Well-known productivity expert Michael Hyatt has been talking and writing about the subject for a while. The founder of Platform University has had a blog, two podcasts, now a magazine, and courses in addition to his prior books. In other words, he’s quite well-versed on the subject. In Free to Focus, his new book that has just come out, that all comes together in lots of detail.
If you have followed his work for some time, as I have, you will recognize his premise in writing the book – that we are trying to do too much and are hurting ourselves in so doing – as well as some of the details along the way. This isn’t to say there is nothing new in the book, but it brings together a lot that he has talked about over the years and more.
A lot of us have been there: we feel over-worked, we’re always accessible even on nights and weekends, we push through it, and along the way, we might see things outside of work suffer. None of that is good, especially since what tends to suffer are things like our health and our relationships. Demands on our time are not going to drop anytime soon, especially for entrepreneurs and other high achievers, so what do we do about this? He has a three-step plan he delves into: Stop, Cut and Act.
Along the way, he introduces concepts that aid in doing these activities. A big one is the idea of your Desire Zone, which is home to things that you are both passionate about and proficient at doing. The idea is to spend the most time there and minimize the time spent with tasks that you may be passionate about but not proficient at (Distraction Zone), proficient at but not passionate about (Disinterest Zone) and tasks at which you are neither (Drudgery Zone). The more time you spend in your Desire Zone, the more value you create and the happier are you likely to be.
First, he recommends that we stop. Yes, stop – stop what you are doing to evaluate your situation. Understand what you want out of your work and life, and understand where everything on your current “To Do” list falls in the four zones mentioned, as this will guide you from here. Also, take time to understand how you should take care of yourself away from work – things like eating right, getting rest, and generally enjoying life instead of being tethered to your work 24 hours a day.
Next, he recommends that you cut things out of your work life. Determine what you won’t do – primarily things outside of your desire zone – and then look at how you can reduce or eliminate those tasks by automation or delegation. He goes in-depth on both, noting a few different forms of automation and delegation as well as they keys to doing each successfully. If not done correctly, not only with neither of those help, but they will hinder you further, so automating and delegating is not trivial.
Finally, once you have done all of this, you act on what you will do. You plan it out, prioritize what is most important, and work to avoid or minimize interruptions and distractions as well as their impact. Done right, this will lead to better results: a better feeling when you complete a few goals you lay out for a day or week instead of dozens of things to do regardless of their value, as well as more achievement and more margin for things that matter outside of your work.
With all of these concepts, he does a great job of laying out the current situation and why it is problematic for us. This, along with anecdotes that show the urgency involved, gives the reader an understanding of where we are before going on to how to get to where we should be.
There are pages of resources in the book as well, which are mentioned throughout the book. In fact, this book is meant to be read while doing a number of activities related to what the book talks about. These tools can all be accessed at a companion site to the book to enhance the experience.
If you have consumed some of Michael Hyatt’s content over the years, as I have, you will see some familiarity in a lot of the concepts. The book is the product of his years of research and personal experience with the subject matter, all put together in in a well-done and very accessible book that goes through how we can overcome being chronically over-worked and seemingly never having time for things that matter the most to us. He makes it clear that he is a mere mortal in this regard as well, relaying his own experiences as well as other anecdotes to also drive home many of the points he makes to show why we need something like this to be better off. That makes the book – and its lessons – a little more accessible and easier to understand.