I was immediately curious when I read the title of Michael Hyatt’s book, Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less (Baker Books, 2019). In our age of multiple distractions, being free to focus appealed to me. And who wouldn’t want to achieve more by doing less? Yet “a total productivity system” sounded rather business-like and regimented. Would it be flexible enough to apply to those of us who work in the church and other Christian ministries? Would it leave room for creativity that thrives on what some might see as “unproductive” time? Would I feel more bound than freed up?
Author Michael Hyatt is the former chair and chief executive officer of Thomas Nelson Publishers, now a successful author and entrepreneur who focuses on mentoring and resourcing leaders. His bio on his website is a good example of what he means by “achieving more”—not just achieving more in business, but in relationships and overall well-being:
My business was recently named to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies after experiencing 330 percent growth in just three years.
But my favorite wins are at home. I’ve been married to my wife, Gail, for thirty-nine years and we’re more in love now than ever. We have five grown daughters, eight grandchildren, and an exceptional dog named Winston. To top it all off, I’m in my sixties enjoying the best health of my life.
It’s not a magic trick, and I’m certainly no superhero. I’ve simply discovered a way to do more of what matters and less of what doesn’t.
In Free to Focus, Hyatt clearly sets out what he’s discovered, including how to determine your focus, how to eliminate, automate, or delegate those things that are outside your passion and proficiency, how to concentrate on your main priorities, how to plan your ideal day, and much more. He includes many practical examples from his own experience as well as from the people that he’s mentored. And to help readers take action for themselves, his book includes links to free tools through his website.
Yes, Hyatt’s system is structured and business-like. But yes, there’s also plenty of room for flexibility, for creativity, for customizing his system for yourself and unique situation. Some of his ideas are things I had already discovered for myself or encountered elsewhere and regularly practice, like having an I-don’t-do list and identifying my three big to-dos for each day. Some of his ideas highlight where I might make some changes, in particular:
- From the book I learned that Hyatt’s ideal weekday starts at 5am with personal time, work beginning at 9am until 6pm including lunch and time for a nap, then more personal, couple, family, friend time in the evening. I’m seldom up as early as 5am, my sleep time varies depending on when I get tired, and my work time varies too, but I take his example as an encouragement to think more deliberately about my own ideal day—not as a rigid schedule, but as a healthy basic rhythm for work and rest.
- In the Free to Focus online tool to assess personal productivity, I was stumped by this question: “How many hours do you typically spend working per week?” When I was a full-time pastor, I could have answered this question easily, thanks to my church’s personnel committee who asked all staff to track our time. But when I became self-employed, I stopped—there’s a certain freedom in not having to fill out a time sheet, but soon I realized I needed to track certain projects for accounting purposes. More recently I’ve been thinking about tracking my overall hours again to set better boundaries around my work time. Hyatt’s question reinforces that for me.
I can’t see myself adopting everything in Hyatt’s total productivity system, but I do appreciate his wealth of practical ideas, examples, and inspiration in his book and in the accompanying online tools. If you’re looking how to do more by doing less, this is an excellent resource. For a sample excerpt, please see Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less.
Disclosure: Thank you to Graf-Martin and their Resourcing Leaders program for providing me with a complimentary copy of Free to Focus. The choice to review and any opinions expressed are my own and freely given.
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