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Chris Bailey – How to Calm Your Mind for Hyperfocus

Chris Bailey – How to Calm Your Mind for Hyperfocus

Chris Bailey, our Lifehack Show guest, will be sharing his thoughts on staying focused and thriving in a world that is full of distractions.

Chris Bailey, a productivity expert and best-selling author, is Chris Bailey. The Productivity ProjectThis book has been translated in eleven languages. Hyperfocus: How to be more productive in a world of distraction. Chris blogs about productivity, and speaks to businesses around the globe about how to be more productive without feeling guilty. A new book has been published by him recently. How to calm your mind: Find Presence and Productivity In Anxious Times.

The full interview is available here

Here are some insights Chris shared with me during our interview.

Human brain is wired for distractions

We direct our attention to every new and novel thing because our brain rewards us with a hit of this neurotransmitter – dopamine. Dopamine doesn’t give us pleasure but it makes us feel like pleasure is coming. So when we use our smartphones, we feel anticipation and not pleasure. We never really feel satisfied. This constant anticipation is what keeps the distraction cycle alive.

Because we have a hard time measuring our productivity, distractions are common. If we are constantly distracted, our brain is unable to distinguish between genuine progress from empty busyness. If our minds are stimulated, it is possible to believe that we are making progress as the gears in our heads are turning. It is a sign of our productivity.

Also, when we try to focus, a lot of things get in the way that we didn’t expect and in many ways don’t understand, including our own minds. Our brain is subject to all these biological biases, which we must actively overcome. Furthermore, with our phone’s addictive nature, saying no to distraction or installing a distraction blocker on the computer to be more focused is simply not enough.

This is why we need to control our spending. Attention. We must manage our attention if we are going to be productive and accomplish more with our intentions.

How to Calm Your Mind and Boost Your Focus

An anxious brain is more likely to be stimulated than a restless one.[1] These factors can make it difficult to stay focused.[2]

Although anxiety was once thought to progress from mild to severe according to researchers, recent research shows that it isn’t just a spectrum of anxiety. It can range from extreme anxiety to high calmness. This is determined by how active and happy our minds are in the moment.

The calmer we become, the more productive we become because we’re able to bring a level of deliberateness to the things that we do over the course of the day. — Chris Bailey

Here are some ideas to help calm your mind.

1. Respect your Speed of Thought

People rail against slow work but, for knowledge work, we have to respect our mind speed and work at our own pace.

We can’t force our minds to move faster. It will function at the speed it was designed to. The mental part of our work must be taken into consideration. This requires deliberateness, intentionality, and intense planning.

Speed is not the enemy of productivity, it supports us in ways that we don’t really anticipate. — Chris Bailey

2. Connect with Your Future Self

One of the reasons we procrastinate is because we’re not connected with our future selves.

You could ask the average person to imagine their future self in an MRI brain scanning machine. Then, ask them to envision a celebrity. The brain scans will be nearly identical as they see their future selves as strangers with whom they have no connection. Put off things is almost like giving them something to do.

It is a fact that we should have more opportunities to connect with our future selves. Writing articles and journaling to your future self are good ideas. Planning your day and setting goals are also good options.

At the beginning of each day, I speed up in my head until the end. When the day ends, I ask myself three things that I would like to have accomplished. I do this by thinking about it carefully and as if it were something I was doing at the beginning of each day. Setting intentions in a way where I’m looking back on a day that I wish I will have had. — Chris Bailey

So, try to picture yourself where you’ll be at the end of the year, the end of the week, and the end of the day.

3. Remember: It’s Often When You Look the Least Busy That You Make the Most Progress

Chris illustrates this point by giving an example:

One of the nature walks that the CEO of Fortune 500 company took was to get out of the office and unwind from all the meetings, emails and problems. He had an idea while on that nature walk that would change his company’s course. This allowed him to make the biggest impact of his career and added value to his company by generating tens or billions of dollar. One walk through nature may be more effective than answering a decade’s worth of emails in terms of progress.

Another example is when we’re reading a non-fiction book and thinking about how it relates to what we’re doing and the problems we’re facing. A single idea can spread, follow other ideas, or even become a part of a larger picture. We eventually have to close the book and break out our journaling pad because we’re drowning in ideas.

There is no proof of productivity. There are only proofs that productivity exists. — Chris Bailey

When we look at someone else’s work, all we have to go on are their productivity signals. It’s difficult to assess a person’s genuine progress because you don’t have control over everything on their plate. We interpret signals from others that they are busy as indicators of their productivity and do the same for our own. True productivity is slow, deliberate.

4. Embrace Boredom

Boredom is the feeling that we get when we switch from high stimulation to low stimulation. What most people don’t realize is that boredom is a great way to bring our minds down to a lower level of stimulation where we can focus more deeply, and ideas and plans emerge. Our minds are more free to roam.[3]

Lower stimulation heights also lead to deeper levels of calm. This allows us more control over what stimulation we use. Chris actually tried to embrace boredom for one hour per day for 31 days.

During the “boredom experiment,” Chris read the iTunes terms and conditions, painted a canvas with only one color, and sat for an hour watching a clock ticking away. He tried a variety of boredom-inducing activities and discovered that, at the end of the experiment, he didn’t mind the boredom-inducing activities. He understood that boredom is when we try to create something new from whatever situation we are in.

5. Meditate

Meditation is an art of focusing on the breath — the breath, the ins and outs of the flows; and the breath is extremely boring.

You can get engaged by your breath if you are able to do so. — Chris Bailey

Meditation improves focus as it allows us to find less stimulating, novel things at the present moment. Meditation is easier if you are able to focus on your breathing. Otherwise, your mind will drift constantly. You can also focus your attention on other things if your focus is fixed on your breath. This is a way to sharpen our attention.

Chris suggested that we meditate in the morning to begin the day on a positive note. This helps us avoid overstimulating our brains, which can lead to more distraction, less focus and fewer ideas.

Last Thoughts

Stress and anxiety can cause our minds to race with thoughts or worry, making it difficult for us to focus. By cultivating calmness, we can quieten our minds and help direct our attention towards the present moment. This can make us more productive and more focused in our daily lives, and also allow us to feel more present and involved in these activities.

If you want to learn more about how to calm the mind to boost your focus, check out Chris’s latest book Amazon: How to Calm Your Mind.

How to calm your mind in anxious times: Finding Presence & Productivity



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01/05/2023 23:29 GMT

Refer to

[1] WebMd – What is Sensory Overload and Anxiety?
[2] NIH: The effect of anxiety on cognition: Perspectives from Human Threat of Shock Studies
[3] Harvard Business Review: Let your mind wander to get more done

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Lifehack’s Chris Bailey wrote How to Calm Your Mind for Hyperfocus.

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