How To Protect Your Focus Time Like It's The Royal Mint Vault
We're all overwhelmed with information. It's the 24 hour CNN effect.
It's happening within your office walls.
Coworkers are blasting through the door, or around your cubicle like they witnessed a UFO landing.
OMG. Did you listen to the recent Joe Rogan podcast?
I've created a coping mechanism over the years to avoid this.
It's why my team was scared to come into my office.
My focus time is essential.
One interruption causes me mental strain and disrupts my focus.
My coping mechanism isn't the best solution.
In fact, it's the worst.
My team would come into my office, and I would give them the "what the fuck are you doing in here" stare.
Some days, when I'm in a creative/strategic mode, I would bark off "WHAT?"
The problem with this is…everything.
I didn't know I was doing it until someone really close to me said she cried after she came in.
I felt terrible.
I was committed to becoming introspective and changing it.
This isn't the "culture" I want to instill. Not the feelings I want muy team to leave my office with.
The problem was, I hate disruption when I'm working on a project or problem.
I don't do well with interruption or distraction.
Neither do you.
In Ryan Holiday's book, Stillness Is the Key, he writes,
There's too much information, every trivial detail is magnified under the microscope, speculation is rampant—and the mind is overwhelmed.
In order to think clearly, it is essential that each of us figures out how to filter out the inconsequential from the essential. It's not enough to be inclined toward deep thought and sober analysis; a leader must create time and space for it.
Once I determined why I was getting frustrated by interruptions, I set out to create a better way to protect my team and I's time.
It's what I know call Protect Your Focus.
Let's create a movement. Tag me in your post and add hashtag #ProtectYourFocus
Why you need time to focus and what interruptions cost you.
The statistics of distraction are concerning.
According to a RescueTime survey,
"51.5% of people are interrupted frequently throughout the day. For half the people we spoke to, interruptions were a constant threat to their focus. With an additional 46.5% saying they get interrupted at least a few times a day."
The crazy part is,
"…64% of people said their most common interruption was a face-to-face distraction like a coworker dropping by to ask a question."
I'll recommend an easy solution shortly that won't make you the prick of the office...like me.
Requests will come in all day.
The funny part is, most of these requests won't help you achieve your goals and priorities.
Most will fail the importance test by asking yourself this question:
" If I do this today, will it have an impact on my goals and priorities tomorrow?"
Anthony Iannarino has an excellent post on nine filters you need to use to filter your time better.
The filters are:
Long term value
Primary value creator
If you're a manager, you'll need to open yourself up to be available. To answer questions. Give feedback. Help your team make decisions.
Often, this doesn't need to happen…RIGHT NOW.
It can be scheduled and planned.
Establish two 90-minute focus blocks per day and put your life in airplane mode.
Pulling yourself out of the daily whirlwind will feel like an impossible feat.
Some days you'll feel like climbing Mount Everest would be easier.
You've been operating in task chaos for so long, you don't know how to set time aside to focus.
Now you will.
Schedule two 90-minute blocks of time on your calendar to focus on your top 3 weekly/daily priorities or most important projects.
This time is non-negotiable.
It's on your calendar and during this time, you're focused.
Airplane mode on.
Do not disturb sign on the door.
You're "in the zone."
Distractions are removed, and your focus is on what you've declared the most important.
Here's a script to use to protect this time and protect your focus throughout the day.
A simple script to use and avoid people crashing your focus party
The goal of protecting your focus time so you can work on the things that truly matter.
In your next meeting, or when talking with your team, you'll say:
Did you know that 46.5% of people surveyed said they get interrupted at least a few times a day, and it mostly happen in person? Crazy! I want to protect our focus so we can do great things. I'm declaring focus war. If you need my attention on an urgent and important matter, before walking in, please message me that you need to speak with me, what it's about, and for how long (Hi Nate, can we talk for 10min about an order issue as I have some ideas to resolve it and I'd like your feedback?). I'll message you back once I see it. I'd like you to incorporate the same idea so your focus is protected as well. Any questions?
These discussions are for things that are urgent and important. Not everything needs to be talked about the same day.
If it's important and not urgent or a key lesson, a weekly 1:1, a daily team huddle, or a weekly team meeting is a great place to discuss these topics.
Protect your focus time and accomplish your goals.