Best practices for focus time
Having scheduled, uninterrupted time to focus on deep work provides employees an opportunity to complete difficult tasks, produce high quality output, and generate new ideas.
Focus hours are uninterrupted stretches of time in your day to get your most important work done. However, meetings and interruptions prevent most of us from having adequate time to focus. Time to focus increases productivity, improves decision making, and boosts creativity.
Why it matters
How to boost your team’s productivity explains that one of the top productivity principles is to “make smart use of shared calendars by blocking off hours for focused work and evening downtime.”
How to establish a meeting-free day each week explains the "goal is uninterrupted focus" time to work "on projects that require focus and high-level thinking, such as writing, strategic thinking, analysis, coding, designing, or a project with a lot of complexity."
- Use a personal focus plan to automatically book focus time, and then protect this time by silencing chats and tracking your weekly progress.
- Create a new team norm to not send chats to team members who have scheduled focus time and use the Do not disturb status in Microsoft Teams.
- Proactively schedule blocks of time on your calendar to focus, particularly during times when you perform at your peak.
- Schedule focus time with intention by dedicating the time to specific tasks.
- Take a few 15-minute breaks during the day to restore your ability to focus.
- Divide work into time intervals and use a timer to stay on track.
- Eliminate as many distractions as possible during focus time, such as: Work in a quiet location, put away your phone, turn off extra screens, shut down email, Teams, and other collaboration apps, and consider wearing headphones as a focus time signal.
Establish a 'no meeting' period
Select a day, cadence, or time period that your team can block to focus on work, then send out a recurring calendar invite to reserve that time. Ways to do this:
- Choose the day or time period during the week that is most convenient.
- Decide how often the time block will occur, such as every two weeks.
- Determine how long the duration should be, such as four hours.
- Send a recurring calendar invite to your team to block the time.
- Ask managers to commit to the new norm and share anecdotes about positive impacts from the new policy.
Cancel recurring meetings
Reassess the need quarterly for recurring meetings that take up the most time. Try cancelling one or two, you can always add them back if they're missed. See How to finally kill the useless, recurring meeting for more about this.
Try out a personal focus plan
Use a personal focus plan to automatically block focus time on your calendar to ensure that you have enough time to get work done.