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Free to Focus

A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less

By Michael Hyatt
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  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt

In Free to Focus (2019), Michael Hyatt challenges some common myths surrounding productivity and proposes a new way to approach our workday. In a distraction-laden and attention-sapping world, these blinks offer a reality check packed with practical tips.

Key idea 1 of 7

Our concept of productivity is flawed.

Workdays are filled with an endless litany of tasks – there are meetings to attend, presentations to give, reports to write and projects to complete. But our efforts are seldom enough. Sometimes it feels like we’re in a leaky boat, frantically bucketing water over the side. The water builds up, and we start to sink. That’s the moment we start buying into the myth of productivity. We think if we could work a bit faster, we’d be okay. We start to look for life hacks, each promising to give us a few more minutes of time.

But obsessing over speed actually decreases our productivity. That’s because we try to do more with our time, and squander any time saved by cramming more things into our overflowing schedules. Finding a quicker way to write our daily emails, for instance, just means we’ll start preparing tomorrow’s emails sooner.

In another flawed approach to increasing productivity, we start working overtime to finish all our tasks. Sometimes we justify this by telling ourselves the overtime is temporary and things will calm down soon. However, the opposite is true. Jack Nevison, the founder of New Leaf Project Management, compiled the results of several major studies looking into workplace productivity. He found that workers who clock more than 55 hours per week are actually less productive than those working 50 or less, due to stress and mental fatigue.

Our current myths about productivity are unsustainable and inefficient. That’s why, instead of productivity, we should start aiming for freedom.

Freedom can mean many things. The freedom to focus, for example, which means finding the time to focus and accomplish uninterrupted deep work. This is the most important and often most difficult type of work, as it yields more results and involves tough mental labor. Because deep work involves intense focus, it’s draining and is only possible for a limited time each day.

This makes another objective of productivity even more important – that is, the freedom to do nothing. It sounds counterintuitive, but most of our breakthrough ideas actually happen when our minds are at ease. Being productive during the week means we gain the freedom to do nothing in our time off, and that’s when the creative juices really begin to flow.

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