2 hours 53 minutes.
That is the amount of time an average worker is productive during an 8-hour (or sometimes even longer) work day. Just 173 minutes out of 480 minutes.
And the rest of the time is spent scrolling through social media, trawling news websites, attending meetings, taking lunch and smoking breaks, and chatting with fellow colleagues.
Whether you’re working with a team in an office or working for yourself sipping latte in a cafe, increasing your productivity is important. If you’re putting in 8 hours, you want to be productive for most of them.
And that is where time management strategies like Focus Time come in.
Focus time, as the name suggests, is a time management strategy that helps people put in deep work and focus on the task at hand.
Imagine this. You’re working on a project and decide to check your Instagram for just a second. You open the Instagram app on your phone and start scrolling away. Before you know it, 2 hours have passed and now you no longer feel like working.
Focus time helps workers block a certain amount of time to do deep work. You turn off all your distractions and focus solely on the task at hand.
For example, you set a timer for 30 minutes, and put in deep work for this time period. Once the timer goes off, you take a 5-minute break. Then again you set a timer for 30 minutes and start working.
Once you’ve put in five 30-minute sprints of deep work, you take a 30 minute break.
As an individual, if you’re looking to amp up your productivity levels and get more done in less time, you need to make a conscious effort to increase your focus time.
The first step to doing that is to recognize and limit distractions. Even freelancers and remote employees face constant distractions. Some of them include:
Tackling multiple tasks at one time can massively affect your productivity levels.
Research suggests productivity can be reduced by as much as 40% by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks.
How many hours do you spend each day replying to emails and going back and forth on Slack?
The average employee spends 28% of their day reading and responding to email, checking their inbox up to 36 times per hour.
So you need to find ways to limit these distractions and make more focus time for deep work.
Next, what is a good amount of focus time for you?
The best way to find that is by tracking your hours. Figure out how many hours in a day you are productive. And if you limit distractions, can you increase your productive hours?
While usually Focus Time works on the principle of 30-minute productive sprints and 5 minute breaks, you can tweak the times to suit your productive hours.
According to research, most people need at least a solid hour, and 82% need somewhere between one and three hours of uninterrupted time to get deep work done.
So five 30 minute sprints equal 2 and half hours of solid uninterrupted work, which is optimal in most cases.
Start off with time blocks of 30 minutes at least to concentrate and work on your task. Then take a short 5 to 10 minutes break. You can eventually increase these time blocks to suit your routine and goals.
Avoid scrolling on social media apps during your 5 minutes break. Incorporate short mediation sessions or quick and easy exercises to keep your brain stimulated.
When you’re working in a team, how can you increase your (and your team’s) focus time?
By understanding why focus time is important and should be your utmost priority as a manager. Figure out how you can increase focus time for your team and utilize time management tools like Friday to amp your team productivity.
Did you know that one hour wasted a day on distractions translates into $10,375 of lost productivity per worker each year?
And all these hours are not just wasted scrolling on social media, or going back and forth on Slack - the average employee wastes up to 41% of their time at work on low-value tasks.
Improving the focus time of your team and increasing their productivity is essential for managers.
We want to think, write, and strategize, but because these functions require deep thinking and uninterrupted time, we stay busy with the tasks, meetings, and messages that pop up all day long rather than tackling really important projects.”
So how can you boost your team’s productivity and help them focus more?
If as a manager, you’re not using your hours productively and setting aside focus time to work uninterruptedly on your tasks, chances are you won’t have time to think about increasing your team’s focus time either.
So, start with yourself and set the right example.
As Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money and the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training rightly says, “If you’re stretched and overloaded, you can’t think strategically about your own time let alone anyone else’s.”
Meet with team members and communicate your expectations from them. What are some areas you’d like them to focus on? What are they allowed to do? Do they have autonomy to choose their hours?
Be clear and vocal about what you expect from them.
Also encourage open and honest communication. What challenges are your team members facing? Are they making progress on their work? If not, find out the cause.
Work with your team.
Allow your team members to choose their own hours and delegate tasks, and give them the power to choose which meetings they want to attend and which ones they’d like to skip.
Are you a maker or a manager?
For makers, which includes people in the writing, engineering, programming fields, spending time in meetings can result in missed deadlines and low work output.
For managers, on the other hand, meetings are important to ensure their team’s meeting their goals and is in sync.
However, too many meetings can distract managers, as well.
A survey by Korn Ferry concludes that sixty-seven percent of employees say spending too much time on meetings and calls distracts them from making an impact at work.
Asynchronous meetings work especially great for remote and scattered teams. Since they don’t require immediate attendance and can be conducted via email, they can be a useful replacement for regular meetings.
However, while asynchronous meetings can be a huge time saver (who doesn’t love meetings that are not happening in real time?), too many of them can also be a huge time-sucker.
So don’t overdo them.
Utilize shared calendars in your team. Block off time required for deep, uninterrupted focus work and meetings so everyone’s in loop with what's happening.
Equally important is blocking off time for downtime so teams can relax and avoid burnout.
“Helping your team manage its time well is a critical factor for its success,” says Jordan Cohen, a productivity expert and the Senior Director of Organizational Effectiveness, Learning & Development at Weight Watchers.
Intentionality, routine, and expectation setting are some of the components that make up dedicated focus time.
As a manager, you need to cut through the chaos and provide your team with uninterrupted focus time to accomplish their tasks.
Morgenstern adds, “Be sure everyone understands that there are to be no interruptions unless it’s an emergency,”
As an employee and team member, set clear expectations and let your manager know how much time you require to spend in deep work. Work with your managers and team members to create a routine that works for you and helps you focus on tasks assigned to you. Be intentional about increasing your focus time.
Use time management tools like Friday to send team updates and keep everyone in the loop.
With Friday, it’s simple to set up focus time so you can ensure you’re doing your best work.
Through the use of the daily planner, you can set up your work schedule and put when exactly you want to enter focus time.
If you have Slack to communicate with your remote team, you can put yourself on Do Not Disturb mode. This way you won’t receive any notifications that may distract you from work.
If you want to block websites that can cause a distraction, try installing the Friday Chrome Extension for increased productivity. When you try accessing one of the blocked websites, you will receive a message from Friday telling you to stay focused.