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If you had solid blocks of time to focus on what’s most important, what would be different? Most of us work in such a fast-paced and chaotic environment that interruptions are the norm, and we may not even consider the possibility of taking time to focus. But when you proactively block out time to focus on important work, several important things happen:

  1. You get smarter as you challenge your brain to think more deeply and make new connections.
  2. Your value to your organization or those you serve goes up as the quality of your work improves.
  3. You develop a sense of “being on top of things” and naturally exude a more commanding presence.
  4. You feel less overwhelmed, more peaceful, and increasingly organized.
  5. Your life runs more smoothly as you proactively handle things and prevent problems.

One of the more popular techniques we use with clients to help them prioritize focus time is time-blocking. Read more about it here.

Framing Technique:

Sometimes though, no matter how diligently we block off focus time on our calendars, we can’t stick to it. This might happen because of interruptions, crises blowing up in our face, or the fact that we simply can’t focus because we are worrying about ten other things. Framing your focus time is a way to protect your time from all these things and improves your chance of getting the most out of these precious minutes.

How does it work?

Framing focus time is exactly what it sounds like – it’s creating a block of time on either side of your focus time to “frame” it. What you do in your frames depends on what normally sabotages your focus time. Busy managers who want to be responsive to their teams may find it most beneficial to proactively reach out and check in with those who may need them during their frames. For example, if they want to focus with their door closed from 10am to 1pm each day, they should devote 9am to 10am and 1pm to 2pm to proactively reaching out to the members of their team to see what they need.

This process of proactively reaching out to people and setting a clear expectation of when they will next hear from you works not only with direct reports, but also with customers, families, teammates, and anyone you think might interrupt you while you are trying to focus.

It also works with your own worry and guilt. If you have hundreds of obligations running through your head, you can use your “framing” time to write a to do list, getting those worries out of your head and in a place where you can pick them up after you are done.

Trust the process.

When you first start to use focus time, especially if you work in a chaotic environment, you can expect to be derailed frequently. But if you work intentionally and consistently, things will change over time. This is because people will subconsciously accommodate you based on their experience of when you are most available to them, and because the proactive work you are doing during your focus time will reduce crises over time.

If you aren’t used to focusing much, start small with short bursts of 15 to 20 minutes of focus framed by 10 minutes of scanning for messages and handling interruptions. And if you have more control over your schedule, there are many different ways you can apply this technique to improve your effectiveness. For example, as a coach, I frame my coaching days with focus work days, and knowing I’m on top of my work enables me to be more completely present with my clients. I have one client who dedicates a day to each major function of her business, so she only worries about marketing on her marketing day, she develops product on her product days, and she handles financial and technology issues on days devoted to those functions.

What do you imagine framing focus time could do for you? If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, feel free to reach out!

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