How I Used “Blocking” to Massively Improve My Focus — and Create Healthy Work Boundaries

Upwork recently published a report predicting a remote U.S. workforce of 36.2 million by 2025. I have been, and will continue to be, in that cohort.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’ve long struggled with burning the midnight oil — no lines separate the personal and professional — and engaging in too many activities at one time, which means my focus is often shot.

I’m not alone: Articles (like this one) flood the internet with tips on how to maximize productivity without burning out or damaging personal relationships. They’re particularly salient for business leaders and CEOs who are go-go-go all the time.

Still, I’ve found these tips to be hit or miss. Granted, you have to find a formula that works for you, but I set up the “Blocking” Rule up for myself and found that it’s remarkably successfully.

  • First, think of your workspace and work day as an office block, distinct from your home/living block. It has boundaries. So, set those boundaries — keeping in mind what you need to get done. If you want to set work hours of 9am to 5pm, then make these your regular work day in your calendar and communication platforms. (Pro tip: You can even set alarms on your phone for the start and end of the work day as reminders.)

  • Within your work day, set up blocks of time for work. I recommend setting these up based on type of work and how long that work usually takes. (You’ll need to work around meetings, of course, though you can create a separate block to keep them together.)

    Here’s an example:

    • 9am-10am: Email Block
    • 10am-11am: Open
    • 11am-12pm: Focused Writing Block
    • 12pm-2pm: Open
    • 2pm-3pm: Strategy Drafting & Review Block
    • 3pm-4pm: Reporting Block
    • 4pm-5pm: Open

    These don’t have to be the same every day, but be sure you put them on your calendar and set your status to “Busy” so others know you’re occupied. Also, keep in mind that these are sacred, focus time blocks; don’t try to do eight things at once. Just one type of work/one project for the duration of the time block.

  • Remember to treat your physical workspace as the “office.” When the end of the day hits, close up and leave it behind. If at all possible, set up your workspace in an alcove, corner, or separate room that you can easily cordon or close off from the rest of your living space. I even put a divider in place so I can’t see my desk — when I can’t see it, there’s no temptation to dive in on that next project.

  • As an optional blocking exercise, consider blocking out 15 minutes here and there throughout your day to get away from your workspace. Again, think about it like an office — you likely wouldn’t sit at your desk all day. You’d get water or coffee, sit in the break room for a few minutes, or go out to lunch. These brief departures from screen-staring give you a chance to de-stress, reset, and recharge, setting you up for maximum productivity the rest of your day.

  • Lastly, block those feeling of guilt. This is your work, your business, your choice. Set yourself up for success by creating the right boundaries between personal and professional time.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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