"Hyperfocus" by Chris Bailey

Review by Borodutch

I partially have a complicated relationship with productivity self-help books because I wrote my own by testing and then removing all unnecessary advice, leaving out only the good parts that work. Fortunately, the author didn't bloat his book with empty suggestions chasing the minimal number of pages to work with publishers. Chris presents three main ideas:

  1. The state of "hyperfocus"
  2. Mindfulness about attention
  3. Habit formation through preemptive action (or inaction)

The author has renamed the state of "flow" into "hyperfocus" — ironically, he does mention the origin of the term "flow" in the book. I'm going to keep using the word "flow." To achieve this, you need to select a task, eliminate all distractions, focus on this task, and come back to work every time your mind wanders. Sounds simple — and yet it works!

I was pleasantly surprised by the author's citations of reputable up-to-date papers, which is always a plus. Refurbishing other books is questionable, but who am I to judge? Unfortunately, the author mentions various techniques, like the Pomodoro technique, that never work in the long run for most people. I wish Chris made some more experimentation and asked around how many people still used the Pomodoro trackers five years after they started. Same for other techniques.

Mindfulness and "meta-cognition" is a fantastic concept that works wonders. Essentially, occasionally, you have "checkpoints" when you reassess whether you are working on the right tasks. I also liked the author's approach to popularizing meditation (even though I suggest 10-minute meditations instead of 30 or 60-minute ones — again, where the author falls short with advice by practically wasting readers' time).

Habit formation through preemptive action or inaction is the best advice in the book, even though the author borrowed it from "Atomic Habits" and "Simple Habits" books. To eliminate bad habits (e.g., eating chips), eliminate precursors (e.g., don't buy chips). If you can't do a bad thing, you might be too lazy to do it. To establish good habits (e.g., going to the gym), simplify the action (e.g., prepare the gear in advance, switch to a gym closer to home).

Overall, "Hyperfocus" is short enough and has enough good info that I can safely recommend it. You won't lose anything by reading it — but you might gain some, and then some more!