Creating Focus Time

How I got back some time for deep work

Thomas Schoffelen

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Within my companies, one of my main roles is being a facilitator. I like to help my colleagues do their best work. That means answering a lot of questions over Slack and Zoom.

I love it, but it also takes up a lot of time, especially if you combine it with all the internal and external meetings.

I realised recently that it was about time to make sure I started blocking some time for deep work. I’m generally not a fan of calendar blocking, at least not the way most people apply it. I have a todo list that I am very much dependent on, so there’s no sense in putting set time in my calendar for specific tasks, that feels like duplicating work. Instead, I went for something a little more flexible.

The system I ended up with consists of 4 main parts: repeating calendar events, a slack bot, a way of tagging tasks for deep work, and the Pomodoro technique.

Calendar

I did end up putting some blocks of time in my calendar. 2 hours, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 1pm to 3pm.

Simple, consistent and predictable, and with a nice note for my colleagues who might be peeking into my calendar to see if I’m available for a meeting:

Slack do not disturb

As much as I try to deny it sometimes, I’m a programmer at heart. I wanted my Slack status to reflect the fact that I was in my focus time, so people would know to expect a slower reply (to be fair, I’m the person that keeps people’s expectation up of always being available, I should probably stop doing that).

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I built a super simple serverless AWS Lambda function that automatically turns on Do Not Disturb and sets my status in all the Slack workspaces I’m a part of when my focus time starts.

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Thomas Schoffelen

Entrepreneur tech kid, co-founder of NearSt, Londoner, open source enthusiast and aspiring spare time literature geek.