July 13, 2021
Tips & Tricks

Unlocking Productivity with Focus Blocks

Brenna Donoghue
Head of Marketing
Challenging, creative, and complex work requires focus, something we all are lacking these days.

If you worked 8 hours yesterday, how many of those hours were truly productive? Recent research suggests that only 3 of every 8 hours worked are productive. Clearly, many (most?!) of us are struggling to get effectively manage our time.

It’s no real surprise when we consider the sharp increase in meetings, our deepening tool stack that needs to be updated and interacted with, and frankly, distractions, distractions, distractions. Simply finding time to focus on substantive and cognitively demanding tasks is hard.  

Personally, I’ve fallen into the trap before of viewing my workday as time for meetings and coordination. Evenings became my distraction-free time to get work done. You can probably guess how sustainable that was.

Carving out and protecting Focus Blocks is as a result, more important than ever.  

Ignoring Focus Time Comes at a Cost

When we fall into these patterns as teams of prioritizing meetings and responsiveness above all else, productivity suffers.  

The symptoms speak for themselves:

  1. Reduced quality of work: Frequent interruptions and context switching hinder deep concentration, resulting in more mistakes and sloppy work. In roles in which getting the details right really matters, this will be especially apparent.
  1. Diminished creativity: Creativity doesn’t simply turn on like a switch. It takes time and space to be creative. When we don’t carve out that time innovation and problem-solving suffers.
  1. Increased stress and burnout: What’s that about evenings being for focused work while days are for meetings? Oh right, burnout. A lack of focused work exacerbates stress levels, leading to burnout and decreased job satisfaction.

What are focus blocks

Some organizations have gone so far as to simply set explicit rules around meetings: how many can happen, how many people can be involved, and what needs to be in place. (Shopify is leading the charge and the results are impressive.)

But getting rid of meetings and all distractions is, for most organizations and teams, an impossibility.

That said, it doesn’t mean that we should accept that meetings should come at the expense of focus work.

That’s why we’re on a mission to help optimize team’s calendars to unlock bigger blocks of focus time. These blocks of time are the very antithesis of multi-tasking. If you have a big task that demands creativity, problem-solving, and cognitive focus, focus time will let you produce your best work.

How to use focus blocks effectively

So you have a big block of time in your calendar, dedicated to getting work done. But now what?  

To make the most of focus blocks, it’s important to:

  1. Give yourself enough time: Focus blocks typically range from 60 to 120 minutes. Enough time for deep engagement and sustained concentration, but not so long that your brain starts to wander. This will come down to personal preference, as well as your energy levels on the day.
  1. Define what you will achieve. This isn’t time to jump from task to task. Instead, set a clear outcome for your time and have a well-defined task to get you there. Otherwise, you might find the time chipped away jumping from task to task without moving the needle at the end.
  1. Turn off the distractions: A distraction-free environment is key. Turn off notifications, silence your phone, close irrelevant tabs. If you’re in the office, let colleagues know this is your focus time and potentially wear headphones to signal you’re not available to chat. This will help you stay focused and avoid your time being hijacked by distractions.
  1. Take a break: Focus blocks can be draining. You’ve just concentrated intently and your brain will likely need a recharge before jump into the next thing, be it a task or meeting. Take a break and step away from work for 10 minutes or whatever you need.

How to start adding more focus time

Embedding a culture of focus time within your organization is an investment in productivity, creativity, and employee well-being.  

With Morgen’s upcoming focus time automation (now in closed alpha testing), you will be able to identify which meetings are flexible in timing. Our automated workflow will reschedule those meetings in a way that opens more focus time for all invitees.

The more you identify meetings as #flex, the more time you will gain.  

Start implementing these strategies today and witness the positive impact on productivity and overall job satisfaction within your organization.

Want access to the focus workflow? Join the waiting list now.