What is Focus Time? Why it Matters to You

The modern workplace is busier than ever. Whether you work from home, in an office, or via a hybrid model, you often juggle multiple tasks and fight off various distractions all day long. That makes it incredibly hard to carve out some ‘focus time’. But what is focus time?

Focus time is the time that you dedicate to uninterrupted work. Whether creating strategies, programming, designing, or researching, focus time is the time you set aside to focus on a single, most essential task – usually the most productive – and shut out all distractions.

Why is Focus Time Important?

Now that you know what is focus time, let’s understand why it’s important. Focus time is essential because it allows you to actually get work done. Some tasks are simply done best when you can focus without a barrage of interruptions and distractions. Multiple studies show that focus time is necessary for true creative work and accomplishing detail-oriented tasks involving intense concentration.

While focused, you enter a state of ‘deep work’, also called a ‘flow state’. It is a mental state that enables you to focus intensely on a task and shut out distractions, resulting in high productivity and quality output. 

Focus time is the act of actively creating space for this to provide opportunity to achieve a flow state so that you can get your most intense tasks done.

What is Focus Time? Understanding it Through Examples 

How much focus time you need can vary depending on the job you’re doing. Different roles may require more or less focus time. Here are some examples: 

• A content creator might need 5 to 10 hours of blocked focus time every week to write blog posts.
• A salesperson might want at least 1 hour daily to focus on follow-up calls and emails.
• An executive might require 5 hours each week to do a deep dive into status reports.
• A software engineer could need 30 hours of focus time a week to write code.

Why Can’t We Focus at Work? Some Common Distractions

Technology has made the modern remote workplace possible, but it has also increased distractions. Fortunately, there are  solutions. See the best Slack apps for remote teams for some suggestions that can help you and your team stay focused and reduce distractions. 

Let’s look at some of the most commonly reported workplace distractions that impact productivity:

• Notifications from group chats not related to core work
• General office and background chatter for when working in-person
• Catching news on websites
• Checking social media handles
• Dealing with personal calls and messages
• Attending and being invited to meetings, particularly those that are not relevant

A bar chart showing common workplace distractions.

How Can Focus Time Help?

If you feel you’re working hard but not getting what you want done, then planning focus time will make a difference and it comes with multiple benefits:

Higher Productivity

Strategically setting aside focus time and letting your teammates know will set expectations and create emapthy so you can concentrate on specific tasks.

Smart Time Management

Focusing on one task at a time almost always results in more work being completed in less time. Regular task-switching, on the other hand, can result in burnout from increased stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and impact on your mental health.

Improved Quality of Work

Without distractions, you have a better chance of achieving the flow state that leads to the highest quality work. Focus time boosts creativity and concentration, lifting the quality of output, but even more importantly, it helps with mental health thereby reducing burnout

Shallow Work vs. Deep Work

To know what kind of work comes under focus time, you must understand the difference between ‘deep work’ and ‘shallow work’.

• Shallow work comprises tasks that don’t require a lot of concentration. Shallow work may include answering emails, organizing data, making phone calls, and responding to Slack messages. These tasks usually don’t take a lot of time by themselves, but over the course of the day, they can add up to hours.

• Deep work is more cognitively demanding, requiring concentration, research, deep thinking, and often creativity. Typically, these tasks take longer to complete. Examples could include preparing a presentation, writing a user study, reviewing code and more. This is why it is essential to block out time for this kind of work and make sure it doesn’t get compromised by the distractions of shallow work.

A diagram explaining deep work and shallow work.

Can Team-Building Help Improve Focus Time?

Good team-building comes with many benefits including increased productivity. When coworkers feel like a team, morale and productivity rise. Good team-building practices also create empathy and enable your teammates to better appreciate each other’s work. 

There are even games and apps such as Squad Game that can help your team learn how to focus better and utilize each other’s strengths. When colleagues establish trust, they can set focus time and snooze their notifications without fear of offending anyone. See this list for some popular remote work rituals to establish team trust.

Planned vs Unplanned Focus Time

Much of what we’ve talked about so far is about scheduling and making time for planned focus time. These are blocks that you have shared with your team where you can turn off the distractions such as those Slack notifications and hope to enter a deep work state.

But sometimes, while just working, you also enter a flow state. Unfortunately, in these instances, there is no way to let your teammates know that you are currently in an unplanned flow state and so you may still get those unwanted interruptions. Fortunately, there are some tools that can assist with this discussed later in this blog post. 

Schedule Focus Time for Your Team

Making sure your team has time to focus on essential work is a crucial part of managing a modern workplace. You can use apps like Pulse to sync workers’ calendars through Slack so team members can configure rules and choose when they wish or not wish to be disturbed. A significant advantage of Pulse is that it allows automatic status updates on Slack so that people know you enter unplanned focus time and are doing deep work and should not be disturbed.

Add Focus Time to Your Calendar

Setting aside time blocks on your calendar for focus time can be a helpful way to get more deep work done. However, time blocks may not be flexible and respond poorly to a dynamic workplace. To create focus time blocks in Google Calendar, see this article.

Address Unplanned Focus Time with Pulse

Pulse smartly detects when you enter deep work so it can indicate to your colleagues that you have entered focus and automatically then turns off the interruptions. Pulse does this by using AI to recognize your level of focus and the updates your Slack status in real-time.

A screenshot showing custom Slack status using Pulse.

Final Words

Most experts and research agree that focus time is necessary for a productive and healthy workplace. It not only boosts productivity, but it reduces burnout and improves mental health. 

The modern and distributed workplace is full of distractions. Proactively adopting tools and processes to address and enable both planned and unplanned focus time is a must. A recent study published in Forbes indicates that it can take almost 24 minutes to get back on track once you’ve been distracted. So, anything that can help minimize distractions in the workplace can boost productivity.