Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt — Book Review & Key Takeaways
In a world where information is freely available, focus becomes one of the most valuable commodities in the workplace. In his book Free to focus, leadership mentor Michael Hyatt pulls it all together and delivers — as he phrased it — a total productivity system to achieve more by doing less. Michael Hyatt, beyond question, does a great work and provides a framework for all those who are ready to transform their lives.
The truth is we live and labor in the Distraction Economy.
We’ve all experienced it. Our devices, apps, and tools make us think we’re saving time, being hyper productive. In reality most of us just jam our day with the buzz and grind of low-value activity. We don’t invest our time in big and important projects. Instead, we’re tyrannized by tiny tasks. We’re doing more and gaining less, which leaves us with a huge gap between what we want to achieve and what we actually accomplish.
“More” is the key term in our way of life — we’re barraged by more items, more speed, and more pressure.
We’re everlastingly attempting to fit more into our effectively bustling calendars. That’s the reason we want greater profitability. But, how far would we be able to extend ourselves and our timetables? An option in contrast to this way to implosion is demonstrated to us by Michael Hyatt. In Free to Focus, he contends that we’re going for the wrong target — we shouldn’t accomplish increasingly, only a bigger amount of the right one.
Michael Hyatt is obviously a very busy individual, but he has managed to balance his work and family priorities after trying to do it all. Here is what I learned from Michael on productivity through reading Free to focus.
Free to focus by Michael Hyatt has helped both myself and countless people I have taught this to. Productivity is paramount for any business turnaround situation and this is the perfect place to start. Michael Hyatt claims that you don’t have to sacrifice either your work or personal life. You can have both! In my opinion, this book is for anyone who has a lot of responsibility at work and wants to maintain a good personal life at the same time.
Free to focus #1 — The Four Zones of Productivity
The author identifies four Zones of Productivity by picturing a matrix along the dimensions of Proficiency and Passion. Productivity gives you the freedom, Michael Hyatt argues, to spend most of your time in your Desire Zone. Everything left in the other zones is a potential candidate for elimination, automation, or delegation, in that order. This book is all about that.
In the Drudgery Zone, there’re tasks that you’re neither passionate about nor proficient at.
I bet something comes to mind readily that falls in this zone for you. These are the items that get checked off last on your to-do list, or slide from day to day…to day. You just don’t like doing these tasks. The point? You want to minimize as much as possible, any tasks that are outside of your desire zone. Here, Michael’s first suggestion to have more productivity is to eliminate the tasks that you do not have to do yourself.
The Disinterest Zone is made up of things that you’re proficient at but not passionate about.
You might find yourself working in a place where you’re doing a task that you’re not really interested in this is that area. You know those tasks you’d like to outsource but don’t think you should because you have the skills for them? Yep, those. Delegation means focusing primarily on the work only you can do by transferring everything else to others who are more passionate about the work or proficient in the tasks. Some of us refuse to delegate by convincing ourselves we can’t afford it. But the hours you spend on Desire Zone tasks will always be more profitable than the time you’re wasting anywhere else, so the cost of delegation pays for itself — and then some.
The Distraction Zone is made up of things that you’re passionate about yet lack proficiency at.
This is where we’re passionate, but not proficient. Tasks like these are the ones we should avoid, because they suck our time. For example, I love tinkering around and employing some of my design skills on my website. This is the kind of thing that should not appear too often in my growth strategy though, if I am to add real value. Going through this diagnostic audit spurred me to action. I just find a way to get someone to help me with some of my other activities in order to focus on design and UX/UI. That said, if you work on these skills, you soon can make this zone into a Desire Zone.
The Desire Zone is the zone where great things happen.
In your desire zone, your passion meets your proficiency and you can make a lasting contribution to the world. This is where you are able to unleash your unique abilities to make your most significant contributions. This is where time disappears and you get in the ‘zone’. This is where your passion lies. In the spirit of living intentionally, we must start to shift our focus to things that lie in our Desire Zone. In this zone, you are both passionate and proficient at the tasks or work being done. This means you will be not only good at performing those tasks but will enjoy doing the work. Imagine working on only those items you enjoy and are good at!
Free to focus #2 — Declutter Your Life
First, we must acknowledge, Hyatt argues, that every time we say yes, we inherently say no to something else. If we understand this simple trade-off, life gets funny. Next time before you say yes to a request, think about whether it’s within or beyond your Desire Zone. If we want to be free to focus, we must eliminate everything standing in our way. That doesn’t mean simply saying no to a lot of bad ideas; it also means turning down a ton of good ideas.
Time is a zero-sum game. Every yes inherently contains a no.
Everything outside your Desire Zone is a possible candidate for elimination. Some of us may find it hard to say ‘no’ to things in life. Heck, I know that I find it hard to say ‘no’ without some form of compromise. But Michael Hyatt says that this is a critical part of being productive. You have to say ‘no’ to things so that you can say ‘yes’ to tasks in your desire zone. Saying ‘yes’ to working overtime means you are saying no to dinner with your partner. Saying ‘yes’ to working on weekends means saying no to family time.
Steve Jobs says that innovation means to “say no to 1000 things.” Prune away dead weight and then you can thrive and reach your potential.
In other words, we tend to say ‘yes‘ all the time without really thinking about what we are saying ‘no‘ to. And Michael is suggesting that we should all consider saying ‘no’ more often, except more consciously. Yes-sayers who can’t ever say ‘no‘ have to recall that a no always hides somewhere behind yes. You don’t go for a run in the morning if you have breakfast with someone at 7am. If you accept to work overtime, you can’t have a meal with your partner. When a person wants something from you, you have to keep this in the brain and behave stern to yourself. While you were thinking of working out, if someone wants you to reread their project, you should just tell them you are busy. It’s not a lie because you’re actually busy with yourself.
How many low-return activities and time-drains are on your list? Which ones could you just strike out now?
And by that I mean right now. There’s no point waiting while more tasks multiple. Start hacking. Another thing to explore is what we call “Time Bandits.” You know, those pesky “time stealers” and distractions that take attention away from strategic work — email, a talkative vendor, the telephone, your mother-in-law, broken office equipment… The list goes on. Finding the discipline to eliminate Time Bandits is an important part of getting to the strategic work you need to do. Some things will be inconsistent with your priorities and many of these things don’t need to happen. Learn to say ‘no‘ to activities that just are not that important. While it’s hard for some to say ‘no‘, your effectiveness will depend on assuring you acquire this important time management skill.
Can you picture when you feel fully in control of where your time is going, when you get to decide how to spend your precious energy, and when you hit the pillow at night still energized from a productive, satisfying day?
I hope you can, because that time is coming. You really can accomplish more by doing less. It’s time to hit the reset button on your life and finally put a system in place that ensures the time and energy to accomplish your most important goals, both in and out of the office. Workdays are filled with tasks. There are meetings, reports, and projects. But our efforts aren’t enough to complete all the work we have on our plates. We’re like a boat that’s taking in water quickly; it feels like we’re sinking fast. That’s when we start looking for life hacks to make us more productive so we can get our work done faster and better.
Free to focus #3 — Subtract Yourself from the Equation
Delegation is an important part of being productive. When you find yourself with tasks outside of your desire zone that need to get done (and remember, elimination is the first step so don’t do things you don’t have to do), one option is to delegate the task to others. While it may not be part of your desire zone, it may be a part of someone else’s desire zone.
There are, in fact, five levels of delegation. This breakdown is important to anyone that delegates because you can understand the small nuances of delegation through the breakdown.
The first level is doing exactly what I say. Follow my instructions to the letter. Don’t deviate. I have looked at the different options and considered that this is the best path to follow. The second level of delegation is research only. Do the research. Look at the different options. Then report back to me where I will make the final decision. The third level of delegation is to do the research. Analyze the options. Recommend the best option. Then, if I agree, move forward. The fourth level of delegation is to do the research. Analyze the options. Take action on the option that you think is best. Tell me what you did and then report back to me on your progress. The fifth and highest level of delegation is I explain what I want done and then you take it all the way forward. You don’t need to let me know what you did or report on your progress in any way.
A manager without work delegation skills would find themselves overloaded, stressed, and ultimately burnt out.
As your team takes on larger projects and clients, you’ll need to expand your capacity to manage them. This is the natural order of growing a business and one of the most important reasons why learning to delegate is essential for success. Avoid micromanaging after handing a task over to someone else. This can interfere with their work process, undermine their authority, and cause them to experience imposter syndrome or even anxiety, leading to bad results. Releasing the reins isn’t easy, especially if you started as a small team and handled most day-to-day tasks yourself. It can be difficult to let go of those tasks and entrust them to others. However, there comes the point where you have to do just that for the organization to grow.
Too many managers waste both time and energy performing tasks a subordinate could perform just as well or even faster.
This lowers their productivity and raises operating costs. Many managers still limit their effectiveness, waste their department’s time and energies, and fail to develop their subordinates by either ignoring or mismanaging the techniques of delegation. Think about it that way: Delegation helps to build your subordinates: The idea behind delegation is to give subordinates tasks that would improve them at work. If correctly done, delegation can turn low performing employees to high performers. It offers subordinates the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and learn fast.
A smart leader knows not to micromanage and handhold, but rather to communicate and delegate.
When you relinquish duties or projects, you also let go of some authority and control. Keep in mind that mistakes will inevitably occur, even if you think your directions are clear. This is a natural part of any learning process and despite setbacks, your team will emerge on the other side wiser and more experienced. If you want to improve productivity in the long run, you have to take some risks. Once you’ve quelled the micromanager in you, make learning how to delegate a priority. Empowering your workforce improves the bottom line, which is beneficial for management, staff and clients. Loosen the reins, explore the full potential of your newly macromanaged team and enjoy the resulting success.
Free to focus #4 — Plan Your Ideal Week
What number of us stroll into the workplace with no arrangement set up, inactively responding to the day’s improvements? Be that as it may, this conduct is setting us up to come up short. You will always be unable to hit an objective that you can’t see. If our activities are unstructured and we’re not going for anything explicit, what’s the purpose of being beneficial? We need direction for profitability to have meaning and for the concentration to have an outlet.
Determining a great week is a good method to make efficiency stronger.
Get an empty week designer and let yourself to create a great week. This is a great week so you shouldn’t choose a week that you have important things to do, for example, seeing the dentist or going to a gathering. For instance, you may plan all your dates for Mondays so that they don’t block the whole week. On Fridays, you can work on a group experiment and pay attention to customers, and work a little bit more time on Wednesdays to be heard of recent events. You have to be certain to plan most of the time for recharging! You may want to do physical exercise on Thursday nights and take a walk on Saturdays.
You might equally consolidate your activities by grouping similar tasks together in a batch.
That means organizing your day, making sure you have uninterrupted time to do your best work. The Front Stage are tasks for which you’re hired and paid. The key functions, primary deliverables, the line items on your performance review. If it delivers the results for which your boss and/or customers are paying you, that’s Front Stage work. The Back Stage includes step-two activities (specifically, elimination, automation, and delegation) plus coordination, preparation, maintenance, and development. The tasks necessary for Front Stage performance. Last but not least, the off Stage refers to time when you’re not working. Off Stage is crucial to restoring your energy so you have something to offer when you come back to the stage.
To prepare for scheduling your upcoming week, Michael Hyatt recommended conducting a weekly preview.
During this preview, you will examine your previous week for improvements, look at your goals and projects, and identify the three major tasks that you want to complete by the end of the week. Naturally, you will have to take into account meetings that you already have. Each day should include three tasks that you want to complete during the day. Ideally, these tasks will help you achieve your three weekly tasks. Ensure that you include time for your rejuvenation tasks in your schedule. Michael Hyatt offers strategies for how to build a robust plan that takes into account all these ideas.
By far, the best takeaway in this book is the Big 3 structure.
Simply, if you were to look at your quarter, month, week or day, what are the 3 most important things that will get you towards your Desire Zone goals? By using the Big 3, you prioritize your activities and ensure that you are focused on the right things. Focusing on the right things will move you closer towards your goal. If your goal is located in your Desire Zone, then you will feel more fulfillment, more accomplishment and your productivity has now become immeasurably more valuable. Let your day be planned around a great three and design a great week to wish for.
Free to focus #5 — Beat Interruptions and Distractions
Immediate texting, direct warnings, internet surfing and the unnumbered curl of social media are in our recent livings, and all block our focus and concentrate. They’ve produced it simple than ever to delay too while some of them have carried important advantages to our private and vocational livings. But these preoccupations that covered up behind a cover of speed and comfort have made it harder than ever to center and conduct profound work. We begin to type it out a weekly paper, stop to look at Facebook and all of a sudden discover ourselves looking at the recent reports and filling our mocha cups again and again. We’ve hindered our prepare of the idea, and we got to study to urge back within the department when we turn back.
The way of battling the diversion economy is to make it simpler to remain centered.
Begin by browsing your messages just two times every day, in the first part of the day and after lunch, and when you have to finish profound work utilize your telephone’s “don’t aggravate” mode. On the off chance that you need to take things further, attempt a center application. These are PC programs that give you a chance to tweak what programming and sites you can access during specific times of the day. The diversion economy is difficult to treat, but we’ll be free to focus when we see how harmful it can be to efficiency and walk onto stairs to cut off its effect.
Interruptions kill our productivity, take away our focus, and can wreak havoc on our motivation. Yet we treat them as a given in today’s work culture.
When it comes down to it, most interruptions are based around communication. The problem is that we don’t talk about and set expectations around how we communicate and respond to each other. You probably think that if someone’s asking you a question, it’s got to be urgent. Yet people ask questions when they think about it, not because it’s a high priority. Besides just segmenting time that’s available for interruption, it’s important to challenge the way your workplace thinks about communication. Do coworkers expect responses right away? Do you just default to the easiest form of communication (talking when you see that person)? Or do you have rules and expectations around when and how people should interact?
One of the easiest ways to help with managing interruptions at work is to make a plan for your day.
Schedule things to do with your time. Don’t confuse this with making a to-do list, rather, focus on your workflow at specific times on a given day. This should help with staying focused at work and on what needs to be accomplished. Another useful suggestion for managing interruptions at work is to use the ‘urgent and important’ rule. Work on tasks that are both urgent and important. This will change from office to office but after you begin using the rule it starts becoming easier to assess and implement.
There’s an old saying, ‘the devil finds work for idle hands’, and it’s just as true today.
It’s easier to be interrupted and distracted when you don’t have a strong purpose and clear goals. Be sure you understand your team goals and organization goals, be clear about your own role in achieving them and know what matters to you in your professional life and your career. The opposite of distraction is traction. If you look at the origin of both words, both come from the same Latin root trahere, which means to pull. So traction, by definition is any position that pulls you towards what you say you’re going to do. It pulls you towards your values. It helps you become the kind of person you want to become. Those are acts of attraction.
Most people have the wrong idea about productivity. We should stop focusing on being productive and start focusing on freedom instead. Freedom can mean many things, such as the freedom to focus, which means finding time in your day to get deep work done uninterrupted by distractions or other activities that might take you away from your goal of getting something important done.
Relieving some moments on every duty and using that time to imprudently accept more job isn’t about efficiency.
We have to be more intelligent about which duties we select to focus on, providing that these are good tasks that most advantage of our employment. Provided that we can discuss the harm of the diversion economy, we will be able for a highly efficient day when we care about what we accept and amalgamate this with supereminence relaxation and rescue.
Now, you may have understood that the key to increasing efficiency isn’t about doing more, it’s about doing more of the correct stuff.
The most difficult side for efficiency-thinkers is trying to award which duties and obligations to do from their weekly timetable. Think of designing a list of things you’re not going to do for accepting this defiance. For instance, don’t you want to spend hours treating problems outside your zone? Write down these on your not-to-do list, and obey them. This will be a helper you to be far from a harmful “accept everything” brain.
If you are looking for more structure in your life and want to create an experience where you are accomplishing meaningful goals, I would definitely recommend that you read Free to focus.
Free to Focus has taught me that it’s not about doing more things — it’s about doing more of the right things. Whether you want to implement a system to increase productivity, achieve a better work/life balance, or increase efficiency, Free to Focus will guide you in ways to attain your goals. Free to focus is an instant classic in my eyes, and I’m sure it will be for you too. Are you up for going up against your productivity issues? I’m looking forward to hearing from you in the comments below 🙂
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.