How to do a day’s work in just 90 minutes using focus blocks

Wish you could be more productive at work? Learn how to complete a day’s work in just 90 minutes using focus blocks.

According to self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur Steve Pavlina, the typical office worker only does about 90 minutes of real work per workday.

The rest of the time, according to Steve, we spend on things like reading the news, general web surfing, chatting with our co-workers, snacking, getting a drink, replying to irrelevant emails, playing games and simply daydreaming. And Steve isn’t alone in recognising how much time we waste during our workday.

You may think that, with the developments in technology making life ever-easier for us, this time-wasting habit would have decreased over the years, but it hasn’t. If anything, the more technology we have, the more distractions we have available!

You can’t measure results in time worked

But just because we’re not actively ‘working’ for eight hours a day, doesn’t mean to say we’re not being productive. The problem comes when we measure time worked, and not output. And for many office workers, our ‘product’ is knowledge or results – and these can’t simply be measured by time spent in then pursuit of them.

In fact, for many of us, we can get more done in a burst of productivity when we feel ‘in the flow’ than we can slaving away for hours when we’re not.

So how can you create and maximise peak periods of productivity at work, and use them to work smarter and faster, and deliver increased results in a shorter time? The answer, according to Steve Pavlina is ‘focus blocks’.

What are focus blocks?

Focus blocks are dedicated, highly productive 90-minute periods in which you can potentially complete a day’s worth of work. Here’s how they work in five simple steps.

1) Pick a theme

Rather than trying to randomly half-do a number of different tasks, pick one theme or task for your focus block and stick to it. This enables your brain to get into flow and become more efficient.

2) Set a clear goal

Set yourself a clear goal that you want to achieve in your focus block. Make it reasonably be achievable but ambitious. If you don’t reach it, that’s fine. But you’ll certainly be well on the way to completing it.

3) Chunk your goal into steps

Once you’ve set your goal, chunk it into achievable steps. This gives you a to-do list to work towards, to keep you on track, and to tick off, to help you feel like you have accomplished something significant.

4) Remove interruptions

Make sure that there are no interruptions while you work. If you need to, set clear boundaries. Tell people you can’t be disturbed for the next 90 minutes, and turn off your phone and email.

5) Work fast

With just 90 minutes to squeeze your goal into, there’s no time to waste. Allow that pressure to motivate and energise you and work quickly – think quickly and act quickly. 

Take proper breaks

Another good habit that Steve emphasises is the need to take real breaks. You can’t work at 100% for eight hours straight. So give yourself a planned and well-earned rest between periods of productive work.

This ensures that when you are working you’re really working, and not just treading water with an overwhelmed mind and sluggish circulation.

If you can only afford a short break, get a drink or piece of fruit, and if you can, run up and down a flight of stairs. Even better, get out of your office and walk round the block, allowing the change of air and temperature to wake you up.

If you need longer, and are able to, take it. Get out on your bike, go for a swim or watch a TV programme you enjoy. Get some mental space between you and your work.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that checking your emails or dong some mindless filing is a ‘break’. It’s not. You need to give yourself some physical and mental distance from work, even if it’s only brief.

Do a week’s worth of work in just one day

Using focus blocks properly, you can potentially accomplish a week’s worth of work in just one day, according to Steve Pavlini. With healthy breaks between blocks, you can complete as many as five or six a day. But even if you only manage two, you’ll make significant progress.

So why not try it? Whether you work for an employer or yourself, set yourself the challenge of tackling a focus block and see what you can achieve.