Are You Free to Focus? (Part 2: Stopping)

This post is the second part of the review of some of the highlights of Michael Hyatt’s book Free to Focus.

If you missed this introduction, be sure to go back to read it for the context it provides on what we’re discussing this week.

Hyatt divides his advice in Free to Focus into three main elements. These are: stopping, cutting, and acting. Each of these elements subdivides further into three actions.

For Hyatt, these three actions come best in the sequence he gives. Only when we stop to discern what is truly a priority can we then appropriately cut what draws us away from that priority. And only when we cut what distracts us do we then have space to act and pursue that priority.

Here, we’ll focus on the first of these movements.

Part 1: Stop

Collected under the catchword “stop,” part 1 encourages us to create the space to discern what’s deserving of our attention. Until we know that, we don’t know what helps and what hurts our efforts to focus on these things.

Hyatt subdivides “stopping” into three discrete actions. First, he advises that we “formulate” where we want to go (27–44). Or, as Stephen Covey put it, we need to “begin with the end in mind” (Effective People, 102–53). At this stage, Hyatt encourages us to lay out for ourselves a concrete vision of “what … life could look like” if we were free to focus on what matters most (44).

Second, Hyatt recommends that we “evaluate” the best path to this goal (45–65). Here Hyatt develops a heuristic he names the “freedom compass” and suggests that, progressively over time, we work toward concentrating our efforts in the “desire zone” where our passions and proficiencies align.

Third, Hyatt advocates that we “rejuvenate” (67–90). There may be seasons where extra work is necessary. But it’s all too easy to let such “seasons” entrench themselves with a practical permanence. And when we allow this, we then surrender the space to unplug and gain fresh perspective on where we’re going and what we’re doing to get there.

What’s more, citing research conducted by Jack Nevison, Hyatt observes that when we “push past fifty hours of work in a week[,] there’s no productivity gain for the extra time. In fact,” the amount of useful work produced after this threshold actually “goes backwards” (68).

We might be tempted to balk at the discipline of rest. But this discipline remains key in restoring our ability to discern what matters most amid our often all-too-hectic schedules.1


As Hyatt describes them, these actions aren’t “one and done” deals. They form a cycle that you continuously go through as you seek to discern ever more carefully what is and isn’t really where you should be devoting yourself.

So, if you haven’t done so recently, set aside a bit of time at least to start formulating and evaluating.

If you find life especially hectic just now, you may need to prepare yourself to for this by taking a short walk or doing some other kind of rejuvenating or focusing activity. Or as Martin Luther—no stranger to intense work—is often quoted to have said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

But however you start, start. Begin laying the foundation for a more focused and intentional life by reflecting on what really matters most and how your current way of going through life matches up with this (or not).

  1. On this theme, particularly see also the helpful discussion in Greg McKeown, Essentialism, 91–102

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