Many have experienced the frustration of having a solid game plan to attack the day and check off some high-priority to-do list items only for that plan to unravel in the face of constant distractions. Whether those distractions come from pop-up meetings, friendly colleagues, demanding colleagues, or needy subordinates, the result is the same: distraction from intended work and the breakup of a nice block of time to focus and be productive.
But just because you don’t have a meeting on the calendar doesn’t mean your free time needs to be free game. It’s an acceptable and—as we’ll demonstrate here—an advisable practice to block off time on the calendar simply to focus on work.
Reserving Dedicated Time to Get Your Work Done
It’s simple to reserve some dedicated time to focus on important tasks. For those who have returned to the physical office or who perhaps never left, it can be as easy as shutting the door to your office. For those working from a nonenclosed workspace like a cubicle, hanging up a “Do Not Disturb” (DND) sign may help prevent people from entering, though colleagues may not always honor the request.
Tips for Both In-Person and Remote Work Blocks
For those working remotely, blocking off DND time is a bit easier because in-person pop-ins are off the table. For either in-office or remote workers, a few steps should be taken to help guarantee some space: Block off time on scheduling calendars so others see the time is reserved and will hopefully avoid scheduling meetings during that time; set statuses on instant messaging tools to DND to dissuade those pesky pings for quick questions and chats; and be clear with colleagues that “between X and Y a.m. on X day, I’m off limits.” This can even be done with superiors as long as the discussion is established in advance and your boss gives his or her blessing.
Make Time-Blocking an Ongoing Practice
At first, it may seem rude to tell colleagues and even superiors that you’re off limits because you don’t want to be bothered, but keep the focus on productivity rather than personal preference. Keep in mind, too, that blocking off focused time should be done in moderation—it would be a tough sell to block off 3 full days per week, for example—but it’s a completely acceptable and growing practice to block off some period of time during the week to allow for productive, focused time.