Free To Focus (Michael Hyatt)

When you hear the word “more,” does it sound demanding?  Whenever I think of “more,” I feel the need to work harder and produce excellent work so I can provide value to others. In an era where people are doing more tasks, we feel the need to be more productive. However, there is a limit to so much we can do in a short amount of time. In Free to Focus (2019), Michael Hyatt stresses the point that we’re aiming for the wrong target. In other words, we need to be doing more of the right things.

Now, doing more of the right things may be easier said than done. But if you are disciplined and willing to take action on those tasks, it will be much easier to keep your responsibilities under control. Even writing something down and implementing it will show you were willing to do the work. Doing more of the right things will help increase productivity while making work not as frustrating and less stressful. In this review of Free To Focus, here are the key points I will discuss:

  1. Productivity As A Flawed Concept
  2. Choosing Free Time To Focus Over Being Productive
  3. Identifying Unnecessary Tasks: The Key To Being Productive
  4. Overcoming The “Distraction Economy”

Free To Focus: Productivity A Flawed Concept

Free To Focus

According to Hyatt, productivity is a flawed concept because people tend to fill their work schedules with endless tasks. Such tasks include: attending long meetings, giving presentations, writing reports, and projects to complete in a short amount of time. Some of the functions may be required of an individual’s job position but can be time-consuming as well. Obsessing with speed or how fast we get things done can decrease productivity.

Similar to college students cramming for course exams, workers can do more in a short period but are cramming them in as well. A typical example would be to write quicker emails, mainly if someone is prepping for the next day’s emails.

Also, Hyatt mentioned some studies done by Jack Nevison, President of New Leaf Project Management. The studies looked at employees working overtime and whether that increased worker productivity. According to Nevison’s findings, working overtime (particularly more than 10 hours a day) brought productivity down. This finding is the opposite of what people believe- that it leads to getting more done. As someone who took advantage of overtime at my last jobs, I always thought the opposite was exact from Nevison’s findings. Today, I’m cautious when it comes to working overtime because I get tired after long days at work.

Free To Focus: Choose Free Time Over Being Productive

Free To Focus

As an alternative to being more productive, Hyatt suggests aiming for more freedom. For example, workers should set some time aside to focus on uninterrupted deep work. Freedom to focus involves intense work, requiring a stable mental state of mind that operates for a limited time. More importantly, this type of work is the most challenging and challenging to tackle at times. It’s tough mental labor work to do but often leads to better results and higher productivity.

Of course, this intense work can be extremely challenging. It’s true if you’re in an office work environment, where you’re likely to run into distractions.

But as Hyatt says, freedom to focus works when our minds are at ease. For instance, whether you’re commuting, exercising, or sitting around doing nothing, those can be the best times to work on creative ideas. For myself, my artistic skills work best while at the gym and my trip home from work. So I keep a small notebook with me if I need to write down anything currently on my mind. It’s incredible because I don’t intend to thinking of work ideas outside the office! But it’s not uncommon, and I know some people whose creativity works better outside of regular working hours. In other words, Hyatt suggests doing this kind of work even at the oddest times of the day.

Key To Stay Focused: Identify Unnecessary Tasks

Free To Focus

It's vital to cut out nonessential tasks that do not benefit yourself. As mentioned earlier, doing less to be more productive may not sound right, but it’s crucial to be efficient. To implement this strategy, identify tasks that you’re good at. While other jobs you’re not the best at, it should be left out; if possible, delegate the rest of those tasks for other people to work on. Hyatt breaks down these tasks into two categories:

1.Passion: Involves a high level of motivation that you can bring to specific tasks

    Examples: 

    a. Writing a book, 

    b. Facilitating a seminar or workshop,

     c. Establishing excellent relationships through one-on-one meetings with clients

 2. Proficiency- These are tasks you’re skilled at, and where you significantly contribute and add value to your work

 Examples: 

a. Scheduling meetings and sessions- comfortable working on, but takes up your time

       Solution: 

      -Use email tools to save time

      -If applicable, delegate these tasks to your administrative assistant to take care of your scheduling responsibilities

b. Web Design- you love doing this work but takes up a lot of time

       Solution: 

       –Find an experienced web designer who can do a much better job while saving you time

Other tasks you’re skilled in but may find tedious and time-consuming include ordering office supplies or handling payroll for your team. If these tasks are taking away your time, figure out how to delegate those tasks to other individuals. Or, outsource them to electronic tools, such as email or purchasing software programs that will make your work easier.

Overcome The “Distraction Economy”

In the digital age, technology has undoubtedly made our lives easier. Still, they turn into an easy time waster for many people. Whether that’s using smartphones, social media, and news feed sites, these work well in grabbing our attention at any moment. It makes it much harder to complete uninterrupted, deep work if surrounded by electronics.

Hyatt brings up a University of California study, which explained when office workers are interrupted, it took an average of 23 minutes to return to the task worked on before the interruption took place. If that often happens during the day, say five times in one day, that adds up to two hours of wasted time. That’s a lot of time and explains why some people fall behind and work longer days.

To work around interruptions and the “distraction economy, ” Hyatt suggests making your minor tasks easier to stay focused. For example, instead of checking email every so often, check it once or twice each day. Unless you’re expecting something important, there’s no need to check email often if it can hold off until later. Also, putting your cell phone on a “do not disturb” mode while completing deep work is effective. There’s no need to hear notifications going off your cellphone during uninterrupted periods of work. Once you realize how much time you wasted and how it affects your productivity, the more time we have available to work on the freedom to focus.

*Check out a previous post I did to take control of your workspace

Wrap-Up

Unlike what other people may suggest about how to be more productive, Hyatt’s Free To Focus turns away from being more productive to aiming for more freedom to focus. The main takeaway is not about saving a few minutes here and there on needless tasks; instead, it’s to focus on being smarter about which tasks we choose to focus on. Doing more of the right things sounds easy to do, but taking action on it requires intense focus and effort to bring the best results possible. 

One more thing the author suggests his readers do: forget making a to-do list, create a “not-to-do” list instead. In his experience, this is one of his secrets to increased productivity. You shouldn’t have to waste time dealing with issues outside your department at work. So if it’s not related to your work, put it on your “not-to-do” list and stick to it. Applying this practice will help you get away from the “take on everything” mindset. It’s better not doing more work, but doing more of the right things.

Are you going to make a “not-to-do” list? Will this help you lead to more freedom to focus?

Leave a comment below.

Also, check out Hyatt’s book below!