Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt: Summary and Lessons

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Free to Focus Summary

Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt is a great system to help you focus on working on the right things. First, you’ll stop and define what productivity means to you by formulating, evaluating, and reformulating. Then, you’ll cut the nonessentials by eliminating, automating, and delegating. Finally, you’ll act on by consolidating, designating, and activating.

Executive Summary

In a world where information is freely available, focus becomes one of the most valuable commodities in the workplace.

  • Evaluate: how to find your highest-leverage activities
  • Reformulate: how to use rest to boost your productivity
  • Automate: how to subtract yourself from the equation
  • Delegate: how to properly delegate work
  • Designate: how to prioritize tasks
  • Activate: how to manage interruptions and eliminate distractions
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Step 1: Stop

Chapter 1 — Formulate: Decide What You Want

True productivity starts with being clear on what you truly want.

  • Then break it down into a few powerful and memorable words
  • Finally, clarify the stakes by outlining exactly what you stand to gain if you achieve that vision and what you will lose if you don’t

Chapter 2 — Evaluate: Determine Your Course

You can evaluate tasks, activities, and opportunities based on two key criteria:

  • Proficiency: how well you actually do something that generates results that other people can measure and reward
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  1. Distraction Zone. Things you are passionate about but have little proficiency for, thus preventing you from making a significant contribution.
  2. Disinterest Zone. Things that you’re proficient at but you aren’t that passionate about. These tasks drain your energy.
  3. Drudgery Zone. Tasks for which you have no passion and no proficiency. This is the worst kind of work for you to do.
  4. Development Zone. How to gauge work outside your Desire Zone but potentially moving toward it. If we have a hunch we could develop passion and proficiency with a task, we should stay open-minded about it.

Chapter 3 — Rejuvenate: Reenergize Your Mind and Body

Time is fixed, but energy can flex.

  1. Eat. Eat natural foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats. Be mindful when eating out. Stick with water as much as possible.
  2. Move. Exercise itself is an energizer. Physical activity primes our brains to operate at a higher level.
  3. Connect. Some people charge you up while others drain you. Be intentional about connections by conducting a social audit.
  4. Play. If you want to stay sharp, you need regular injections of recreation, exercise, and outright play into your busy schedule.
  5. Reflect. Strive to make time for reflection every day, either by reading, journaling, introspection, meditation, prayer, or worship.
  6. Unplug. Create rules to help you disconnect during nights, weekends, and vacations.

Step 2: Cut

Chapter 4 — Eliminate: Flex Your “No” Muscle

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.

  1. No. The answer continues with a matter-of-fact no that is clear and sets boundaries. Do not leave any wiggle room or ambiguity.
  2. Yes. End the response by affirming the relationship again and by offering another solution to the person’s request.
  1. Reaffirm your willingness to honor your commitment
  2. Explain why honoring your commitment is not the best outcome for the other party
  3. Offer to help solve the problem with them
  • List the meetings, relationships, and opportunities you should never pursue

Chapter 5 — Automate: Subtract Yourself from the Equation

The 4 types of automation:

  1. Template. Automate repetitive tasks with templates. Examples: email templates and PowerPoint presentations.
  2. Process. Write an easy-to-follow set of instructions for performing a job or sequence. Correct the workflow as you gather feedback.
  3. Tech. Focus on the type of tool you need more than which tool you use. The 4 essential tools: email filtering, macro-processing, text-expansion, and screencast

Chapter 6 — Delegate: Clone Yourself-or Better

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.

  1. Select the best person
  2. Communicate the workflow
  3. Provide the necessary resources
  4. Specify the delegation level
  5. Give them room to operate
  6. Check-in and provide feedback as needed
  1. Level 2. You want the person to examine or research a topic and report back to you.
  2. Level 3. You’re giving the person more room to participate in the problem-solving process but you are still reserving the final decision for yourself.
  3. Level 4. You want the person to evaluate the options, make a decision on their own, execute the decision, and then give you an update after the fact.
  4. Level 5. You hand the entire project or task over to someone else and exit the decision altogether.

Step 3: Act

Chapter 7 — Consolidate: Plan Your Ideal Week

Design your work to focus on just one thing at a time.

  1. Back Stage. Includes step-two activities (specifically, elimination, automation, and delegation) plus coordination, preparation, maintenance, and development. The tasks necessary for Front Stage performance.
  2. 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.
  1. Themes. Indicate what type of activities you’ll do on individual days during certain blocks of time. An easy way to start is to think of the morning, workday, and evening.
  2. Activities. Group the individual activities that will fall into those themes.

Chapter 8 — Designate: Prioritize Your Tasks

You need to systematically decide what deserves your attention now, what deserves your attention later, and what doesn’t deserve your attention at all.

  1. Review the Prior Week
  2. Review Your Lists and Notes
  3. Check Goals, Projects, Events, Meetings, and Deadlines
  4. Designate Your Weekly Big 3 Things to Accomplish
  5. Plan Your Rejuvenation
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  • Shoot for three, and only three, key tasks each day (your Daily Big 3). Let your Weekly Big 3 inform your Daily Big 3
  • Schedule time to do your Daily Big 3 on your calendar

Chapter 9 — Activate: Beat Interruptions and Distractions

How to avoid interruptions:

  • Proactively set and enforce boundaries. Inform the relevant people you’re going offline for a period to focus by setting an autoresponder for your email. Sell your boss on why you need time for deep, focused work.
  • Listen to the right music. Background music that’s familiar, repetitive, relatively simple, and not too loud can aid focus (more on focus music).
  • Take charge of your environment. Make your workspace work for you (more about productivity spaces). Optimize your current workspace for focus by eliminating distracting items.
  • Declutter your workspace. Make an appointment with yourself on your calendar to organize your office — both physical and digital.
  • Increase your frustration tolerance. Train yourself for focus by choosing to stick uphill tasks.

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