Strategic employee communications that lead
Fortune 500 companies through transformation

Why focus time is worth your time! 💡

Use focus time to dodge distractions and concentrate in a time crunch.

Distractions are all around us – whether they be emails and chats pinging you while you are deep into a report or loud noises and announcements while you are on a factory floor. There is a greater cost to these interruptions than one might think: It takes more than 20 minutes for most workers to get back on task after a disturbance, and a few distractions each day can add up to many lost hours every week. 

If you are feeling scattered or more distracted than ever, read on for proven methods and actionable steps you can take to accomplish more in your day. These tips will help you decide what matters most and where to prioritize your time.

Methods of focus time to keep distractions at bay

The Pomodoro Technique 🍅

Inspired by the tomato-shaped kitchen timer, The Pomorodo method starts by listing your three most important tasks and then setting a timer (tomato-shaped or not) for 25 minutes. Once the timer goes off, take a five minute break to check your email, make a cup of coffee or quickly stretch before getting back to your focus session. It is important that you actually take your short breaks! 

Deep Work 📚

Deep Work shares some similarities to the Pomorodo method. Designed by computer science professor Cal Newport, Deep Work involves removing distractions and spending dedicated, uninterrupted time on important tasks, so you can fulfill requirements quickly and have more time for what matters most to you. There are four Deep Work philosophies – Rhythmic, Journalistic, Monastic and Bimodal – all designed to help you make the most of your time. 

Tip: Whether you prefer the 25-minute Pomorodo style, Deep Work or your own personal method, expect that you will still get distracted. Whether it’s your mouse losing connection, a last-minute errand or even a coworker stopping by to talk, it’s easy to lose focus. Keep a pad of paper or virtual sticky note nearby to write down what’s on your mind – work related or not. That way, you can stay focused on the task at hand. 

How to find focus during busy days 

For many, focus time is hard to come by. Maybe you’re looking at a fully booked calendar with back to back meetings every day or you’re on the road for business. It can be daunting to find pockets of time, large or small, to work distraction-free. Consider what is on your calendar. Do you need to attend that recurring meeting? Can you find 30 minutes to try a Pomorodo interval at the beginning of the day? 

Time blocking your calendar can help, and new technology (including tools you might be using already!) can help lighten the load. 

  • Schedule your focus time in Google Calendar: Show others you are focusing by time blocking your calendar.
  • Use focus in Windows 11 (latest release of Microsoft’s Windows operating system), or repeat concentration time daily with Viva Insights (Microsoft’s employee experience platform): Try Microsoft’s focus/break time timer feature or create a recurring plan for Deep Work.
  • Customize your notifications via Slack, Teams, Google Chat, iPhone and more: Just 15 minutes without being interrupted can help you manage your biggest tasks. With many platforms, you can create rules where you will still be notified by urgent messages or specific people.

Tip: Try Grouping your tasks into similar categories and decide when you want to complete them each week. Research shows that people reach peak productivity and creativity at their own specific times each day or week. Consider which of your task groups need this energy. Then, figure out your peak times so you can allot your task categories accordingly.

Short breaks, big rewards 

A recent study from Microsoft shows how brainwave and stress patterns change significantly with 5, 10 and 15-minute breaks between video calls. Allowing for transition time can reduce fatigue and increase performance. Outlook and Google calendar are among popular platforms that can help you automatically set aside time. 

  • Outlook: Try scheduling an hour-long call for 55 minutes instead. 
  • Google: Try booking your meeting at 8:05 am instead of 8 am to allow your attendees to arrive stress free, whether they are virtual or in person.  

Tip: Though it’s tempting to eat lunch at your desk (and let’s face it, some days there is no choice), taking a lunch break can help you return to work rested and ready to start fresh. Try stepping out for a brief lunch respite for three days in a row to see if short breaks help you accomplish more.

Consider your needs and remain flexible 

Focus looks different for everyone, and it can be helpful to try different approaches and see what works best for you. Consider when

focused work time comes easiest to you. If you like to wake up early and are most alert in the morning, block the first part of your workday. 

Perhaps you are a night owl who likes to reduce distractions by working when others are sleeping. Try silencing your notifications and enjoy uninterrupted rest following your working session. Or maybe you are a mid-day warrior who can only focus for a short period of time between classes, meetings and/or events; Try allowing a few minutes for a buffer between your commitments. 

Working with, and not against, your strengths and natural rhythms can help you deduce when to tackle big tasks and when you can handle smaller to-do list items that require less thought. Sometimes focus time is not a reality, and that is okay. If you know when and how to prioritize it, you can find focus – and enjoy the benefits – in plenty of places.

Need help staying focused and keeping your most important projects on track? 

Our consultants have a proven track record of navigating complex working environments and problem-solving to reach global and diverse audiences through a multi-channel approach while providing expert support to help them succeed. Whatever your need, Pivot Strategies can help take your focused messaging to the next level.

Our award-winning team of Bred Corporate, Gone AgencyTM strategic communicators is here to help!

About the Author

Lauren WestbrookCommunications Consultant

Lauren is an expert at communicating complex technical concepts and changes with clarity and precision. She has experience in creating and executing internal communications strategies, fostering cross-functional collaboration and providing brand and reputation management. Sustainability and employee engagement excite her. Creating alignment and understanding of the company’s vision, mission and product offerings drives her.

Lauren is a lifelong Tar Heel and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, immersing herself in a good book and staying active at the gym.

Connect with Lauren Westbrook on LinkedIn →

Gain strategic insight from Pivot's experts