Fighting For Our Focus

Fighting For Our Focus

Scheduling of work falls into two broad categories: Makers and Managers. Most of us are either managing people and projects or making something, like documents, apps or other creative things that require sustained focus.

Our attempt to balance our managing time with our making time is the fight for our focus, and creates the core problem that overwhelms most of us.

Juan B. (@juan_bb) - Profile Photo

@juan_bb

Time Management

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None of us can get creative in short 15-minute bursts of work sandwiched between a mandatory meeting and a sales team call. It is also a myth that people work for 8 to 10 hours a day.

Most people are productive in sporadic periods of time, like 15 minutes, followed by an interruption, then for 20 minutes, followed by a commitment/obligation/meeting and so on.

We need to align our schedules with our goals and create a strategy that helps us focus on deep work.

  1. Use a time-tracking app and review the kind of activities that are done during the day and how much time the activities take.
  2. Categorize those activities as ‘maker’ or ‘manager’.
  3. Find the daily patterns and use that information to schedule your ‘maker time’.
  4. Keep an eye on the stuff that interrupts you the most and try to eliminate or minimize the same.
  5. Take a review at the end of each week to make some tweaks in your schedule.

The real problem according to experts, is making the switch between managing and making, due to the fact that our brain does not immediately obey us and is stuck on the work that was happening earlier, something known as attention residue.

We can take the help of certain rituals and routines that can help us switch between the two modes, like taking a walk, a few minutes of deep breathing, a short burst of exercise or even a slow cup of coffee.

A way to organize our schedule is to split the days in our week into two categories, marking our calendar as:

  1. Manager Days: Only focusing on pairing, syncing, answering, meeting and doing managing and follow up work.
  2. Maker Days: Only focusing on deep work, without interruption, meetings or any other activity that shifts the mind.
  • Managers can work in time blocks of 30 or 60 minutes, scheduling meetings or sending emails.
  • Makers need almost half a day to get down and create something, requiring an uninterrupted focus mode that is nearly impossible.

What complicates matters is that many managers who are managing the makers think of time as short blocks and try to break the focused time of the makers, requesting them to juggle work or multitask, which kills any productivity or quality with the unending context switching.

  • Not everyone can commit full days of deep focus work, or even manage the whole day.
  • We can refer to our body clocks, energy levels and working style to create a day calendar splitting blocks of hours in a way that we have half a day, or about three to four hours of focus time, while the rest of the day can be for other activities.
  • One can get into a state of flow every day and still have scheduled office hours to work on meetings, emails and other stuff.
  • If splitting of weekdays between managing and making is strictly followed, it makes our day focus clear and we can happily ignore emails and other stuff on our ‘maker’ days.
  • Others have clear expectations and the seemingly urgent requests can easily be filtered out.
  • If you are not always available, it can also facilitate other solutions.

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• Add blocks for reactive tasks each day (emails, calls, meetings).

• Write down your daily to-do list (for work, home, and family/social) and fill it in.




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