The second idea that I want to share with you as it relates to our attention, is an idea that I call hyperfocus. And it really highlights the second idea why these 20 hour weeks are so damn productive, and it was because, with less time, there is a deeper level of focus. Half of that was about taming distractions. In fact, I didn't tame them, I didn't have a choice. You know, I only had so much time. It was like working on a deadline where, if you're ever on a deadline, you might find that you fall victim to distractions a lot less often, but you also probably focus deeper. There's a quote from Seneca that I love, and he said, "to be everywhere is to be nowhere." And this is something that is so integral to our attention is we rarely choose what we focus on before we focus on something. That's where the rubber meets the road with intention because if you think back to your last, most productive day that you've had in a long time, when you got a disproportionate amount of work accomplis...
hed. Chances are a number of things were true that day. You probably just focused on one thing. When your attention went somewhere else, you brought it back gently. Maybe you became more motivated as you went on, as you became more immersed in what you were doing. You likely worked deliberately and with intention. Time probably passed quickly, like the clock didn't exist at all. Maybe you got into that, there's a researcher called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this state flow, where time seems to not exist at all. We become so totally immersed in what we're doing that it's like it's the only thing that exists in the entire world. Once you got started, you probably experienced little resistance after you overcame that initial little bit that was stacked at the beginning of the task, but the thing that I think is the most essential here is that you focused on just one thing, because in any given moment, we only have so much attention to give to the world around us. You've probably felt this idea in practice. You know, you can kind of see how much attention you have as your attentional space and there's only so much you can fit into here. You know, in any given moment, research done by Timothy Wilson has found that our brain is bombarded by 11 million bits of information. A bit is a sight, it's a sound, it's an idea, it's a thought, it's something, anything that we can focus on, but in any given moment, we can only focus on 40 of them. 40 out of 11 million, and on top of that constraint for how we're able to focus, there's only so much information that we can hold in our mind at once. We used to think that we could hold about seven chunks of information in our mind at once. A chunk is, you know, any little piece of information in our mind, but the latest research has shown that we can only fit about four ideas in our mind at one time. You know, our capacity to focus is very limited because of these two characteristics. We can remember about four numbers at one time. We can remember four names at one time. If you think, man, I can remember more than four names at one time, more than four numbers. I can remember a phone number at one time, but if you hooked up your head with headphones, where random numbers were being shouted into your ears to prevent you from rehearsing it, that's where you can find those types of limits. Not everything takes up our full attention though. Like, a habit is a really good example of something that doesn't. You know, it takes up just a portion of our attentional space, and we have some to spare. This is why our mind wanders a bit, because we have a bit of attention to spare when we do. We can fit, in fact, a few habits. We can do a few things at once. We can walk while we chew bubble gum, while we walk a dog, while we listen to a podcast, but that's about the limits of how much attention we have. Where we run into problems is when we try to cram too much into our attentional space at once. When we're trying to, you know, have you ever tried to carry on two conversations at one time? That's a pretty good example of that. You know, you try to combine those, and fit those into your attentional space, and it overflows, and the effects of it overflowing can be observed often. You could probably observe this today in a lot of different cases, trying to carry on two conversations at once. If you've ever tried to shop while watching your kids, you probably noticed your attention overflowing a bit. If you've listened to talk radio driving, or a podcast and driving. Maybe you've had to rewind, or you missed something that somebody said. If you've ever drove somewhere and tried to eat at the same time, maybe you spilled some on you, or maybe you wanted to pull over, so you could actually enjoy the meal you were eating. You know, no takeout meal is as delicious as the one you focus on completely. Maybe you're on a flight, you know, you had some turbulence while you were reading a study. This happened to me the other day, you know, it's a threat in the environment, and it's novel. Walking and texting. You see people running into stuff all over the place. Using your cell phone and a meeting. There's not enough attention to do both. Overeating while at the movie theater. Having too much popcorn over watching TV. This happens quite often, and in this mode, we become busier because we're trying to do more at once, but we become less productive at the same time. You know, it interrupts our rhythm of working. We make more errors. Things take longer, as well, because we don't do anything to the best of our ability. We do everything to half of our ability, and to make matters worse, we switch rapidly between these things. We remember less. The research shows that when we're multitasking on something our mind actually processes our work differently. We go from processing our mind with the part of our brain that remembers things to processing it with the part of our brain that is responsible for habits. This is autopilot mode in action by trying to do too many things at one time, and of course, we feel overwhelmed. In a certain way, the state of our attention determines the state of our life. If our attention is overwhelmed in the moment, we feel overwhelmed. If we're distracted, we feel distracted. If we don't try to fit too much into one moment, we feel more at peace. We feel like we're able to handle and take on the things that we're doing. In this last, most productive day that you had, chances are, maybe you were on a deadline, so you had no choice but to get into this mode, you knew it was important. You didn't tend to the distractions. You allowed one thing to consume your full attentional space. I call this mode hyperfocus, and it's when we expand one task to fill our full attention. We get into it by taming distractions and by choosing what we want to focus on, whether it's one of our three daily intentions, whether it's something that's important in our work. So the mode, you know, pick an important task to work on, and choose an amount of time. I recommend starting with 20 to 45 minutes, you know, feel your resistance. This is another tactic that helps with the procrastination too is how long do you feel comfortable focusing on one thing for? And this works for going to the gym, for an example too, so do I feel like focusing or going to the gym for an hour? No, the thought of it puts me off. Do it about 40 minutes. Yeah, get that, 30? Instead of 20? I could probably do 20 minutes, and then you focus for 20 minutes, or you do the task you're putting off for 20 minutes. It creates structure. It makes something less aversive at the same time. And when your attention wavers, bring it back, and enter into that distraction-free mode. It helps to keep a distractions list.