity weapon. I take one every day after lunch, and it keeps me fresh and alert all afternoon. Just don't nap longer than 20 or 30 minutes, or you may have a hard time waking up and you'll feel groggy. There's a long list of leaders, artists, scientists, and others who have improved their performance by strategic napping. Winston Churchill, Douglas MacArthur, John F. Kennedy, JRR Tolkien, and Thomas Edison. (pg. 71)

  • If you ever find yourself thinking, "There has got to be an easier way to do this" you should always assume there is. Then go find it. If you apply this question to everything you do on a regular basis, you'll be amazed at how much time, trouble, effort, and energy you can save on all the little tasks that whittle away at your resources. Automating your life will make things easier, free up your creativity, give you greater focus, and make you more productive each day. (pg. 134)

  • Even though delegation is an essential part of leadership, I have seen it fail time and time again. Most leaders assume they know how to delegate, but when they try to hand a project or task over, everything falls apart. That failure leaves them not only worse off than they were before, but generally less enthused about trying delegation in the future. In these situations, it is easy to blame the employee. The reality is the blame falls squarely on the leader. It's because the leaders don't know how to delegate properly. Many people think delegation is simply handing someone a task. Rather, delegation requires an investment of your time. You must walk the employee through a trust- and skill-building process. (pg. 145)

  • Most of us have heard of batching. It's the process of lumping similar tasks together and doing them in a dedicated block of time. But even dedicated batchers don't always leverage the technique for all it's worth. This is when "megabatching" comes into play. Megabatching is more than grouping a few things for an hour's worth of work. Rather, we're talking about organizing entire days around similar activities to enable you to stay focused and build momentum. (pg. 163)

  • You can't delve into extended periods of meaningful work if you're constantly shifting your focus when one of seventeen apps or devices alerts you about an incoming message, comment, tag, or desired action. Your phone, computer, tablet, and smartwatch add to the pings and dings and intrusive visuals. Every one of these notifications is designed to capitalize on your attention, which means you can't. When we divert our attention to incoming messages, it dings our IQ by 10 percent, which is twice the effect of smoking marijuana. (pg. 208)

  • Turning off notifications is a critical part of limiting instant communication. Consider turning off all notifications - on your desktop, phone, device - and then ask, "Are there any apps from which I absolutely must receive notifications?" Once you've determined which (precious few) apps you'll allow to notify you, You'll want to pick the least obtrusive, jarring alert style possible. That means no message previews, pings, dings, or lock screen notifications. (pg. 209)

  • Seven in ten people admit to wasting time at work every day, and most use the web. The biggest draw is social media - Facebook leading the pack - but people also report online shopping and browsing travel, sports, and entertainment sites. How often do we catch ourselves mindlessly surfing from one page to another, or thumbing through the infinite scroll on our phones, with no clear objective in mind. Some people say that social media provides breaks in the day, the way people use to walk or go outdoors for a smoke. That's part of what's happening, but the accessibility of social media means people aren't usually working for a long period and then taking a break. They're breaking their concentration multiple times in what Cal Newport calls "quick checks" during the working period. Instead of taking a break, they're breaking their focus. (pg. 213)

  • When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain's ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment. Clutter also refers to your digital workspace. If your computer files are all over the place and there's no rhyme or reason to your folder structure, schedule some time to organize that as well. If you're going to live much of your life on the computer, it should at least be as uncluttered as your office. (pg. 219)

Copyright © 2019 by Dr. Jared Smith LLC.  Specializing in Leadership, Education, and Personal Growth.