HyperFocus - Chris Bailey

HyperFocus - Chris Bailey

Video Book Summary

Download all of the Mind Maps here.

Book Summary Notes


“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. This is an essential skill in today’s world, when we are so often in distracting environments doing brain-heavy work."

"This book takes you on a tour through my exploration of the subject of focus. I’ll share not only the fascinating things I’ve learned but also how to actually put those ideas to use in your own life (I’ve road-tested all of them)."

"Productivity research is great—but pretty useless when you don’t act upon it. In this way, I see Hyperfocus as a sort of ‘science-help’ book; one that explores the fascinating research behind how you focus but also bridges those insights with your daily life to explore ways you can manage your attention better to become more productive and creative."

"These ideas have already changed one life (mine), and I know they can do the same for you too. On the surface, the results can seem a bit like magic, but magic stops being magic the moment you know how it’s done.”

Investing attention deliberately and intelligently..  

This is one of the most impactful passage for me (and it came right at the beginning).. 

It made me think..  How am I INVESTING my attention? 

This idea of attention needing intelligent management just like investing money into the stock market is genius in my eyes! 

Given that we have limited resources (attention or money) how will we deploy those to get the best return? 

This should get you thinking..  How am I spending my attention?

Maybe you haven't given much thought to it (as a lot of us probably haven't) but that's okay.. 

Just know that going forward..  This is something to pay attention too!

This isn't just about 'productivity' either..  It's about how our attention shapes our lives!

“Whether at work or at home, the quality of your attention determines the quality of your life. At work, the more attention you give to what’s in front of you, the more productive you become. At home, the more attention you devote to what’s in front of you, the more meaningful your life becomes.”

Attention is about:

  • The quality of the work we do.. 
  • The quality of the relationships we have.. 
  • The state of our mental wellbeing.. 
  • How we control our energy levels.. 

And so much more! 


“After years of researching the topic, I’ve found that ‘productivity’ has become a bit of a loaded term."  

"What it usually connotes is a condition that feels cold, corporate, and overly focused on efficiency. I prefer a different (and friendlier) definition: productivity means accomplishing what we intend to."

"If our plan today is to write three thousand words, rock a presentation with our leadership team, and catch up on our email, and we successfully accomplish all of those, we were perfectly productive."

"Likewise, if we intend to have a relaxing day and manage to do absolutely nothing, we’re again perfectly productive. Being busy doesn’t make us productive."

"It doesn’t matter how busy we are if that busyness doesn’t lead us to accomplish anything of importance. Productivity is not about cramming more into our days but doing the right thing in each moment.”

This is productivity redefined: accomplishing what we intend to do. 

This is smart on two different levels..

First if we think of productivity as accomplishing what we intend to do it first necessitates that we INTEND to do something!  

Meaning that we don't approach something haphazardly..  

Instead we have a defined idea of what we would like to accomplish!

Second it means that we need to keep what we intend to do and what we actually do in congruence.. 

This is something important to understand.. 

When you say you're going to do something you're creating a mini-contract with yourself..  

Are you the type of person who doesn't live up to those contracts?  Good luck accomplishing anything! 

Conversely..  Are you the type of person who sets contracts impossibly high or uneededly low? 

Good luck getting yourself to trust and reinforce these contracts..  

Remember..  This ISN'T about being busy!

  • “Productivity means accomplishing what we intend to.”
  • “Not about cramming more into our days but doing the right thing in each moment.”
  • Doing the right thing as it relates to our intention inside of each moment..

Journalling question: What do you INTEND to bring forth today? (Let's pick one thing). 



Before breakfast today I will take the dog for a one hour walk.




Today I will produce a Mind Map on Hyperfocus and promote it.




Tonight for dinner I will cook a romantic meal for my girlfriend and talk about her day. 




Today I will read a fiction book for 30 minutes before bed to get lost in a story.



“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 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.”

When was your last super productive day?

*Recall that we've given productivity a new definition.

Spend some time thinking about that day..  What were you doing?  What went right?

  • Chris tells us: “Probably focusing on only one thing—maybe out of necessity, driven by a deadline. This one task filled your attentional space.”
  • “The most important aspect of hyperfocus is that only one productive or meaningful task consumes your attentional space. This is simply nonnegotiable. Here’s why: the most critical tasks, projects, and commitments benefit from every bit of extra attention.”

Turns out that there is a finite number of things we can focus on..  And it's smaller than we think!

  • Producing our best work requires A LOT of attention.. 
  • That's why people who produce great work often go to great lengths to protect their attention.. 
  • JK Rowling isn't paying attention to her Twitter mentions while writing the next Harry Potter Book..
  • Ray Dalio isn't worrying about how many views he got while creating videos for Principles..
  • These people know that the work is the thing that requires and deserves ALL of their attention!

How To

“The science suggests we pass through four states as we begin to focus." 

"First, we’re focused (and productive)."

"Then, assuming we don’t get distracted or interrupted, our minds begin to wander."

"Third, we make note of this mind wandering. This can take awhile, especially if we don’t frequently check what is consuming our attentional space. (On average, we notice about five times an hour that our mind has wandered.)

 "And fourth, we shift our focus back to our original object of attention."

The four stages of hyperfocus are modeled on this framework.”

This is your How-To guide to Hyperfocusing!

The Steps:

  • 1. Choose a productive or meaningful object of attention
  • 2. Eliminate as many external and internal distractions as you can
  • 3. Focus on that chosen object of attention
  • 4. Continually draw your focus back to that one object of attention.

How I have been using these steps:

  • Step one is most important for me..  I NEED to choose what I'll put my attention towards!  This is usually pulled from a GTD style inbox.
  • Next I turn off all notifications on my phone, computer and block all non-related website..
  • After that I turn my 30 minute pomodoro timer on resolving to focus only on the task at hand..
  • The ticking of the timer reminds me to draw my attention back to the task at hand..  I also find that unless I'm reading some medium bpm music helps me focus.. 

How you can use these steps:

  • First how will you choose what to put your attention towards?  (This is tricker than it sounds and more on it later). 
  • Second how will you block all your common distractions?
  • Third how long will you work for?  Make sure that's easy to track. 
  • Fourth what will help you draw your attention back to the task at hand when it inevitably wanders?

Implementation Intentions

“Some students set a vague intention while others set what [Peter] Gollwitzer calls an ‘implementation intention.’ As he explains the term: ‘Make a very detailed plan on how you want to achieve what you want to achieve."

"What I’m arguing in my research is that goals need plans, ideally plans that include when, where, and which kind of action to move towards the goal.’ In other words, if a student’s vague goal was to ‘find an apartment during Christmas break,’ his implementation intention could be ‘I will hunt for apartments on Craigslist and email three apartment landlords in the weeks leading up to Christmas.’"

"Comparing Gollwitzer and Brandstätter’s two participant groups is where things get interesting. A remarkable 62 percent of students who set a specific implementation intention followed through on their goals. The group that did not set an implementation intention fared a lot more poorly, following through on their original intention a third as often—a paltry 22 percent of the time. This effect, which subsequent studies validated further, was positively staggering. Setting specific intentions can double or triple your odds of success."

"With that in mind, let’s quickly turn my three vague intentions into implementation intentions:"

"1. ‘Go to the gym’ becomes ‘Schedule and go to the gym on my lunch break.’"

"2. ‘Quit working when I get home’ is reframed as ‘Put my work phone on airplane mode and my work laptop in another room, and stay disconnected for the evening.’"

"3. ‘Get to bed by a reasonable time’ becomes ‘Set a bedtime alarm for 10:00 p.m., and when it goes off, start winding down.’”

How can we double or triple our odds of success?

Science says it's really not that difficult.. 

  • Move from vague targets to more specific targets! 
  • How will we do that?  Implementation intentions.

The anatomy of a powerful implementation intention:

  • Get specific; exactly what do you intend to accomplish?
  • Where and when do you plan to accomplish it?
  • *Bonus points if you can link actions together.

Setting implementation intentions:



Immediately after waking up take 15 minute to mediate.


Complete 5 x 30 minutes of deep work during the workday.


Start cooking a romantic dinner for girlfriend directly after returning from dog walk after work.


When you're ready for bed put on the blue light glasses and read fiction until you fall asleep.







“There is one practice that has been proven in study after study to increase working memory capacity: meditation."  

"Like hyperfocus, meditation involves continually returning your focus to a single object of attention—usually your breath—as soon as you notice your mind has wandered from it."

"Each time you return your wandering mind to the details of your breath, you heighten your executive functioning: how much control you have over your attention.”

Meditation has changed my life.. 

I know that sounds cliche by now but seriously..  if you haven't started meditating yet what gives?

Most of the time people think they don't have time to meditate..  

  • Research shows that's simply not true!
  • When you meditate 15 minutes during the day you fall asleep on average 15 minutes quicker..  Making meditation at worst zero-time!
  • Not only that but Chris shows us here that meditation can DRASTICALLY increase our Hyperfocus-ability!  Meaning we're in fact much more productivity with a meditation practice.

How to start?

This is what i recommend..  Do you have a warm drink in the morning like coffee or tea?

Just try to drink that each morning un distracted..  Taste the drink on your tongue and feel the warmth in your body!

This is a great place to start for two reasons.

First it's connecting meditation to an activity that you probably very rarely miss!

Second it allows you to learn vs feel like you're doing it wrong..  Super helpful!


“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."

"Your attention is the most powerful tool at your disposal to live and work with greater productivity, creativity and purpose. Managing it well will enable you to spend more time and energy on your most purposeful tasks and to work more often with intention, focus for longer periods, and stumble into fewer unwanted daydreams."

"I hope you spend it wisely.”

ScatterFocus is the final point here in the book and I'm glad it was added..

Life isn't all about straight line 'Getting Things Done' we need to make time and space for connecting dots that seem unconnected..

ScatterFocus for me happens best when I'm out for a walk.. 

  • I let my mind wander around a particular point in my life..
  • Maybe it's business, relationships, health or happiness! 
  • But instead of having an intention I simply allow what comes up to come up! 

After spending time in ScatterFocus I tend to have an idea for a project or something to work on.. 

  • Want a high quality life?  Pay attention to your attention..  
  • Know when to use what mode! 


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