A Simple “Block Time” Technique That Will Increase Your Productivity

The key to getting things done is allocate time to do the work and to guard that time preciously as you would water in the desert. If you leave an inch, a slew of distractions will assault your time like scavengers feasting on a carcass.

In theory, this sounds simple. But, because distractions are fierce and relentless, it can be quite challenging. Thus, you must be intransigent when it comes to dealing with distractions.

A “Block Time” Technique

One productivity technique that, if you adopt, will dramatically increase your productivity is that of “block time”. That is, you block a period of time when you do nothing else than the task at hand. You don’t answer the phone, check your notifications, reply to emails, verify the number of likes on a Facebook post, etc. You do nothing else but the task at hand.

A popular “block time” technique that many—including me—use successfully is the Pomodoro technique, a technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s.

There’s plenty of information on this technique online, but here are the basic steps:

  1. Set your timer to 25 minutes.
  2. Start your timer and work on the task at hand until the timer rings (i.e. work for 25 minutes); the important thing here is that, during that time, you block out any distraction.
  3. When the timer rings, stop what you’re doing and take a 5-minute break. After your 5-minute break, you’ve completed a “Pomodoro” cycle. Repeat this cycle.

In the classic Pomodoro technique, you complete 4 Pomodoros (i.e. 2 hours in total) and then take a longer break. Usually, about a 30-minute break.

A block of 25 minutes (plus a 5-minute break) works well because it’s not too long that you feel drained at the end, but it’s long enough to make enough progress on your work. Plus, because it’s not too long, you can usually fit at least one Pomodoro even on days when you’re running all over the place like a kid let loose in a toy store.

Plus, because it’s not too long, you can usually fit at least one Pomodoro even on days when you’re running all over the place like a kid let loose in a toy store.

In addition, this technique can come to your the rescue on days when you’re not as focused as you’d like, and thus, aren’t getting much done (perhaps because you’re procrastinating). In such days, committing to performing one Pomodoro can be all it takes to open the dams of productivity.

Often, after you’ve done your first Pomodoro, you’ll do another and another, and before you know it, your work will be done (and your day will be “rescued”).

Variations on the Technique

The standard Pomodoro cycle is 30 minutes (25 minutes of work plus 5 minutes of break). However, you don’t have to be a prisoner of these timeframes. The important part is the practice of “block time”: a time when nothing other than the task at hand gets your attention. Whether that time is 25 minutes or 10 minutes or 45 minutes is up to you. Not everyone has the same level of energy and the available time may vary.

The important part is the practice of “block time”: a time when nothing other than the task at hand gets your attention. Whether that time is 25 minutes or 10 minutes or 45 minutes is up to you. Not everyone has the same level of stamina.

In the end, you must experiment and see what works best for you.

I have used 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 45 minutes, even 1-hour cycles. I change the lengths to suit my needs. For example, I have done 10 minutes writing sprints, during which I have produced about 500 words (in one sprint). That’s not bad for 10 minutes of focused work. 10 minutes might be a waste of time for some of your tasks; hence you should experiment with various time spans and use common sense.

For some of your tasks, 10 minutes might be too little to get anything worthwhile done; hence you should experiment with various time spans and use common sense.

This simple “block time” technique can dramatically increase your productivity.