Chris Bailey (@chris_bailey) is a productivity expert, host of the Becoming Better Podcast, and the bestselling author of two books about productivity: Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. In the time it’s taken you to read this, he’s probably written another.
What We Discuss with Chris Bailey:
- The neurochemical reason our brains switch focus every 40 seconds (or less) and what we can do to recapture this hit to our overall productivity.
- Why giving yourself the time to unfocus productively with what Chris calls scatterfocus is as crucial to your progress as hyperfocus.
- How Chris harnesses scatterfocus to mull over and solve complicated problems without distraction.
- What Chris learned by deliberately allowing himself to enter a state of boredom for an hour a day for an entire month (and how he did so creatively).
- What the attention overload gap is, the problems it can cause, and why we’re more susceptible to it than we probably suspect.
- And much more…
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If you feel like you can only work for an average of 40 seconds before becoming distracted, you’re just like the rest of us. In fact, 40 percent of everything we do every single day is on autopilot, and we can’t just blame our mobile phones and social media for the distraction — it’s ultimately our habits that keep us from being at our best and most productive.
On this episode we talk to Chris Bailey, host of the Becoming Better Podcast and author of Hyperfocus and The Productivity Project, about the attention-overload gap that makes multitasking an illusion for most of us, what it takes to turn mere mindfulness into practical productivity, and the problem-solving power of scatterfocus (known to most by its close cousin “boredom”). Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
THANKS, CHRIS BAILEY!
If you enjoyed this session with Chris Bailey, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Hyperfocus: How to Manage Your Attention in a World of Distraction by Chris Bailey
- The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey
- Becoming Better Podcast
- Chris Bailey’s Website
- Chris Bailey at Twitter
- Neurotics Can’t Focus: An In Situ Study of Online Multitasking in the Workplace, Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
- Understanding the Default Mode Network, Verywell Health
- Creative Routines, Info We Trust
- Aqua Notes Waterproof Notepads
- Five Fascinating Things I Discovered by Making Myself Bored for a Month by Chris Bailey, A Life of Productivity
- What Is Working Memory Capacity, and How Can We Measure It? Frontiers in Psychology
- Mind’s Limit Found: Four Things at Once, LiveScience
- Multitasking: Switching Costs, American Psychological Association
- Guide: Everything You Need to Start Meditating by Chris Bailey, A Life of Productivity
- The “Jobs to be Done” Theory of Innovation by Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business Review
- History Will Not Be Kind to Jony Ive, Vice
- Stop Multitasking! It’s Distracting Me (And You), NPR
Transcript for Chris Bailey | Hyperfocus Secrets for Better Productivity (Episode 247)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most brilliant and interesting people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you.
[00:00:19] It turns out that most of us can only work for an average of 40 seconds before becoming distracted. This is bad. This is real bad. It's not just our phones breaking us away from what matters, but our habits. In fact, 40 percent of everything we do every single day is pure autopilot. Today, we'll discuss the attention overload gap, why multitasking is an illusion for most of us, and why more focus isn't always the answer to our distraction problem, and it's not just about mindfulness anymore. Sure. Being aware of when we're distracted is great, but how do we turn this into a practice that actually sticks? Last but not least, a technique called scatterfocus and why this deliberate boredom can actually help us solve complex problems that might otherwise increase our stress and our workload.
[00:01:06] If you want to know how I systemize networking, relationships, and business development for personal and professional networks, I use systems and tiny habits. I'm teaching you how to do that for free in my course, Six-Minute Networking. Again, that's at jordanharbinger.com/course. By the way, most of the guests here on the show, they subscribed to the course and the newsletter, so come join us and you'll be in great company. Now, here's Chris Bailey.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:31] We do a fair bit of shows, in fact we have multiple shows on productivity, focus and things like that and you would think that we've heard it all, but as it turns out, there's a lot of different angles that you can come at focus and distraction with. Hyperfocus was pretty interesting for me, Chris, because it was a little shocking first of all, that we can work for an average of 40 seconds in front of our computer before getting distracted and I thought there's no way that's true. I'm going to time myself and I didn't really make it much further than that. Most of the time, I don't think I made it even that far. It was a little bit depressing. I hate throwing that word around, but I thought for sure I'm super productive. Meanwhile I'm on the first sentence of our interview and I'm like, “I better turn on the air conditioner. Let me open my phone. Oh, I have a notification.” That's what happens. What's going on here?
Chris Bailey: [00:02:19] It's crazy. It really is crazy. I noticed how distracted I was after the first book that I published came out. I thought, “Okay, what's going on here?” Because I'm giving advice on how we should be taming distraction, but I'm distracted myself. So, maybe there's a part of the picture that I'm missing. I went in deep into the research and that 40-second study was one of them that I encountered. It was conducted by a team of researchers at Microsoft, Mary Czerwinski and Shamsi Iqbal. I didn't believe the findings that they found. So, I thought, okay, I'm going to fly out to Microsoft's research campus just to see how they conduct this study. It sounds kind of creepy, but in practice it's not very creepy— what they do is they set up a camera next to where somebody is working. They train a camera on somebody's computer and they watch what they do. They watched the websites they go to. They watch how they pick up their phone. They found what you found that every 40 seconds we switched from one task to another to another, to another, to another, to another from the morning until the day is done. By the way, 40 seconds, it's not very good, but it lowers to 35 seconds when we have a phone nearby or when we have an app like Slack or Skype open as we're trying to get our work done. Our attention is more fragmented. I'm happy you said the word shocking, surprising, but not for the reasons that we think. We think the problem is that we have so many distractions surrounding us, but the problem is it's something deeper than that, which is just the fact that our mind is so stimulated by distractions. That stimulation that leads us to seek it out in the first place.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:56] Well, this really did hit home and it checks out for me, especially when I'm doing something I'd rather not be doing. If I'm proofreading something, there's like a magnetic pole for me to go and do something else. I've had to become quite aware of that so that I can resist it. I'm always avoiding something when I reach for my phone. I'm avoiding a task I don't really want to do it. It doesn't have to be a horrible task. It's usually just like I really don't want to type this long three-paragraph email going to go ahead and check my texts again, even though I literally just did that. It's not useful.
Chris Bailey: [00:04:29] Yeah, and that's the thing. There are certain attributes that a task can have that make us more likely to put it off. When you kind of dissect the things that you do over the span of the day, you realize there's kind of a checklist that you can go through when it comes to doing those types of tests. Those things that put us off that make us more likely to procrastinate or something that repel our attention. Think of doing your taxes, something everybody on the planet procrastinates with. You can go down this checklist that they're boring, they're frustrating, they're difficult, they lack personal meaning. There's little meaning in giving money to the government most of the time. They lack intrinsic rewards and so the process of doing that isn't that rewarding. It's ambiguous, it's unstructured, and so it has pretty much every single trigger that a task can have that makes us more likely to put it off. Versus watching Hell's Kitchen by the Gordon Ramsey show. Fantastic cooking reality TV show, not boring, not frustrating, not difficult, not ambiguous, not unstructured. It's all there that makes us more likely to do that, that attract our attention.
[00:05:36] There are three things that really pull us in when it comes to the distractions that surround us. Like when you wake up first thing in the morning, chances are your phone wakes you up and maybe you pull it off of your nightstand and you bounce around between a stable of apps. The more pleasurable and threatening and novel something is, the more it attracts our attention and pulls our attention in. You look at Instagram, it's very pleasurable, it's very threatening when you see all of the things that we have to be envious of, and it's incredibly novel. The entire Instagram algorithm is tailored to pulling the most novel things that we could possibly direct our attention at forward in that explore tab at the very bottom. So, we draw our attention to those things. It's kind of curious when you begin to pick apart the characteristics of the things that attract and repel us because when you deconstruct the science of our attention, you realize kind of some curious things like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:35] This must've been a fascinating book to write because I know I'm distracted when I look at my phone. I already know I don't like updating spreadsheets or waiting for elevators.
Chris Bailey: [00:06:43] Is there anything distracting you right now during this interview?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:46] Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Chris Bailey: [00:06:48] Do you have other tabs open right now?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:49] No. No, I don't. Why can you tell or is it like just everyone's always distracted?
Chris Bailey: [00:06:54] I have this sixth sense, man. No, no. I can tell you're here, but we all have like other open tabs in our brain almost or a mind wanders other things.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:02] Yeah. For example, there are tabs open like my notes and the app we're using to record this shout out to SquadCast.fm, but like, yeah, I'm not checking my email at the same time or something and Slack is open so that Jason can say like, “Hey, that sounded a little racist," whatever, whatever, you know?
Chris Bailey: [00:07:17] Yeah. Chris is off on a racist tirade again.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:21] Yeah, like who knows what's going on here or like I'm going to edit that out. Does that stuff is there, but I've trained myself as a show host to keep important open loops going in my head, but only a few. I've had to whittle it down. There was a time where I would say, “Oh, you know, this interview, he's off on his thing. I can totally answer these texts right now, or I can answer this email that somebody sent me real quick.” That's not an important open loop. That's a bad idea. It's a really good way to get distracted and screw something up. However, there are important things like, “Oh, is that noise that's outside the room getting carried in through the microphones? Okay, I need to monitor that. Ooh, how does that sound? Do we want to move this? Is this a road I want to go down? All right. Do I have a question lined up after this?” Those all have to be handled, but primarily they have to be subordinate to my task of listening. Now, that's fine because this is a performance element, right, but I only have to do that for like 90 minutes. I don't have to do that for eight straight hours. I couldn’t do that.
Chris Bailey: [00:08:19] No, nobody could. This is the thing that we don't realize is focus is great. It's incredible. You know during these bouts of hyperfocus, which is this elusive state where we completely fill our attentional space, just our working memory capacity with one task, and so one task fills our mind in other words. These periods are kind of elusive, but we couldn't spend all day focused on things. In fact, focusing on stuff all day long is one of the worst things that we can do for our productivity because we only have so much of that muscle and so much of that focus juice almost until our brain gets depleted. I think you touched on something kind of curious, that's worth unpacking. The mind wandering as we focus on something. We have periods of focus, but we also have periods of unfocused throughout the day. In fact, when you divide up the moments of our attention throughout the day, we spend about 53 percent of our time focused on something which in the research is called perceptually coupled, essentially all our thoughts, everything we see, everything we think, everything that we are in that moment is aligned to doing whatever we want to do. These are fantastic moments. These moments like now when we're having a good conversation that hopefully helps people out on a podcast. But then there are the other moments where our mind is off somewhere else and maybe the listener has experienced one or two of these as you've been listening, just because this is the way our mind is wired. We spent 47 percent of the day in this mind wandering mode, but striking a balance between these because we need to let our mind wander. Focusing on stuff, it can only get us so far.
[00:09:54] For example, we never think about our goals when we're focused on something because we're busy moving things forward. We actually think about our goals 14 times as often when our mind is wandering versus when we're focused. If you think that you're thinking about your goals less, maybe your mind isn't wandering enough throughout the day and maybe you're just trying to hunker down from thing to thing to thing to thing to thing every 40 seconds.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:19] Ah, yeah. That's why people say, “I feel like I'm just treading water. I have to go to work and I'm putting out fires and then I never get anything done. I have to go pick up my kids and then by the time dinner's ready, I'm exhausted and I go to bed and he'd go, okay, but then what?” And you realize, they're never thinking about what they want to do with their lives, how they want to move their life forward, how they want to change their business or whatever if they have one, because they don't have time. They're focused on pretty much everything. Even when they're in the car, they are talking to their kids.
Chris Bailey: [00:10:48] They're listening to a podcast; they're listening to an audio book.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:51] Yeah, it's usually a good use of time.
Chris Bailey: [00:10:53] Exactly. God bless you if you're listening to this one in the car, but if you fill every single moment of the brim, you'll never get anything of importance accomplished because you need the spaces between the things that you do in order to consider what to work on and focus on in the first place.
[00:11:10] Here's another fascinating thing that I uncovered in this research is we think about the future a little bit when we're focused on something. So, for an example, like you were saying, you’re focused on this conversation, but you also have a notes document open and maybe you're thinking about the questions he might ask next. When our mind wanders, we think about the future 48 percent of the time. About half of the time that our mind is wandering, we're thinking about the future. You think, okay, how can I experience this on a daily basis? Think about your shower in the morning. If you're listening to a podcast in the shower or an audio book in the shower, just pause it, pause it just for the next few minutes and notice where your mind goes to. Whenever our mind is wandering, it focuses on the future 48 percent of the time. It also thinks about the present 28 percent of the time. This is one of those times where you're typing an email and you can't figure out how to phrase something because you don't want to be jerk and phrase something inappropriate because something's kind of political, but you go to a different room, you grab a coffee or a cup of tea and then suddenly on the way there like boom, the solution hits you because your mind wandered to think about what you were facing in that moment. We need more of these mind wandering episodes. We also think about the past, around 12 percent of the time when our mind is wandering, which we're often bringing up bad memories but we're often bringing up information we consumed in the past, previous books we were reading, but the rest of the time our mind is still blank. But when we connect these three mental destinations –we connect the past to the future to the present to the future to the past— we come up with ideas we would never arrive at otherwise. It's fascinating. We need this mode; we need to focus. But this is kind of like the big thing that changed how I worked when I was writing this book is, we also need to un-focus. Focus is great but it's overrated in so many different ways.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:03] That's funny, so the whole book is hyperfocus, and then it's like but also sometimes you should probably not do this at all. You call this in the book scatterfocus, letting our mind wander. So, of course, it engages the old default mode network or the default network?
Chris Bailey: [00:13:17] Beautiful network.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:18] So do you schedule this? How do you implement this into your life? Because there's a lot of people that are like, “All right, I'm putting that on my to-do list, to sit down and think for half an hour.” And it's like that may or may not work. For me, I will go for a long walk and I will start off by saying I want to read a book while I'm on my walk. It's an audio book, right? I'm listening to a book. After a while I start to get a little fatigued and if I find that I'm starting to zone out from the book, I'll take a break because otherwise I'm just hitting rewind every five minutes. It’s super irritating. I'm not getting enough out of it. That's not a good idea. And I'll walk for 10, 20, 30 minutes just thinking about stuff and I find myself often furiously writing notes, whether they're to do’s and things I forgot or it's like explore the idea that maybe you don't want to do a book about this or explore the idea that maybe you and Jen should finally take a vacation or go on a honeymoon. Like all of this sort of things that I probably never processed because I didn't have time, they start bubbling up and it's like, “Oh well now that you have free bandwidth, how about you did this really crappy thing to your friend last week and you probably stopped thinking about it right away and you should say you're sorry.” and I'm like, “Oh shoot, I should do that.” So, I put it on my to-do list. I will often send the text right away, but then I know it's going to get a response. So, I often put it on my to-do list instead.
Chris Bailey: [00:14:31] I appreciate the text by the way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:33] Yeah, I knew that.
Chris Bailey: [00:14:34] It meant a lot to me. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:35] I figured it would. I think that that's the way to do it, right? Because clearly, my brain knows, don't bother him when he's focused, but then after a while I just start bubbling over or it's like before I go to bed at night, then I'm writing thousands of to-do's in my phone because that's only time my brain decides that I have enough bandwidth to listen to my unconscious mind basically.
Chris Bailey: [00:14:56] Yeah, I like the impulse to pull out your phone or listen to a podcast because that's the novelty bias at work. You know, the fact that our mind is so stimulated. We talk about bouncing between things every 40 seconds or so, but there's a bias called the novelty bias inherent within our attention whereby, for every new and novel thing we direct our focus at, our mind rewards us with a hit of dopamine –that pleasure chemical most of us are familiar with. The same one that we get when we make love or eat an extra-large pizza from Domino's perhaps ham and pineapple on top or maybe not.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:31] Maybe not Domino's.
Chris Bailey: [00:15:32] What?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:33] No.
Chris Bailey: [00:15:33] What's wrong with Domino’s?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:34] So many things.
Chris Bailey: [00:15:36] It's like a nice greasy experience.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:37] No.
Chris Bailey: [00:15:38] Like you have to calibrate it for what it is, but it's still like, okay, they have the tracker. You're not a fan of the tracker, the delivery—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:45] No, I mean the tracker is a good idea in the app.
Chris Bailey: [00:15:47] I love how they patented that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:48] I'm still not going to put up with a Domino's pizza even if they tracked me in the app. Moving right along, speaking of distraction.
Chris Bailey: [00:15:54] See it's easy to get sidetracked.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:55] Yes, it is. You're very good at that.
Chris Bailey: [00:15:58] So, there's this novelty bias where every time we focus on something new and novel, our mind rewards at some of the hit of dopamine. We wake up and we check our email; we get a hit of dopamine. 40 seconds after that, perhaps, we check Instagram; we get another hit of dopamine. We check Twitter; we get another hit of dopamine. We check Slack; we get another hit 40 seconds later. We have this tendency when we let our mind wander with whether we're on a nature walk, whether we're at the gym, to keep our mind at the same level of stimulation. We want to kind of maintain an equilibrium in that way. We want to reward us and keep providing our mind with…We don't necessarily fall victim to distraction so much as we take a hit of distraction because of this dopamine-fueled novelty bias, so mind this tendency when you get into this period of scatterfocus. There are a few ways that you can enter this mode. One of the best ways that researchers found leads to the greatest number of creative insights, leads us to get more rest, leads us to scatter our attention for longer is doing something fun and simple and habitual that lets our mind wander at the same time, but yet anchors our attention down into doing something. Going for a nature walk is a really good example of this with a notepad nearby, taking a shower without listening to anything else and having AquaNotes notepad, one of these waterproof notepads that you can keep in your shower. It sticks to the shower door.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:26] I got the AquaNotes, bro.
Chris Bailey: [00:17:28] Oh man, our showers must be the same.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:31] Yeah. Well, what do you think at the shower? I mean, look, some people send me the shower thoughts. Other times that people go, “Do you actually come up with that in the shower?” Sometimes, yes, that's why I have the AquaNotes in there.
Chris Bailey: [00:17:39] Exactly! It could be swimming laps. It could be just like having your morning coffee. Just anything habitual that lets your mind wander. Your mind will automatically pull all of the unresolved open loops to the front of your mind. They’re there. They're just sitting in your mind. It's just that you never give them the space to arise –the people that you need to follow up on, the friends that you've wronged that you need to text, the people that you haven't talked to in a couple of years that you're just curious how they're doing. So, doing something habitual is kind of cool, but I also like a capture mode. If I find I'm going through a big period at work where I'm putting together a book, for example, there are just so many ideas floating through my mind. There are so many projects coming up. There are so many talks that I'm doing on the horizon. I'll just set a timer for 20 minutes, lay on the floor in my office and have just a notepad and a bottle of gin. No, I'm just kidding about the gin. I'll have a notepad and a pen and just capture whatever comes up. I’ll capture people I need to follow up on, I’ll capture ideas, I’ll capture connections between the chapters of the book that I'm incubating.
[00:18:45] Both modes, habitual mode, this capture mode, just simply going out with a problem in mind that you want to mull over, a big decision that you're facing with work. Should I take the job? Should I get married? Should I go on the honeymoon? Should I get divorced? Chew over that problem and whenever your mind wanders to something else, just bring it back quite gently. And so, these three modes, most depending on what you want to accomplish. Habitual mode, do something fun in habitual if you want the greatest number of creative insights, if you want to connect the past to the present of the future. Capture mode for capturing whatever is on the front of your mind. And this problem-crunching mode for when you're going through something. All are really, really helpful strategies.
[00:19:25] In terms of structuring this into your life. There are so many different ways of doing this. What I like to do at the beginning of each week is saying, “Okay, how much creativity will I need this week and how much productivity will I need this week?” Because productivity, you need to cultivate focus; creativity, you need to cultivate un-focusing and these bouts of scatterfocus. And so, I'll try to schedule a few chunks of them in addition to the ones that I do all ready just by having long showers and long walks and thinking about ideas.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:52] What's the difference between boredom and scatterfocus? Because some of what you're doing sounds like what I do when I'm just bored.
Chris Bailey: [00:19:59] Yeah. Boredom is either passive or active. There was one experiment that I conducted over the course of writing this book where I purposefully made myself bored for an hour a day for a month.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:09] How did you do that?
Chris Bailey: [00:20:10] Yeah, so the first day I read the iTunes terms and conditions for an hour.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:14] That will do it.
Chris Bailey: [00:20:15] I put a call out to the readers of my website at the time and I asked them like, what is the most boring thing that you can think of doing? Just for an hour a day. People suggested some weird, weird stuff, man. I did these things. One person suggested moving the seeds from a strawberry with a pair of tweezers.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:34] Did that take it out? How many seeds are on a strawberry?
Chris Bailey: [00:20:36] I don't know if I ended up counting them, but I got through two or three strawberries, counting the zeroes in the first 10,000 digits of Pi, moving small rocks from one place to another repeatedly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:48] That sounds like a Zen monk kind of thing to do.
Chris Bailey: [00:20:51] Yeah, I guess you could say that, but that was kind of the odd thing was it took about a week. The first week of this was hell, the first week of this experiment, but after about eight days I settled into a new lower level of stimulation. The things didn't really bother me that much. There were the active things that involved being focused on something that like moving rocks from one place to another repeatedly, or like watching one cloud in the sky. But then there are the passive things. Actually, watching the cloud could have been a passive thing too. But the difference between scatterfocus and boredom is the things that anchor you into scattering your attention don't necessarily have to make you bored. So, swimming doesn’t have to make you bored. Surfing doesn't have to make you bored. Going for a walk doesn't have to make you bored. You might experience feelings of boredom during periods of scatterfocus. It's actually something quite fascinating that boredom is the feeling that we experience when our mind adjusts from a state of high stimulation into a state of low stimulation. So, as we go from focusing on something for 40 seconds to 60 seconds to a minute and a half to a few minutes long, we'll find that our mind becomes less overstimulated and that we experienced fewer feelings of boredom and restlessness and anxiety with what we need to be doing and want to be doing in the present moment. They're kind of tangentially related and that scatterfocus may lead to feelings of boredom, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's a sign that your mind is actually calming down for once, but they're kind of cousins in a way.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:22:24] You're listening to the Jordan harbinger show with our guest, Chris Bailey. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:29] This episode is sponsored in part by NetSuite. If you don't know your numbers, you don't know your business. Everybody's got like a system for accounting, one for sales, another for inventory. It's inefficient. It takes up a ton of time, takes up a ton of resources. NetSuite by Oracle is business management software that handles every aspect of the business and an easy to use cloud platform, so basically one unified dashboard for HR, accounting, finance, sales receivable, whatever. It saves you time, money, tons of headaches. We were one of the first probably customers for this 10 plus years ago back at the old company and it was just light years ahead of everything else. Having all that stuff in one place. If you're obsessed about the numbers like I am, then this is for you Jason.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:23:13] Right now, NetSuite is offering you valuable insights with a free guide Seven Key Strategies to grow your profits at netsuite.com/jordan. That's netsuite.com/jordan to download your free guide Seven Key Strategies to grow your profits. netsuite.com/jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:30] This episode is also sponsored by Better Help. You've heard me talk about these guys a lot because online counseling is long overdue. Better Help offers licensed professional counselors who specialize in specific issues –depression, stress, anxiety, relationship, sleeping, trauma, anger, family stuff, grief, self-esteem. It's a long list, but us humans are complicated and you can connect with your professional counselor. Everything's safe, everything's private, everything is confidential. It's obviously very convenient, so you don’t have to drive it across town, you don't have to find parking, you don't have to make an appointment. In-person therapy is awesome, but a lot of us can't do it. We don't have time. There's nobody near us. We don't like the people that are near us. You can schedule a phone or video stuff, chat and text with your therapist, and of course if you're not happy with your counselor, you just get a new one. There's no additional charge. Jason.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:24:17] Best of all, it's a truly affordable option for our listeners and you can get 10 percent off your first month right now with discount code Jordan. Get started today. Go to betterhelp.com/jordan. Simply fill out a questionnaire to help them assess your needs and get matched with a counselor you'll love. Trust me, I loved all my counselors. I'm on counselor number three because I have many ish, and when one counselor gets me through one, then I go to the next one and there's no additional charge for getting swapped around to somebody who can help you with what you're going through today. That's betterhelp.com/jordan. Definitely check them out. They've helped me a lot.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:51] Nice.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:24:52] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Chris Bailey. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player so you don't miss a single thing. And now back to our show with Chris Bailey.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:33] Speaking of taking breaks and zoning out or being bored, I've read that in your book. In fact, that 40 percent of our actions are habits and they're on autopilot. That's fascinating. I never really thought about 40 percent of what I do during the day being autopilot. Does that include everything that you do when you're awake? Is that kind of like I got to go to the bathroom, I'm going to walk over here. I'm sort of thirsty, I'm going to walk over here and get a glass. Because that to me seems more or less conscious. Or are we talking about people who pick their thumbnail when they read because they're not paying attention.
Chris Bailey: [00:26:01] You can either consciously initiate it or not. A good example of this is driving home. You make the decision to drive home, but you kind of go through the rest of the motions on autopilot mode. Out of all the behaviors we exhibit over the span of that day, about 40 percent to 45 percent of them we do on autopilot mode. Autopilot mode is actually quite handy because we can initiate any habit and then we can follow through with that habit. We show up at the gym and we hop on the elliptical or the treadmill and then once we make that decision, we can go through the rest of the habit sequence largely in autopilot mode. But the distinction I make in the book is not everything is worth doing on this autopilot mode. Deciding what to focus on definitely being one of them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:44] This attention overload gap freaks me out a little bit because I look at this and I go, all right, this is what's happening when I go back in the house for my keys and then I grab a drink and then I leave and then I have to go back in the house for my keys and then I take my phone charger and leave again and then I have to go back in the house for my keys. That seems to be most of my life, especially prior to age 30 was totally consumed by this.
Chris Bailey: [00:27:09] Yeah, it’s all keys all the way down. This is a natural limit of our attention. If you dissect the way our attention works, not to geek out too much on the science, even though I feel the folks listening are fellow productivity nerds.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:23] Yeah. God forbid we should have some science here.
Chris Bailey: [00:27:25] God forbid we bring some science to productivity advice. When you look at focus, you have to begin and end with the science behind how this stuff works. There's a measure when it relates to our attention known as working memory capacity, which is just a mental scratchpad. It's what we can hold in our mind at any one time. We used to think that we can hold quite a bit in our mind that we can hold six, seven, eight things in our mind at one time, but the more time that goes on, the more research that's conducted around this idea, especially when you look at real world limits, not limits and kind of a laboratory setting. We're realizing that this number is quite smaller than we thought it was originally. We used to think the number is six, seven, eight. Now we're realizing its four things or three things. You can look to the way the world around us is structured to see evidence of this fact, especially with regard to three which is, you know, the latest research shows that this is about the number that most people can fit in their mind at one time, four if they're really focusing, but we have sayings like good things come in threes. Celebrities die in threes, and the third time's the charm; and the good, the bad, the ugly and blood, sweat and tears; playing rock, paper, scissors. We divide a story which is a sequence of hundreds of events that happen in rapid succession into three parts, the beginning, the middle and the end. Even a phone number. We'll chunk it into these sets of three and four numbers at a time. This is the way that we collectively as a people structure phone numbers in the world and we think about the world and group things together because it's such a natural attentional limit.
[00:29:07] But what this means in practice is if we're trying to carry on a conversation for a podcast and I have my phone nearby, that phone, when it pops up a notification, it might give me three things to think about. It might provide me with three unique chunks of information and if I pick that up, if I tend to that God helped this conversation, right? We have to process so much on the fly when we're conversing with somebody. It would be great if our limit was like 30 chunks of information at one time because you could streamline your day. You could probably interview four or five people at one time. You can process all the questions, you can batch everything together in that way, but it's just not the way that our brain is wired. Because this limit is so small, we need to respect that limit. It's smaller than would be nice and it's smaller than that, which we'd like. But we need to work within the constraints of this limit and limit how many things we do in each moment. Because if we care about doing a good job at things that require active attention by God, do one thing at a time, you'll get it done better.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:10] Well I do want to know how to improve this because here's what I'm really worried. I have a kid now and I see people do crazy stuff and the public is relatively unforgiving, like they'll forget their kids are in a car after they park, which is horrible and tragic. I used to be like shame, terrible parenting and now I'm like, “Oh my God, that would totally be something that would happen to me.” I can't believe it. There are even things where it's like, man drives off with a baby on roof of car. And I'm like, “What an idiot.” But then I'm also like, “Eh, kind of understand how that could have happened.”
Chris Bailey: [00:30:38] But there was that time that it almost happened to you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:40] Yeah. Right. Like here's what happened to that poor guy, poor baby of course, but here's what happened, the guy was probably getting in his car and then he was like fumbling for his keys and his phone rang and he picked it up and got in the car at the same time was like, I feel like I forgot something but I don't know and then drove out of the grocery store parking lot and his kid was on the top of the car or still on the ground. That stuff freaks me out because if I can leave the house three times and forget my keys, what am I going to do with my son? I don't know. It really is a legit concern for me that something horrible could happen and I'm like, oh my god. You know that when that happens you either like to go to jail and/or lose your spouse and your child. That's pretty heavy consequences for somebody who's just like severely ADD.
Chris Bailey: [00:31:22] The places the mind goes to where it wanders, going to jail, losing everything because of an attentional limit. We can't always control the times that our attention overflows. Sometimes it just does. We have to be out grocery shopping and for some reason our kids come with us and they're throwing a bunch of crap in the car and just bumping stuff over and running around. You can't prevent moments like that from arising some of the time. But there is something that we can do with regard to clearing out our attention, so we have more clarity when moments like that do arise. There is a concept called attentional residue. We go from focusing on one thing to focusing on another thing and as we go from the first thing to the second thing, there are remnants from that first task that still reside within our attentional space. That still resides within our working memory capacity within our working memory. We can limit how many things go from one thing to another.
[00:32:28] I do some consulting with doctors. One of the things that we're working on is one of the best ways to reduce how much attentional residue you have is to set a deadline for yourself because when you experience some time pressure with the tasks that you're completing and you go from doing that thing to then doing another thing, your brain sees it as being more complete when you finish so that when you go from that first thing to the second thing, it stops thinking about the first thing as much. Another way of doing this is to increase how much working memory capacity that you have. There aren't that many ways to do this that actually work when you look at the actual research. There are some ways that we wish would work like these brain training apps where you do a bunch of exercises, but the research shows that when you stop investing in those applications, the benefits quickly vanish into the ether.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:17] Basically, the brain training app is only good for training you how to be really good at the brain training app.
Chris Bailey: [00:33:23] Exactly. Yeah, like putting a long train together, whatever the hell it does, but there’s one strategy that actually does increase our working memory capacity by 30 percent to 40 percent. Do you know what that is?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:35] No. No. What is it?
Chris Bailey: [00:33:37] Meditation.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:38] I was going to guess that. I should've just gone with it.
Chris Bailey: [00:33:40] Yeah, it should have gone with it. Maybe it was like one paragraph in the book so it was probably in the back of your mind somewhere. But meditation increases our working memory capacity unlike anything else. The simple act of bringing our attention back continually to our breath, we experience less attentional residue when we go from one thing to another at the same time that are working memory capacity increases by about 30 percent. It's quite remarkable this simple, simple act can make us better. This is one of the reasons that it calms us down so much, is that there are fewer situations in our life that fill our attentional space to the brim and lead it to overflow. Meditation is a wonderful example of something that would help with that attentional residue. Setting a time limit is something else that works wonders for experiencing less of it. Of course, filling your attention with fewer things in the first place that are unnecessary to focus on like things that just kind of stimulate the mind.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:38] Speaking of focus, sometimes more attention isn't good. You gave the example in hyperfocus in your book, paying attention for example to how we walk. It just makes you walk weird, right? Like if I'm trying on clothes and somebody goes walk that way and back or like, “Hey try on these new shoes and walk around the store.” I'm like, “Okay, Oompa Loompa dah, dah, dah.” Like I can't walk like a normal person. I waddle around and go, “Is this good?” And my wife's like, “What are you doing? Just walk normal.” And I'm like, “I can't.” I can't do it because I'm focused on it.
Chris Bailey: [00:35:10] Yeah, exactly. This is the thing, focus is great, but not all tasks benefit from all the attention that we can bring to them completely. Many of the tasks, the ones that we get paid big bucks to do, they absolutely do benefit from all the attention we can bring to them. If we're writing something, if we're mentoring somebody, if we're having a conference, we know we know the tasks that we need to do well. We know the tasks that require our full attention, but then we have the 40 percent to 45 percent of things that we chat about for a little bit, the habits of our day. And so, the more attention we bring to a habit, the worst we perform at that habit. The example that you gave is a good one. You're walking down the street and you notice that somebody kind of looking at you from across the way as they do, with you likely all the time such a handsome, handsome devil that you nods graciously in agreement, but then you start feeling like you're flailing all over the stupid sidewalk because you just become hyper aware of all your habits and they fold in on themselves. Bowling is a really good example of this. I feel like most people in the world kind of suck at bowling, but then you go and you don't think about it and you do it out of habit and you do a pretty good job, but then your score is racking up, you get a couple of strikes in the row and you think, “Oh man, what am I doing? I should really focus. I should really buckle down here.” And your performance goes to hell because you focus on it too much. Sports are a great example of this whole choking fallacy in action. If we overthink things that we can do out of habit and do them well out of habit, our performance is going to suffer. But there have been numerous studies in terms of typing speed in terms of a bunch of different things that show and validate this idea that our performance does suffer when we are completely focused on habits. It does kind of underscore going back to that idea of our attentional space, which is just what's in our mind, what we're focusing on at any one time. There are various combinations of things that can fill this attentional space.
Chris Bailey: [00:37:19] So one example is one complex thing that requires all the attention that we should be bringing to it, but another example is a couple of habits. We can listen to let's say an audio book which requires most of our attention, but then we have a couple of just a little bit of attentional space left for a couple of other habits so we can fold laundry while we listen to an audio book. Because they use different sensory mechanisms in our mind, one is auditory and another is physical and a motor skill, we can do these tasks in a pretty complimentary fashion. Same with going for a run and listening to music. You know, these things both consume a good amount of our attention, but we do both of them out of habit and so we can do a good job of both of them at the same time. Where we run into trouble is when we try to do a complex thing and a habit at the same time. Even just a phone on my desk right now because this conversation is taking my full attention, that phone would probably go from turning into a habit to turning into something more complex.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:22] Right, so you wouldn't just go, “Oh, I'm going to look at this and clean the screen.” Or like, “Oh, I want to check a text.” “Oh, this person asked me about something.” “Well, it requires me to open up my calendar.” And I'm like, “Hey, are you paying attention?” And you're like, “Hey, busted.” Right?
Chris Bailey: [00:38:34] Yeah, exactly. That's the thing, like it's kind of like a heartbeat. How much space, how much attentional space our phone takes up or any device takes up. We go from playing a mindless game and our mind has a chance to wander a little bit, maybe we can come up with an idea or two because we were able to enter into a state of scatterfocus, but then a notification pops into the top bit of a screen and it's an angry text from an ex-lover or our current lover or whoever it happens to be and so that fire has us up and then we find that the phone takes up our full attentional space. It takes up our full amount of our attention and it fills our working memory. It's rhythmic and that's kind of the danger with our phone, isn't it? It's great when we're doing something that's a habit. We can pull the refresh, look at a couple of pictures and then close out our phone without losing too much productivity. But it's when it pulls our attention completely that we run into trouble, we actually lose a lot of time whenever that does happen.
[00:39:32] When we kind of tend to external distractions or interruptions, somebody comes by our desk and derails our focus, our productivity completely. It takes us about 22 minutes to resume working on the original task. But when we do something that we initiate, when we seek out a distraction, when we wake up and then tend to our phone and bounce around between a stable of applications on average when we're distracted or interrupted completely, it takes us 29 minutes to resume working on that first task. So, 25 minutes in general but we burn a lot more time when we seek out these novel distractions and we don't just tend to that one thing we do 2.26 other tasks before resuming that original task. We get distracted not just that first time, but a second time as well, and so another hidden cost of distraction.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:26] Yeah, the switching costs that we've talked about before. You have a cool little trick awareness chimes. It actually sounds a little annoying, but I get why they work. Can you take us through this? I think this is a good practical, a good takeaway.
Chris Bailey: [00:40:38] Yeah, for sure. It's one of my favorite ways of increasing, just how often you check up on what's occupying your attention. Here's the tactic on your phone, set an hourly alarm to go off at the top of the hour, whenever really there are a lot of apps that do this now too, but when it goes off, ask yourself, what's occupying my attention in this moment? Am I distracted? Am I trying to fill my attention to the brim? Am I working with my intention right now? Is my mind wandering? How long have I been focused for? Or hyperfocused more? If you're devoted to something completely, if one task is occupying your full attentional space, it's a great way of training your mind to think about what's on your mind, and this is a practice known as metacognition, which essentially just means thinking about thinking what's on your mind. This is all mindfulness is. What is filling your mind in that one moment? And so, the more you do this, the more you can align yourself to working on what's important throughout the day. The more quickly you're able to notice that your mind has wandered, the more often you're able to work with intention behind what you're doing, the longer you're able to focus for as a consequence of these things as well. It's a simple strategy, but kind of in addition to lowering how stimulated your mind is, which prepares the groundwork for being able to focus for longer periods of time. It's another quality tactic for doing that.
[00:42:06] A good tactic by the way, for lowering that level of stimulation is to do a reset. Our minds are so stimulated and it will take about those eight days to settle down into a new lower level of stimulation. But I challenged people out there who are listening to this podcast to do so. Two weeks, find a period of time where you can delete the unnecessary apps on your phone where you can get rid of email off of your phone and the other things that distract you throughout the day, where you can lower how many notifications that you get, where you can have a nightly shut-up ritual, where you disconnect perhaps from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM anything that allows you to get rid of the things that STEM from technology that are novel, that cater to that novelty bias. Do it, especially the different applications that might affect your mood in ways that you don't realize.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:42:57] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Chris Bailey. We'll be right back after this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:02] This episode is sponsored in part by Vincero Watches. I just want to say; I just want to go Vincero.
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[00:47:11] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. And don't forget the worksheet for today's episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you're listening to us in the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. Now for the conclusion of our episode with Chris Bailey.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:42] One of the concepts actually from your book that I really liked was when you look at devices or new gadgets or anything, even new apps, make sure you know what job you're hiring it to do, or is it just another gadget or does it just kind of a cool little thing that you're getting? Because I got rid of cable, I mean like 20 years ago and now I have Netflix for passive entertainment. You and I were talking about that pre-show, but that's even relatively new for me. Whenever I look at something and I go, wow, that is really cool. It's not just will I use this; it's will I use this and is that use actually productive for me. It took me a long time to rationalize, for example, getting an Xbox because I'm not much of a gamer. But then I was like well they really do have one of the best media centers around it has all the other apps that my smart TV does. I can get rid of the Apple TV and the Roku and all the other stuff that I have plugged in that's all getting dusty and like not working properly. I've really liked decompressing by playing certain games that are available for days now. For a long time, I was like that's just rationalization. You want to get this distraction device. But when I look at apps the same way, for example, I go, will this save me time and is that worth the price? Is that worth the cost of, I don't know importing all your email to a new app or importing out all your photos, do another one. It has to be better suited for a job and that the job can't be well, it looks cool, it’s in, it's the latest and greatest thing, because I think we're all familiar with productivity porn. We've all worked with somebody who has every productivity tool and never gets any effing work done. And you fire them after a few weeks because they have everything organized perfectly. Then the next week everyone, the whole team has just switched from Slack to Discord and then from Discord back to Slack because of something. That stuff always ends up being a distraction but it seems like a worthwhile distraction because it's a productivity tool. You have three different to-do lists, ones better on the watch, the other one's better on the desktop, the other one is a piece of paper in your car. It's just not efficient. So, you have to think about what job you're hiring it to do
Chris Bailey: [00:49:41] You know the golden rule for measuring productivity advice?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:43] I do not.
Chris Bailey: [00:49:45] Know how much time you get back from doing something. The best productivity advice out there is time negative. This is the thing like when you read about productivity, when you listen to a podcast like this about productivity, when you read a book or listen to an audio book about productivity, you have to make that time back and then some or else you're essentially just consuming this productivity porn that's fun to consume and quite entertaining, but that you don't necessarily earn that time back and with this definition, I've identified a lot of kind of curious productivity strategies that don't look like a productivity strategy on the surface, but are perhaps one of the best productivity strategies in the world. Meditation falls into this category where you easily earn back every minute you spend meditating. Planning out your day is one of the highest return activities that you can do over the span of the day. Exercise, putting good fuel into your body, drinking enough water. These simple strategies you get the time back that you spend in the, because of how much more energy you have. You have that jobs-to-be-done idea comes from a researcher called Clayton Christensen out of Harvard Business School and essentially, we hire the products in our life to do a certain job for us. We might hire coffee to allow us to have more energy throughout the day. We might hire a milkshake that we pick up on our way to work just to kind of have something entertaining and challenging to do as we make that trip. But our phone, our technology falls into this category as well. We hire our phone to do so much. Thinking about my phone in the last day or two, it's been a boarding pass. It's been a GPS device. It's been a messaging device, it's been a camera, it's been a taxi because it can summon Uber and Lyft with it. But you can also kind of delegate certain tasks to certain devices. For an example, my tablet, I have an iPad that I use solely as a distraction device. I do pretty much no email on my desktop computer. I relegate all email, all social media, all everything to this tablet so that I can focus on writing, on doing interviews when I'm in front of the computer or planning talks or high leverage activities like that. I just bought a camera today because we're going on our honeymoon in a couple of weeks and I don't want to bring my phone. We're not bringing our phones on our honeymoon. This is going to be the distraction-free camera because it doesn't have the features that my phone has so I can hire it to just do that one job. So many of the unnecessary devices we accumulate or necessary apps that we accumulate, we accumulate them because we don't question the job that we hire them to do for us in the first place. Know that, know the job that you hire the different devices in your life to do.
[00:52:37] The different people in your life to do as well. You know, what do you hire your best friend to do for you? Are they moral support? Are they somebody to spend time with? What do you hire your partner to do with you? You know, do you hire them to kind of be a financial support, a financial partner or a best friend? What do you want the people in your life to do for you too? It sounds kind of cold and mechanistic almost thinking about people in those fashions, but it's anything but because you realize just how lucky you are to have such good people in your life in the first place and devices are cold and are mechanistic, but it's worth questioning it with that too.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:13] Looking back at the environment, you mentioned that cleaner environments are good for focus, work. Messier environments are better for creativity. We hear a lot about cleaner environments like, Oh, make sure there's nothing on the desk that's going to derail your focus and that kind of thing. That makes sense. I'd never really heard that messier environments are better for creativity and that totally makes sense. Do you ever go to an artist workshop? Seldom. Is it like one clean desk with a pen on it, right? It's always like paint splattered everywhere, a little gadgets and doodads. The whole place always looks kind of like a fire hazard and that seems to happen naturally. I thought that was the result of somebody who made a lot of things and wasn't really focused on the order, but it was focused more on creating. That makes a lot of sense though that there would be a lot of things in your environment that would make you creative and if you ever go to a place with somebody who is really creative and isn't necessarily an artist, they usually have all these toys around and there's like comic books there and it's wild to go to an environment like that.
Chris Bailey: [00:54:11] Even the same person. Yeah. I noticed this in my own environment, so when I'm putting together ideas for a book, my office is messy as hell. There's like papers all over. There's just boxes. There's books in front of me right now. There's like this camera, boxers, tee and I'll just kinds of stuff in front of me. But when I'm writing a book, things just kind of clear themselves almost because they almost need to be in a clear state in order for me to write. It's kind of curious just how much the environments that we're inside of influence our productivity and our creativity. We're able to focus a lot more cleanly and clearly and easily in an environment that's clean and clear and under control as they say in an office that's messy, like the one that I'm in right now. The different cues in our environment can lead us to thoughts that we wouldn't necessarily arrive at otherwise. If you want a good example of this, just walk through a bookstore, you'll encounter so many ideas that will lead you to think about solutions because you'll encounter a book about cooking and that led to think about an episode of Kitchen Nightmares that you were watching the other day and how that chef reminded you of your uncle and how you haven't talked to your uncle in a year, but yet he used to be an executive at some company that faced the challenges that you're going through right now. You know, whatever it is, these cues set off a ripple in our mind. We never just think about the cue. It takes a while for this information to be sufficiently activated in our mind, so as to thread through our attentional barrier and turn into an idea that turns into a light bulb insight. But when we encounter different cues in our environment, they set off these ripples all across our mind.
Chris Bailey: [00:55:51] This is why I find facing an impasse with a problem, I'll go on a walk through nature perhaps, which is incredibly complex and leads us to make understandings that we're not even sure why they arise. Or I'll go to a bookstore, which is just an encapsulation of millions of ideas within thousands of pages bounded within books. And so really be thoughtful about your environment, if you're having a creative brainstorming session, don't go to the clear conference room across the way. Go to an art gallery, go to a cafe where you can people leaving in and going out. Go to a coworking space where people are always shuffling around and talking about ideas. Go to somewhere fresh. That might provide you with new cues and insights, but if you need to focus on something, then when it comes time to work on whatever it is that you were brainstorming, then maybe clean up a little bit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:41] Yeah. That's really interesting. I never thought about changing the environment to change our mode. Of course, we talk about changing the environment to change habits, but we don't really think this is my area. I have this a little bit unintentionally. I have my area where I'd plow through email and it's like the kitchen Island. There's not a whole lot going on there. There's like a bowl of fruit in the middle or something.
Chris Bailey: [00:57:02] It's like Jony Ives’ White World.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:03] Yeah, yeah. It's pretty simple.
Chris Bailey: [00:57:05] Maybe this is why Apple’s design has been so crappy for the last few years because Jony Ive has lived in this like white world where nothing else exists except for him.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:13] Exactly. Yeah.
Chris Bailey: [00:57:13] No cues.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:14] There’s no cues. Exactly. Yeah, but other times when I'm trying to think about things from my business or get something else done, I'm either on a walk because we're doing that whole sort of scattered focus thing or when I want new ideas, I want to be like walking around Manhattan or London or something if possible, and I go, “Oh, wouldn't that be cool? What if I did live shows at music venues?” Like that kind of stuff. That doesn't happen when I'm sitting in the kitchen looking at my computer screen and there's a bowl of fruit five feet away and that's it. I need that distraction. What I thought, and we'll leave with this, we’ll part with this. I think everyone knows that we get distracted with multitasking. Most of us can't do it, and by that, I mean 99.9. Most of the people that think they can, really can't, but what I didn't know is that we can be distracted by other people multitasking that is so disappointing that other people can just pollute my mind space like this. When they don't have their ish together, they can actually screw up my flow. That's horrible. What's going on here?
Chris Bailey: [00:58:14] Yeah, there is such a thing and you're totally right, and this is one of the challenges of writing a book about focuses, multitasking, distraction. It's been done to death, so you can only focus on that part of things so much, but you’re right, it’s referred to as in research by secondhand attention. Much as secondhand smoking is a thing, secondhand attention is a thing. They measure students because the students are like lab rats for researchers who study at universities especially. What the team of researchers did is they gave somebody a situation where they were in front of somebody in a classroom who's just surfing the Internet. They're on Facebook. They're on Twitter, they're bouncing around between a bunch of different websites and the grade-point average of the folks who were distracted as they were trying to work versus the people who are just able to focus on the lecture and process what was in front of them, it fell by I believe two or three levels. I don't remember the exact fall that occurred, but it goes to show that never mind us being distracted when the people around us are distracted, even they're just in our periphery, our mind is going to gravitate to that because somebody surfing Facebook or Instagram in front of us, is way more novel then whatever lecture is going on in front of us at the time. Know that bias, know that your mind will gravitate to anything novel and pleasurable and threatening. It's the way you're wired.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:42] And that you are not impervious to it. Just because you think, “Look at that fool in class in front of me looking at social media. I'm paying attention.” Well yeah, but now you're paying attention X percent less because of that person, so maybe sit in the front like a gunner or sit somewhere where you don't have to look at other people's screen or sit with other people who are better at focusing because it seems like…I bet you if you could map classrooms, here's an experiment where if you can map classrooms, I bet you there are pods of people that do better than others and if you rearranged the seating by people who are better at focusing, you would find a huge difference in people who screwed around a bunch. You could have a control group where all people do is like surf around the whole time and of course, they do poorly and then other people who are forced to sit behind them but are normally good at focusing, and then maybe even those same people sitting together with other people who are good at focusing. Because that seems like that would prove that. and I totally feel that. I remember, I love when I went to law school, I had just taken one year away from undergrad and my last year in undergrad, maybe there was like one kid that had a laptop. You're like, “Oh, that's kind of weird, but whatever. I guess that's easier for them.” And then I missed one year of school. I didn't miss. I mean I took a year off and I came back and everyone on campus had a laptop. There was like this very sudden change where everyone took notes on the laptop and I noticed that right after that I was like, man, these people are all screwing around. People were like watching Sex in The City on DVD during contracts. I was like, “You're an idiot.” And slowly but surely my focus was eroded. and part of that is just Wi-Fi and laptops in general. But the other part of it was I sat in the back all the time. I remember routinely thinking, why am I the only person that's freaking paying attention here? and slowly but surely, I was, not only was I not the only person paying attention, but nobody was paying attention at that point. It was just impossible.
Chris Bailey: [01:01:28] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:29] Chris, thank you so much for all of this. This is very useful and practical, which I like and hyperfocus has a lot of practicals and not a lot of like kids these days, which I feel a lot of productivity books or focus books are often like rants and there's not a whole lot of how to fix it and this book is different.
Chris Bailey: [01:01:48] Yeah, well hopefully folks find the conversation helpful. Thanks for having me, man.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:52] Yeah, I appreciate it.
[01:01:55] Big thanks to Chris Bailey. His book is called Hyperfocus. That's a great title. We'll link to that in the show notes. I'm teaching you how to connect with amazing people like Chris and the other guests that you hear on the show for personal and professional reasons. Of course, I use systems and I use tiny habits to get it done in six minutes a day or less. That course is free for you at jordanharbinger.com/course. It's free as a gift to you as a listener and because I think the people that do this, the better off we all are. I know you want to do it later but remember that procrastination leads to stagnation when it comes to your personal and business relationships. It got to dig that well before you get thirsty. These drills take just a few minutes a day. I wish I knew this stuff two decades ago. You can find it all for free at jordanharbinger.com/course, and by the way, most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So, come and join us, and you'll be in smart company. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and/or follow me on social. I'm at JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram.
[01:02:52] This show is produced in association with PodcastOne and this episode was co-produced by Jason DeFillippo, Jase Sanderson, and Jen Harbinger. Show notes and worksheets are by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola, and I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions and those of our guests on their own and yes, I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting, which should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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