Hyperfocus is a book by

, known for performing several experiments on himself to figure out what productivity hacks actually work in real life.

In a previous book, he had talked about time, energy and attention - the three limited, critical components of productivity.

In this book, he narrows it down on one - attention.

The central idea

Hyperfocus is the state that precedes the ‘flow’ state. Your mind wanders, but you’re aware of what it wanders to, and consciously bring it back on track.

  1. To get into a state of hyperfocus, pick an object or a task you intend to focus on, have a distraction list at the side.
  2. Now, focus on the task you've decided. Your mind wanders - be conscious about what it’s wandering on, and note it down on the distraction list.
  3. Consciously bring your focus back to the single task. If you do it well enough, you’ll get into a state of flow, where your task is all there would be, and any interruptions won’t end up becoming distractions.

Key ideas

The quadrant of tasks

Bailey starts by constructing his version of the

, with productive on the horizontal axis, and attractive on the vertical.


Actionable: a task in the first quadrant, therefore, is both productive and attractive, you should be doing it, AND you like doing it.

The second quandrant are things that are not productive, but you like doing it like checking emails, social media and so on.

Correspondingly, Qs 3 and 4. These 4 quadrants are always vying for our attention, and focus is to ensure we are judicious about how much time we devote to each of them.


Our brain receives 11 million bits of information a second, and we have attentional space for only 2-7 of them.

While multitasking is generally considered counterproductive because of attentional residue, not all tasks require equal attentional space, and therefore, we can work on more than one habitual task at a time, and still have enough working memory to focus on a complex, non habit based task.

For instance, figuring out an email’s response when making your bed.


  1. ‘When’ to focus is more important than ‘how’ to focus. You shouldn’t try hyperfocusing on habit based tasks, since the conscious memory is less powerful than habitual memory - trying to be mindful of something that’s a habit will make you less efficient.
  2. You must hyper-focus on quadrant 1 and 4 tasks - those that are productive.
  3. You can also try the rule of 3 where you plan 3 things to do for a day, and set 3 weekly intentions. Your intentions for hyperfocus should be extremely specific and actionable


  1. Our mind wanders when we’re stressed, bored, dealing with personal concerns, questioning the priority of the task, or have unused attentional space
  2. It takes us 25 minutes on average to get back on track after getting distracted
  3. We don’t simply attend to the distraction or interruption and then return to the original task – we become distracted a second time before doing so
  4. Brain’s novelty bias - we get a dopamine hit when starting a new task
  5. Quadrant of distractions ie annoying on x axis, lack of control on y. You can have distractions that you have absolutely no control over and are extremely annoying such as loud coworkers, construction noises in Q1. And you can have distractions that you can control and are fun for you - such as social media in Q3.


It helps to increase the size of your attentional space - you consciously bring your mind back from wandering, which is the core concept of hyperfocus.

The process is to fix a duration, notice your breath, bring your mind back on to your breath when it wanders.


  1. A wandering mind is helpful for creative tasks. Scatter-focus is intentional mind wandering
  2. Three modes of scatter-focus
    1. Capture mode, where you let your mind wander and capture everything that comes to it
    2. Problem crunching mode - thinking about a problem from different angles
    3. Habitual mode - performing habitual tasks while letting your mind wander on other stuff

Book Authors

Chris Bailey

Related Methodologies

Single Tasking
Eisenhower Matrix
Time Blocking

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