How to Master Focus Time in 2024

Kelcy Ballantyne

Do you want to become more productive with your workday? Are you looking for a strategy to increase your day-to-day output without experiencing burnout? Today’s modern workplace is full of distractions; whether it's noisy colleagues, people walking around, or phone conversations, it’s hard sometimes to find time to get real work done.

Having dedicated time to knuckle down and concentrate on a piece of work provides the opportunity to complete complex tasks, brainstorm fresh ideas and produce work of a much higher quality.


So what is Focus Time?

Focus time is simply intentional (usually 2-3hours) of uninterrupted blocks of time within your day to tackle your most crucial tasks. Countering the effect of meetings, appointments, and disruptions that can stop us from having enough time to focus. Allocating time for periods of concentration boosts productivity, fosters creativity and improves overall output.

Being busy doesn’t always translate to being productive. The problem with being ‘busy’ is that it can be easy to fall into the trap of getting bogged down in low-level tasks that you neglect more challenging projects. If your calendar quickly gets filled with all types of meetings throughout the workweek, this doesn’t leave you with enough time to get your productive work done. Dedicating focus time enables you to turn off all your distractions and focus solely on the task at hand.


How does Focus Time Work?

How can you put the focus time method into practice? One way to approach it is to categorise tasks based on their difficulty level. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, introduced a handy method for structuring your work:

1.    Shallow Work: Involves your low-level (minimal brainpower) tasks, such as answering team messages, emails, or quick tasks. These can be completed amidst distractions.

2.    Deep Work: These require brain power and are usually more demanding tasks that require intense concentration, i.e. strategy sessions, conceptualising a new idea or problem-solving.


How should you divide your time between shallow work and deep work? This will depend on the nature of your role, but an effective method is to group all your shallow work together so that it doesn’t become a blockage for your deep work tasks. This method is called ‘Task Batching’. Other time blocking methods include:

Day theming: If you find yourself juggling several significant projects or responsibilities, consider adopting a day-theming approach to allocate a specific focus for each day of the week.

Promodoro technique: This involves a series of timers to give yourself regular breaks during your focussed sessions. For example, you work for 30 minutes uninterrupted, followed by a 5-minute break; repeating this cycle four times.

According to Cal Newport, the brain can’t do more than 4 hours/day of deep work – so consider that as the ‘most aggressive’ time allocation for scheduling focus time in your calendar.


Focus Time best practices

Whichever method you adopt will depend on you; however, putting focus time into practice isn’t always easy. Here are some tips to make your focus time successful:

·      Protect your focus time by viewing them as static – avoid rescheduling.

·      Take regular breaks – incorporate short mental breaks to give you a chance to rest.

·      Have a plan – setting time is one thing, but if you don’t have a plan, it can lead to multitasking.

·      Eliminate as many distractions as possible – work from home, put your phone away, or set your Teams to ‘Do not disturb’  


How to implement the Focus Time with Microsoft 365 applications.

Allocating focus time can be facilitated by leveraging the functionality of your Microsoft 365 applications.


·      Calendar Blocking– Establish specific blocks in Outlook for focus time. Set these appointments as either ‘busy’ or ‘private’ to indicate to others that they can’t be interrupted.

·      Automatic replies –Use the out-of-office feature in Outlook to set automatic replies during focus times to briefly explain that you are in a focused work session and will reply later.


Microsoft Teams

Use the ‘Do not disturb’ status feature on Teams to suppress notifications during your focus time.


Microsoft Edge

If you use Microsoft Edge as your browser, take advantage of the Focus Mode feature.


To-Do and Planner

Use Microsoft To-Do or Planner to prioritise tasks for your focus time. Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable activities or categorise them as shallow or deep work.

Focus time is a brilliant method for productivity. It can allow you to get more out of your workday in far less time, reduce stress and improve work-life balance. While various approaches exist for managing focus time, the key is finding the right method for you, your role and your working style. Utilising the power of your Microsoft 365 applications can be the key to your focus time success in 2024. If you’re interested in learning more about how to leverage Microsoft 365to become more productive contact us at