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Time Blocking Basics: Focus Blocks

Recently on the Momentum blog we presented why time blocking is the solution you didn’t know you needed. 

There are a lot of reasons it can be a life changing approach to time management, and making sure what matters makes it to your schedule. 

But in order to do it properly, you’ll need to know a bit about the different kinds of time blocks you can work with. These include: focus blocks, admin blocks, social blocks, and recovery blocks.

For now we’re just going to give you a more in depth understanding of what focus blocks are about — as these will be the key to moving your projects forward. 

Then in the next weeks, you can find out more about each of the other types of blocks, and the purpose they serve in the big picture.🔮

Focus Blocks: the most important building block 

Focus blocks fuel your highest-value deep work. Without focus blocks, no finished deep work. It’s really that simple. 

Remember, focus blocks are 90–120 minute periods when you’re ready to do your most creative, inspired, and high level work (which, of course, requires focus). 

And by planning those moments, you create a direct line to your state of flow, and the possibility of deep work. 

Deep work is about accessing the best of what you’re capable of by cutting out distractions. Focus, like our time, is one of the most valuable resources you have at your disposal. 

Technically, focus doesn’t cost us anything, but it doesn’t come easy — because the world we’re living in is set up to constantly distract us. 

Some examples of things that are possible only through focus: strategizing in order to build your business, exploring ideas, writing new content, and analyzing data. 

You can also use focus blocks for projects and work that look like admin but actually require strategizing, thinking, problem-solving, or wordsmithing to get right. 

Focus blocks and timing

The number of focus blocks available in your schedule is the limiting factor to how quickly and steadily you’ll be able to make progress on your highest-value projects.

These usually last about two hours. That’s enough time to enter the state of flow required to do your highest level work. (It’s also the limit before you likely need a break, or a different task.) 

Part of the logic for breaking time down this way is that it’s easier than thinking about how many hours total a project will take us. 

If you’ve ever put off doing a “bigger” project because you simply didn’t know how to get started or how much time it’d take, you already know what we’re talking about. 
For example, over ten hours is hard to visualize, but five blocks over the course of a week is easier to understand because you can think in terms of which project chunks need to be done.

Similarly, the idea of twenty hours on a project over the course of a month feels overwhelming, but working for one focus block every day for a month doesn’t. 

A note about burnout

Keep in mind, too many focus blocks is a recipe for burnout. Load four or five focus blocks into your day, and you’re likely to end up crispy for the next few days and wondering what’s wrong. 

It’s like going to work out for four hours when you normally keep your workouts to one hour. We’d expect to be sore and/or fatigued the next day, even if we really enjoyed the workout. 

Consistent progress is better than fits and starts.

How to Use Focus Blocks in Momentum 

Realistically, many of us don’t have complete autonomy over our time. 

You may not be able to get two focus blocks squeezed in every morning… But you may be able to get Monday morning back for yourself, so you at least start the week with some momentum on your deep work. 

In general, people struggle the most with finding/creating space for focus blocks in their schedules. Distractions, interruptions, other daily routines, and a lack of intention all make it tricky to get more than three of these into our schedules.

That’s why Momentum is there to help you. 

You can get a lot done with those three two-hour blocks per day. In the Weekly Planner in Momentum, there is a section for a weekly focus. Setting an intention for the week is helpful for figuring out what to do during your blocks.

We know that chunking projects down into two-hour chunks is a really good way to get moving on your projects. And this helps you get real about how much space you have to get your high-value work done and what needs to shift so you can do it. Here are some examples: 

Focus blocks will immensely increase how much Momentum can help you as a planning tool. Once you get the hang of them, you’ll see how you can gain insight into how long it will take for projects to get done in coming weeks, months or quarters. 

You can also use the app to assess how many focus blocks you need for particular projects. That helps you see how closely your plan matches reality, so you can update your plans more intelligently.

If you look at your schedule, and realize there is no space for Focus Blocks, you’re going to want to think about your work and expectations to see what needs to shift. The easiest way to shift projects around within the app is via the Delete, Defer, or Archive functions which can help you clear the decks. 

So that’s a basic introduction to focus blocks, the most important element of time blocking. 

In the next few days we’ll be back with insight into each of the other types of blocks, and how all the block types are essential to making progress on your most important projects. 

A version of this post was originally published on www.productiveflourishing.com

Momentum Team

We're the team behind Momentum. And we're here to help get your most important projects from start to done.