In my newsletter this weekend, I talked a bit about the benefits of improving focus. As I’ve added client work to what I do, the number and frequency of deadlines and deliverables has multiplied far beyond what I had when I was just doing marketing for one brand, so managing those without breaking any promises has required an entirely new level of focus for me. I had to up my game considerably.

Here’s what I did to increase the amount of focus I brought to the table. Your methods and mileage may vary. I used to manage by my inbox, which was thoroughly ineffective. It was water spraying everywhere, so many things competing for my attention, and stuff unquestionably got lost or went missing.


Today, I manage almost exclusively by my calendar. I block off time for each task that needs doing, and during those times, I do those things and nothing else. Client work gets repeating windows as needed, and everything else gets time as needed. The secret is this: during those time periods, one and only one thing gets attention, nothing else. Ask anyone who used to work with me how much time I spent on IM and email compared to today, where I spend almost no time on IM and do my inbox in short bursts infrequently throughout the day.

Here’s the second secret: if something can’t be defined in a block of time on my calendar, it gets put away until there is a timeframe defined. That’s the only way I’ve found that important things get done – they get a timeslot, and during those times, they get exclusive focus. If something doesn’t come with a deadline or a timeframe, then it doesn’t get scheduled and no energy is given to it.

Here’s the third and final secret: by creating blocks of time on a calendar and looking at it in a weekly view, I can move blocks around like kids’ toys so that the maximum amount of stuff gets done. If a block ends a little bit early (5-10 minutes or less), I can check messages or hit Facebook for the few minutes left over; if a block ends substantially earlier (more than 10 minutes) then I start moving things around and getting even more done. The goal is to keep a steady pace of work throughout the day with as few gaps and periods of downtime as possible while not being stressed about the workload. Having this system lets me stay at maximum productivity without maximum stress.

As I said earlier, your mileage may vary. You may find this practice drives you crazy, and that’s okay. Find a method that works for you – this is just what I’ve needed to do in order to maximize the time I have each day to get stuff done.

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