Today's post will be on learning how you can be present more deeply, and think more clearly through an exploration of the subject of focus.
I think being able to invest our limited attention in today's world, when we are so often in distracting environments doing brain-heavy work is such an essential skill. When I began to view attention as the most important ingredient to become more productive AND creative, I found myself being generally more happy. So today, I thought I'd share not only the fascinating things I’ve learned about Hyper-Focus, but also how to actually put these ideas to use in your own life.
Ready? Let's begin!
Watching a talk on focus, or reading a post on it is great and all, but still rather useless when you don’t act upon it. What matters most, is to be able to bridge these insights into your practice on the mat, and in daily life, to explore ways to manage your attention better. These ideas have already changed one life (mine), and I know they can do the same for you too. So when it comes to investing attention deliberately and intelligently..
The first question to ask is
How am I INVESTING my attention?
Your attention needs intelligent management, just like investing money into the stock market. Chris Baily, the author of Hyperfocus, talks about this in his book,
Given that we have limited resources (attention or money) how will we deploy those to get the best return?
This should get you thinking.. How am I spending my attention?
Maybe you haven't given much thought to it (as a lot of us probably haven't) but that's okay..
Just know that going forward.. This is something to pay attention too!
This isn't just about 'productivity' either.. It's about how our attention shapes our lives!
“Whether at work or at home, the quality of your attention determines the quality of your life. At work, the more attention you give to what’s in front of you, the more productive you become. At home, the more attention you devote to what’s in front of you, the more meaningful your life becomes.”
In most cases, we care about our attention because it directly affects our productivity. Now I have come to realize that this hustle culture promotes unending productivity is fairly-unyogic. You see, it just feels cold, corporate, and overly focused on efficiency. I prefer a different (and friendlier) definition: productivity means accomplishing what we intend to.
Somedays being productive means writing an entire essay or doing a presentation for work, but on other days, if our goal is to relax and do absolutely nothing, then being busy on that day doesn't make us productive. We live in a world of busy people, busy people who love being busy for the sake of being busy. It doesn’t matter how busy we are if that busyness doesn’t lead us to accomplish anything of importance.
As Chris Baily defines it, "Productivity is not about cramming more into our days but doing the right thing in each moment.”
This has two implications, one is that we must intend to do it in the first place.
Meaning that we don't approach something haphazardly..
Instead we have a defined idea of what we would like to accomplish!
Second it means that we need to make what we intend to do and what we actually do in congruence..
This is something important to understand..
When you say you're going to do something you're creating a mini-contract with yourself..
Are you the type of person who doesn't live up to those contracts? Good luck accomplishing anything!
Conversely.. Are you the type of person who sets contracts impossibly high or unbelievably low?
Good luck getting yourself to trust and reinforce these contracts..
Remember.. This ISN'T about being busy!
“Productivity means accomplishing what we intend to.”
“Not about cramming more into our days but doing the right thing in each moment.”
Doing the right thing as it relates to our intention inside of each moment..
HyperFocus & the Dristis
“When you hyperfocus on a task, you expand one task, project, or other object of attention so it fills your attentional space completely."
This applies to your yoga practice as well, and that's why it's so crucial to remember the dristis. Dristis are gazing points that allow you to manage your attention deliberately and purposefully
In Ashtanga, there are nine possible drishtis:
Bhrumadhya (third eye)
Nasagrai (tip of the nose)
Parsva (right side)
Parsva (left side)
Nabhi Chakra (navel)
Hastagrai (tip of the middle finger)
Anguṣṭha (tip of the thumb)
Padayoragrai (tip of the big toe)
Each pose is assigned one of these specific focal attention points. You can see how drishtis work to keep the awareness turned inward.
You enter this mode by deliberately placing your attention on one object or body part, eliminating distractions that will inevitably arise as you practice, and then focusing on just one gazing point. This process is many things at one, it's deliberate, and leads us to become energized by the practice.
Recall the last time you were doing a task and you found yourself in this state. Allowing just one task or project to consume your full attentional space means this state doesn’t make you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Your attentional space doesn’t overflow, and your work doesn’t feel nearly as chaotic. Since hyperfocus is so much more productive, you can slow down a bit and still accomplish an incredible amount in a short period of time.”
The most important aspect of hyper-focus is that only one productive or meaningful task consumes your attentional space. This is simply nonnegotiable. Here’s why: the most critical tasks, projects, and commitments benefit from every bit of extra attention.
Chris tells us: "Probably focusing on only one thing—maybe out of necessity, driven by a deadline. This one task filled your attentional space.""
This is your How-To guide to Hyper-focusing!
But strangely enough, it sounds a lot like meditation, doesn't it?
Like Hyper-Focus, meditation involves continually returning your focus to a single object of attention—usually your breath or a mantra—as soon as you notice your mind has wandered from it.
"Each time you return your wandering mind to the details of your breath, you heighten your executive functioning: how much control you have over your attention.”
How you can use these steps:
First how will you choose what to put your attention towards? (This is tricker than it sounds and more on it later).
Second how will you block all your common distractions?
Third how long will you work for? Make sure that's easy to track.
Fourth what will help you draw your attention back to the task at hand when it inevitably wanders?
This requires a very detailed plan on how you want to achieve what you want to achieve.
It's really not that difficult..
Move from vague targets to more specific targets!
How will we do that? Implementation intentions.
The anatomy of a powerful implementation intention:
Get specific; exactly what do you intend to accomplish?
Where and when do you plan to accomplish it?
Setting implementation intentions looks like
Immediately after waking up take 15 minute to mediate.
Complete 5 x 30 minutes of deep work during the workday.
This post wouldn't be complete if I didn't talk about...
While Hyper-focus can help you get a LOT of stuff done, Scatter-focus helps you connect ideas, unearth hidden insights, become more creative, plan for the future, and rest.
Scatter-Focus for me happens best when I'm out for a walk..
I let my mind wander around a particular point in my life..
Maybe it's business, relationships, health or happiness!
But instead of having an intention I simply allow what comes up to come up!
While Hyper-focus keeps you on your toes, and getting things done, together with Scatter-Focus sprinkled in, they serve as the ultimate tools to live a fulfilling life.
After spending time in Scatter-Focus I tend to have an idea for a project or something to work on..
Want a high quality life? Pay attention to your attention..
Know when to use what mode!
Both will be necessary at times; Remember to Hyper-Focus when you are creating or learning, and use Scatter-Focus when you are reflecting, ideating or connecting dots.
A general background of 'Meta-Cognition' will help you uplift any mental state and organize your attentional field to input only the most important priorities.