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Focus Challenge Day 1: Creating Time to Focus

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Focus Challenge Day 1


Today is day 1 of our 5-day Focus Challenge. Thank you for joining us!

Our goal by the end of this challenge is to help you clearly identify the one thing that will provide the most traction towards creating the future you’ve always dreamed of. But before we can really start making progress and dive into how to develop your focus muscle, we first need to make time for it. If you don’t create time on our calendar to focus, there’s a good chance you’ll never do it as you get sucked into the business of the day. You’ll get stuck putting out fires, or what Charles Hummel calls, the tyranny of the urgent.

It’s really easy to find yourself in this position. If you’re not careful, you can very quickly get stuck responding to the things that are “urgent” and you’ll end up with no time left over for the things that are important.

Important vs. Urgent

“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight Eisenhower

Former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower is credited with coming up with the follow matrix, known as The Eisenhower Box:

Eisenhower Box

This matrix breaks down everything you have to do into one of 4 categories:

  • Things that are important and urgent
  • Things that are important but not urgent
  • Things that are urgent but not important
  • Things that are neither important nor urgent

If you’re like most people, the tendency is to live your life on the left side of this matrix. Yes, you find time for some thing that are both important and urgent, but you also spend a lot of time responding to things that are “urgent” but not important. A lot of email falls into this category, for example. The average U.S. worker spends 6.3 hours per day dealing with email, but the same people also say they don’t have time to go to the gym regularly even though they say they want to work out more.

What we want to do is make mindset shift and start living our lives on the top of this matrix. You want to prioritize the things that are important but not urgent and create the time to do them consistently. That’s what this lesson in particular is all about. The truth is that unless you make time for the things that are important but not urgent and prioritize them, they will never happen. You only have a limited amount of time in your day, and unless you protect it diligently it will get used by other things that are “urgent.”

Choosing Your Big Rocks

There’s a story made popular by author Stephen Covey in the book First Things First that illustrates the importance of creating time for the important things in your life. The story goes something like this…

A professor once pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of his class. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

Jar of rocks

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked his class, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filled all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class responded. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of all this?”

One person responded that there is always time you can squeeze in a day. While that is true, it was not the point the professor wanted to get across.

“The point,” he said, “is that if you don’t put the big rocks in there first, you will not be able to get them in at all.”

Making Time for Your Big Rocks

The way you make sure you have time for your own big rocks is to put them on your calendar. For example, if you say that exercise is important to you, then you need to block off time on your calendar to go to the gym. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck at the office replying to an email that just came in or dealing with a problem your coworker brought to you right before you left for the day.

If you decide that starting a side business or writing a book is important to you, then you need to create the time to take action on it. That’s what this first lesson is all about. Be intentional about choosing what is important to you, and don’t let yourself be controlled by the “urgent” whims of others anymore.


Now it’s time for you to take action on this lesson and create time in your life for the things you’ve identified as important. We’ll clarify the things that are important a little further in tomorrow’s lesson, so this lesson is fairly simple. Look at your schedule for tomorrow and block off at least 30 minutes on your calendar as a Focus Block.

Make sure that you actually put this on your calendar so that you don’t just skip over this important step. Do this for the remaining days this week as well (Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5). This will create the space for you to complete the exercises associated with the other days in this focus challenge and provide the momentum you need to keep going even after it’s finished. If you can make this time consistent (the same time every day), even better.

Once you’ve done this lesson and created your Focus Block, let us know in the comments!

Enter the Focus Challenge Giveaway

Get a chance to win prizes and receive daily emails during the Focus Challenge:

Update: Day 2 is now ready.

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Posted by Bart  | May 22, 2017 at 7:41AM | Reply

I have read about the eisenhouwer box earlier. As my main workflow is focussed around Omnifocus, I am in debate whether I will create perspectives for these quadrants. I added the focus blocks in my agenda, which are in my mornings. Together with the process inboxes slots, my calendar is already showing productivity and I like it.

Posted by Rachel Schmitz  | May 22, 2017 at 7:59AM | Reply

I created my focus block… when you fail to plan you plan to fail (Benjamin Franklin). So I am planning to succeed and make progress on an idea/dream I’ve had this year. This is very exciting!

Posted by Jens  | May 22, 2017 at 8:16AM | Reply

Ok I have actually created entries in my calendar. Normally I hate working off of calendar entries, but I’ll give this a try 😊.

Posted by Chris  | May 22, 2017 at 9:03AM | Reply

Focus block booked for 8am every morning. Looking forward to the rest of the story.

Posted by Justin Borchardt  | May 22, 2017 at 9:25AM | Reply

Focus Block created & added! I have been meaning to go jogging for quite some time now!

Posted by Keenan Nichols  | May 22, 2017 at 10:04AM | Reply

Focus Blocks entries created.

Posted by JL  | May 22, 2017 at 10:08AM | Reply

Done! :-)

Posted by Lilie Tasuki  | May 22, 2017 at 10:33AM | Reply

Focus blockS created :) in fact, I have many projects I need to simultaneous work on so I distributed them over all the focus blocks of the day of this week according to different dead lines and priorities I need to take in account and other responsabilitie I have at work that varies daily :)

Looking forward to see how it goes! Starting today :)!

Posted by Ken  | May 22, 2017 at 10:44AM | Reply

Focus Block is done… now to apply it!

Posted by Claudie  | May 22, 2017 at 10:48AM | Reply

Done! I also wanted to point out that you spelled Stephen Covey’s name wrong (it’s Stephen not Stephon ;)

This is my first AE challenge, I’m looking forward to it!

Posted by Your Name  | May 22, 2017 at 10:50AM | Reply

calendar entry made

Posted by Stephen Green  | May 22, 2017 at 10:52AM | Reply

I was thinking exactly the same thing and then you can flag the important items ahead of others during daily planning

Posted by Sanjay  | May 22, 2017 at 10:53AM | Reply

Created focus blocks in my calendar. Had some time this afternoon that I also marked off as a focus block. Will work on my most important task in my focus block this afternoon-getting a paper finished and ready for publication.

Posted by Elmer Thomas  | May 22, 2017 at 10:53AM | Reply

This was a great reminder on the value of time boxing and setting appointments with myself. Nice work on summarizing the Eisenhower Box as well.

Good luck everyone! Time to focus and GTD!

Posted by Sam  | May 22, 2017 at 10:57AM | Reply

Focus block set everyday for half an hour
Plan to do great things!

Posted by Stephen Green  | May 22, 2017 at 10:57AM | Reply

Appointments in my calendar, have started on Wednesday morning as I am in the UK and the Focus Challenges only arrive in mid afternoon :-)

Posted by kendal  | May 22, 2017 at 10:58AM | Reply


Posted by Stewart  | May 22, 2017 at 10:58AM | Reply

Focus blocks created for the rest of the week. Two per day actually, one 30m block at 830am for planning and another at 1230pm for getting away from my desk and out of the office to sit somewhere quiet for reflection and thinking.

Will be interesting to see if I can keep to it, given that on average 50% of my day is head down and the other 50% is very much reactive work.

Posted by Jerry Murphy  | May 22, 2017 at 11:01AM | Reply

Well written and “timeless” learning. My blocks are done!

Posted by Jeff  | May 22, 2017 at 11:01AM | Reply

I have the time blocked off for focusing and am ready for day 2

Posted by Paolo  | May 22, 2017 at 11:04AM | Reply

I set my calendar for focus time, I need to build my time management, I am using GTD but superficially and I am trying to read about you AE. See you tomorrow!

Posted by Michael Dodd  | May 22, 2017 at 11:05AM | Reply

So I have blocked off a 2 hour session in the morning and a 2 hour session in the afternoon for my two key projects. My co-workers will see these blocks on the shared calendar and will be intrigued!

I have done the same for the days when I am in the office for the rest of the week.

Posted by Peter  | May 22, 2017 at 11:05AM | Reply

I created the focus block and try this 5-day challenge out of curiosity to see if I find something new or something to add to my current workflow.
My workflow consist mainly in a combination of “The ONE Thing” including Timeblocking and the 12 Week Year.

Up to the next challenge. See you tomorrow.

All the best.

Posted by SBC  | May 22, 2017 at 11:06AM | Reply

Done! Last week at the end, I followed steps to Inbox Zero in anticipation of this week – haven’t finished processing everything in the Reply folder yet… but as I can. I just revamped my Todoist system this morning but have yet to figure out how to get complicated lists into a reasonable weekly planning. I am excited about improving focus this week, and eating the frog! Thanks for your great site!

Posted by Marti  | May 22, 2017 at 11:06AM | Reply

Focus Block is on the calendar – 7:30am for the next 4 days. It was harder than I thought to actually carve out that 30 minutes a couple of days! Can’t wait to make some great changes.

Posted by Kristen Lega  | May 22, 2017 at 11:08AM | Reply


Also just wanted to mention that Stephen Covey’s book is “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, not “First Things First” (that is the name of the chapter), and his name has a typo :)

Posted by Britta  | May 22, 2017 at 11:08AM | Reply

Focus Blocks created. Excited for the upcoming days.

Posted by Leslie  | May 22, 2017 at 11:15AM | Reply

Done! Note that I share Kristen Lega’s concern about correct attribution. Focus!

Posted by Gemma Billings  | May 22, 2017 at 11:18AM | Reply

Focus block created today, spent planning my week’s priorities. Three more focus blocks scheduled for 8:30 while my reports run in the background and I can use that waiting time elsewise.

Posted by Deanne  | May 22, 2017 at 11:21AM | Reply

I’ve entered my focus time on my calendar!

Posted by Juliette  | May 22, 2017 at 11:23AM | Reply


Posted by Maaike Everts  | May 22, 2017 at 11:25AM | Reply

I have a recurring appointment on my calendar for focus!

Posted by Emily  | May 22, 2017 at 11:27AM | Reply

Challenge accepted anf completed! Hopefully doing it will be just as easy.

Posted by Lindsay  | May 22, 2017 at 11:33AM | Reply

I have some time on my hands and some goals to make progress on, so this challenge is worth a try. My Focus Blocks are scheduled.

Posted by Katherine  | May 22, 2017 at 11:34AM | Reply

Have put it on my task list for the next 5 days

Posted by Kacy  | May 22, 2017 at 11:34AM | Reply


Posted by Susan  | May 22, 2017 at 11:35AM | Reply

Done and I am still in

Posted by Andrew  | May 22, 2017 at 11:37AM | Reply

Nervous about whether this will work!!

But done!

Posted by Evelyn Georgieva  | May 22, 2017 at 11:37AM | Reply

Great article – excellent reminder on how to prioritize better my daily tasks and activities. workout and focus times – created on my calendar! Looking forward to day2 of the challenge!

Posted by Brock Shekelton  | May 22, 2017 at 11:41AM | Reply

Done! Focus Blocks down set for tomorrow and the rest of the week. Usually have trouble sticking to a calendar schedule that I set myself, but I am willing to give this a try! Looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!

Posted by Derek  | May 22, 2017 at 11:42AM | Reply


Posted by Tomas Leblanc  | May 22, 2017 at 11:45AM | Reply

Focus blocks created for all the days. Making time for big rocks theme really hits the nail with me and brings things into perspective.

Posted by John  | May 22, 2017 at 11:47AM | Reply


Posted by Liz  | May 22, 2017 at 11:49AM | Reply

I’ve addd it to my calendar at 11am each day.

Posted by Ben Phi  | May 22, 2017 at 11:54AM | Reply

Great first step, Asian Efficiency. I think it addresses a fundamental pitfall in the lives of many workers which is that of scheduling.

I as a student have always struggled with making time for things and establishing a work-life balance that works the best for me, but it was never that I was out of time, rather I never gave enough time for the things that mattered. I hope that this first step can help me and I have tried it out by blocking several half-hour and hour intervals on my calendar for this week involving course assignments that are nearing the deadline. Before this, I had not touched my calendar at all, and only used it for blocking out summer concerts and parties (you will see that I live alongside the bottom of the Eisenhower chart at the moment) but now I will use it for more meaningful things (moving to the top of the chart!) and help organize my work a lot better. This is a profound shift in my workflow of procrastination and I hope it’ll help me do well academically, I am very happy I stumbled upon this challenge!

Good luck to everyone else, I hope today’s challenge helps everyone as much as it did for me.

Posted by Vish  | May 22, 2017 at 12:05PM | Reply

Focus blocks added to my calendar!

Posted by Andrew  | May 22, 2017 at 12:07PM | Reply

30-minute “focus blocks” have been added to my calendar.

Posted by Kaity  | May 22, 2017 at 12:08PM | Reply

Planned in! I had a couple busy work days that I was originally thinking I had no time to set apart for this, but I found time both days.

Posted by B  | May 22, 2017 at 12:09PM | Reply

I created my entries, this task was easy

Posted by Johann  | May 22, 2017 at 12:11PM | Reply

Focus blocks added to the calendar and ready to go!

Posted by Juan  | May 22, 2017 at 12:12PM | Reply

I’ve just added the Focus Block challenge to my calendar.

Posted by Christopher M Williams  | May 22, 2017 at 12:12PM | Reply

Focus blocks created.

Posted by Trish  | May 22, 2017 at 12:15PM | Reply


Posted by Audrey  | May 22, 2017 at 12:17PM | Reply

Worked on my calendar to add the focus blocks and rearrange things a bit. I’d already heard of the story about the rocks, but I never really considered it until I saw the Eisenhower box and could really understand it. Looking forward to reading tomorrow’s article.

Posted by Kelly  | May 22, 2017 at 12:22PM | Reply


Posted by Kelly  | May 22, 2017 at 12:22PM | Reply

Done!! Thank you

Posted by JR  | May 22, 2017 at 12:27PM | Reply


Posted by Bill Altman  | May 22, 2017 at 12:34PM | Reply

Done – excited to learn and implement something new through this challenge. Thanks!

Posted by Kate D.  | May 22, 2017 at 12:39PM | Reply

So far, so good.

Posted by Prashant Agrawal  | May 22, 2017 at 12:41PM | Reply

This always happens to me. I spend a lot of time doing but not doing things I should be doing. Part of the reason is not having clarity what I should be doing. I always feel there’s something more important I should be working on. Also, important things usually, by design, don’t give the dopamine rush that less important, easy, quick things tend to do.

Hopefully following this thru will help put things together.

Posted by Torsten  | May 22, 2017 at 12:43PM | Reply

Let’s do this … time blocked as “Focus Block” for 30 minutes every morning.

Posted by Meg Julian  | May 22, 2017 at 12:43PM | Reply

Love this!!! I just finished listening to “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Convey. Love this idea! Great post!

Posted by Lauri  | May 22, 2017 at 12:46PM | Reply

I’m in!

Posted by Katie  | May 22, 2017 at 12:51PM | Reply


Posted by Jason  | May 22, 2017 at 12:51PM | Reply

Yes, I’m still in! I just blocked off 30 minutes at 9am each day this week for “Focus Block”, put a copy of the “The Eisenhower Box” on my desk where I will see it daily, and added a reminder to it to do those important tasks first to make sure I complete them before the end of the day comes so I won’t run out of time to do them. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s challenge exercise.

Posted by Walter Long  | May 22, 2017 at 12:54PM | Reply

Love the Eisenhower box. Had it as my screensaver for a long time. Done with scheduling my focus blocks for this week!

Posted by David Calder  | May 22, 2017 at 12:57PM | Reply


Posted by Cecilia  | May 22, 2017 at 1:07PM | Reply

Focus Block added! I just passed probation at my new job and have been using the pomodorro Chrome add on to help me keep on track when working.

Posted by Emilie  | May 22, 2017 at 1:11PM | Reply

Focus blocks added! I already block out my time in 1 hour to 1.5 hour blocks each day and give each block a letter. Then when I plan out my day in OmniFocus, I check the context to correspond to the block in which I want to do that task. Would work great if I could stop reading email in between tasks and only work on what I should be accomplishing during that block. That’s where the focus would come in handy!

Posted by Mindi Rosser  | May 22, 2017 at 1:13PM | Reply

Focus blocks have been added to my calendar. That simple action took a load off my mind this week. Thanks!

Posted by Andy  | May 22, 2017 at 1:16PM | Reply

I’m in!

Posted by Ashley  | May 22, 2017 at 1:18PM | Reply

Scheduled focus time each morning!

Posted by Eric  | May 22, 2017 at 1:28PM | Reply

Done and ready to go!

Posted by Tom  | May 22, 2017 at 1:29PM | Reply

Hi Have set a focus block at 10:00am to 11:30am for “Deep Work.” This 90 minute block will allow me to do 3 sets of 25 min pomodoros with a 5 min rest in between.

Posted by Dan  | May 22, 2017 at 1:29PM | Reply

Very familiar with the Eisenhower matrix. There’s even an iPhone app called Priority Matrix that mimics this. Hasn’t been sufficient enough for me in the past, but I’ll give it another try.

Posted by molly  | May 22, 2017 at 1:36PM | Reply

Focus blocks set!

Posted by Yasin Najib  | May 22, 2017 at 1:38PM | Reply

I created focus blocks just this morning and then this challenge came out. So cosmically reassuring.

Posted by Vaughn  | May 22, 2017 at 1:40PM | Reply

Done and In

Posted by Rick  | May 22, 2017 at 1:47PM | Reply

My commute has changed so I usually have 20-30 minutes before the official “start” of my day (I do support, so I have posted hours we tell our researchers to expect us to be available for response).

I’ve grabbed this block before I start work as my focus time, since I can definitely keep my door shut/email off/phone ignored in that time block. I’ve been using that time to plan my upcoming day, but I know I can move the planning to the last thing I do before I go home the day before.

Posted by Jayson  | May 22, 2017 at 1:47PM | Reply

I’m in… Focus block is 6:30-7:00 AM PST

Posted by Debbie  | May 22, 2017 at 1:48PM | Reply


Posted by Kfir  | May 22, 2017 at 1:50PM | Reply


Posted by Stacey  | May 22, 2017 at 1:55PM | Reply

Scheduled from 8-9 each am.

Posted by André Reis  | May 22, 2017 at 1:58PM | Reply

Great insight!
As I’m on a sabbatical leave, I can manage my time. However, having a multiple number of interests may lead to some analysis paralysis on what to do with my time.
That said, I’m booking time in my schedule until the end of the week to:
(i) Spend 1 hour of quality time with my family per day
(ii)Study for my Spanish certification (DELE) exams (to be taken in 2 months)
(iii) Prepare my Toastmasters’ roles for the week (3 meetings)
(iv) 30′ per day to keep track of my investments and the overall Brazilian stock exchange situation
(v) Jogging for 45′ per day

Posted by Beth Hayden  | May 22, 2017 at 2:02PM | Reply

My focus time has been scheduled! Excited to see tomorrow’s homework. I’ve been reading “Deep Work” as a supplement to this week, and I’m feeling inspired.

Posted by Shay Greer  | May 22, 2017 at 2:02PM | Reply

Time is blocked!

Posted by SBC  | May 22, 2017 at 2:03PM | Reply

Just finished completing my focus block used HourGlass timer app for windows to stay focused as well during this time.

Posted by Erin  | May 22, 2017 at 2:05PM | Reply

I’m in. Blocking off 30 minutes of exercise time for the next 5 days.

Posted by Tony  | May 22, 2017 at 2:08PM | Reply

Block off 30 min blocks for each day and marked them as important.

Posted by Zaf  | May 22, 2017 at 2:09PM | Reply

Focus blocked in Calendar

Posted by Chris  | May 22, 2017 at 2:10PM | Reply

I’m in… My focus blocks have been created!

Posted by Jeremy  | May 22, 2017 at 2:14PM | Reply

Done! Focus blocks are on the calendar for 8:00 AM from today and into the future. Excited to see where this challenge leads to.

Posted by Brandon  | May 22, 2017 at 2:37PM | Reply

Focus time locked in! Nothing like 6am focus time before life can happen and bring its own challenges. Alarm set as well…

Posted by Karen E Carloni  | May 22, 2017 at 2:39PM | Reply

Ok – focus blocks have been created. Looking forward to it.

BTW – I enjoyed your very recent podcast about Evernote and using tags. I really need to overhaul my Evernote usage into a system. Any suggestions for books or other resources specific to Evernote organization? I tried to align my Evernote with GTD methodology and was unsuccessful -just didn’t become a habit.

Posted by tbjohnston  | May 22, 2017 at 2:42PM | Reply

Locked in – first thing in the am

Posted by Dominik  | May 22, 2017 at 2:44PM | Reply

I added two blocks. One in the morning first thing after arriving into the office while I am still fresh. And one at 4pm when my biorhythms is up again.

Posted by Michael Peay  | May 22, 2017 at 3:01PM | Reply

Done for each day this week.

Posted by Jason Dexter  | May 22, 2017 at 3:02PM | Reply

I work remotely 1/2 the time and so this is already a pretty well established habit – But, not always. Ha! I’ve entered 2 hour blocks from 6-8am everyday for this week :)

Let’s do this!

Posted by Jeff  | May 22, 2017 at 3:07PM | Reply

On the calendar!! Looks like a great approach

Posted by Steven  | May 22, 2017 at 3:13PM | Reply

Done, blocked off time for my big rocks.

Posted by Marcin  | May 22, 2017 at 3:17PM | Reply

Focus block added to my calendar. I’ve also blocked time for exercise because just like in your example, I’ve always had something “urgent” during the day…

Posted by Tim  | May 22, 2017 at 3:19PM | Reply

I actually have two periods for focus thinking. The first time of focus thinking is included as part of my morning routine and then the second block of focus thinking as prior to my work shutdown routine.

Posted by Kris  | May 22, 2017 at 3:24PM | Reply

A great confirmation of things I have been teaching groups of men at our church for years – our group was even nicknamed “Big Rocks” – but as I say to them often I am constantly having to refresh myself on the “big rocks” and I SO need the encouragement to do this myself. Focus block created in ToDoist.

Posted by Laco  | May 22, 2017 at 3:35PM | Reply


Posted by Karen  | May 22, 2017 at 3:37PM | Reply

I’ve scheduled blocks of time for important tasks.

Posted by Wei Wu  | May 22, 2017 at 3:58PM | Reply

This is the first day of my challenge and I already get the “Big Rocks” scheduled. I hope I can keep good habit constantly.

Posted by Justin  | May 22, 2017 at 3:58PM | Reply

Nine o’clock time blocks scheduled for big rocks 🙂

Posted by Justus  | May 22, 2017 at 4:01PM | Reply

I have blocked every morning 1,5 hours, starting at 5:30. This week that is practically the only time I can block for focus time, with two young kids and a holiday week. All right, I am ready.

Posted by Radoslaw  | May 22, 2017 at 4:05PM | Reply

Done. Set it up between 8:30 and 9:00 every morning. It is the rush hour and I go to the office later to avoid traffic. I used to spend this time block for emails – now I will switch to important.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Posted by Anil  | May 22, 2017 at 4:14PM | Reply

Focus block created

Posted by Art Wheat  | May 22, 2017 at 4:14PM | Reply

Focus blocks added for the remainder of the week.

Posted by Katie  | May 22, 2017 at 4:17PM | Reply

Focus Blocks scheduled. Let’s hope that my children will actually cooperate at it will be a challenge of leaving me alone for 30 minutes.

Posted by Ryan Smith  | May 22, 2017 at 4:17PM | Reply

I just did a serious evaluation of my calendar and added a focus block everyday at 7 am. I’m ready for this!

Posted by Shane  | May 22, 2017 at 4:22PM | Reply

Focus Blocks have been scheduled for today & tomorrow! I am studying like a madman for Step 1 (MD school boards), but decided to schedule exercise/mindfulness into my block. My health often takes a back seat—but I am confident that the extra 30-60m for each Focus Block will also improve my studying efficacy. Thanks for the extra motivation my Asian friends

Posted by Bob DeSilets  | May 22, 2017 at 4:33PM | Reply

I’ve scheduled my focus blocks for 2pm tomorrow, Wednesday, and Friday. I’ve got an all-day event scheduled for Thursday, so I’ll have to carve out some time around that, but I should be good to go. Thank you for providing the challenges and giving me an incentive to make progress!

Posted by Ravi Agarwal  | May 22, 2017 at 4:38PM | Reply

Couldn’t agree more. Been going through this these days more often hoping to get back to relatively normal by pursuing this series.

Though I still believe most of this can be solved/reduced significantly once we conquer the art of categorizing our tasks into above quadrants as in which tasks should go in which quadrant.

Posted by Divaldo  | May 22, 2017 at 4:44PM | Reply

First thing on my calendar tomorrow! Let’s do it!

Posted by Tracy Winchell  | May 22, 2017 at 4:54PM | Reply

Focus block added.

Posted by Kim  | May 22, 2017 at 4:55PM | Reply

Making time to focus now … blocked off time on my calendar. Great exercise! Thanks for tip.

Posted by Dale  | May 22, 2017 at 5:01PM | Reply

Good to get back on track and do this again! Focus Block added (again) to my rituals.

Posted by JC  | May 22, 2017 at 5:04PM | Reply

Posted time to tomorrow!

Posted by TRACY  | May 22, 2017 at 5:11PM | Reply

Focus block added, for 7am for the next 4 days.

Posted by Sten Morten  | May 22, 2017 at 5:15PM | Reply

Focus block added – for morning study-time. This challenge comes in handy in establishing my morning ritual. Also blocked time for writing at work…

Posted by Julian  | May 22, 2017 at 5:22PM | Reply

I love the Eisenhower concept. As a full-time student and full-time employee for a big company, I am always trying to be productive rather than busy.
This reminder will help me get back to the focus I really need! Thanks @AE!

Posted by Michael  | May 22, 2017 at 5:26PM | Reply

I like the idea. Set my focus blocks..

Posted by Mark  | May 22, 2017 at 5:26PM | Reply

(4) 5AM Focus Blocks are locked in. Crunches and Push-ups upon waking. Should get the blood flowing! Looking forward to what tomorrow brings.

Posted by Alice  | May 22, 2017 at 5:32PM | Reply

Set my focus block for 8:30 am. My challenge is that my best focus time is a time when I have other demands on me from my family’s schedule, so I have to adjust a bit.

Posted by Andrew Edwards  | May 22, 2017 at 5:33PM | Reply

8:30am (GMT) Focus block – blocked.

(Love that message, I get a similar one emailed to myself to read back every month – With additional beer thrown in)

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed..

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.

Posted by Ben Phi  | May 22, 2017 at 5:34PM | Reply

Checking in after my first few focus blocks done today.

I feel great! I do not understand why the power of calendar scheduling is very powerful, but something about putting my urgent and important tasks on the calendar commands me to try and complete the task on time. And when I do have to commit to the task, I have more focus and energy than before. Where I used to do tasks according to my own mood, I now do tasks according to the calendar schedule I have set forth for myself. This is a very powerful tip that I underestimated before this challenge, but I can easily see myself integrating it into my workflow daily (I am writing focus blocks whenever I get a task, as well as doing so for the next day every night) and getting lots done. I am already getting lots of items off of my task list that I seldom attended to before blocking them out on the calendar, and I am happy to see that they are completed.

Can’t wait for more tips! I already feel more efficient

Posted by Cicely  | May 22, 2017 at 5:40PM | Reply


Posted by Chris  | May 22, 2017 at 5:45PM | Reply

Done. thanks guys for the challange

Posted by Felipe  | May 22, 2017 at 5:47PM | Reply

Done! 4 blocks on my calendar :)

Posted by Robert  | May 22, 2017 at 5:52PM | Reply

Focus block scheduled.

Posted by Paul Bunkham  | May 22, 2017 at 5:57PM | Reply

I need my focused time to be early in the morning and as I’m 5 hours ahead, I’ve set my blocks to start on Wednesday and finish on Saturday.

Looking forward to the next step tomorrow!

Posted by Sara  | May 22, 2017 at 5:57PM | Reply

I am in

Posted by Byron  | May 22, 2017 at 5:58PM | Reply

Focus Block scheduled.

Posted by Sarah  | May 22, 2017 at 6:07PM | Reply

Focus block scheduled for tomorrow

Posted by Craig Watson  | May 22, 2017 at 6:09PM | Reply

I have scheduled my Focus Block and started reading Deep Work, I am looking forward to the next few days

Posted by Peter  | May 22, 2017 at 6:11PM | Reply


I’ve been aware about this concept for a long time, but actually I’ve not executed it yet.

So let’s try it tomorrow and see, how it works! :)

I scheduled my focus time for 8AM.

Looking to hear from you guys tommorow.

Posted by Oren  | May 22, 2017 at 6:34PM | Reply

Done :)

Posted by Jackie  | May 22, 2017 at 6:37PM | Reply

Focus Block is scheduled for the morning, first thing after exercising and right before plunging into work, although I checked this late and already missed my time frame. (I’m making time for it tonight, though!) Hoping this challenge will help me in the long run!

Posted by Jeri Feaster  | May 22, 2017 at 6:40PM | Reply

The focus blocks are scheduled. Wisely, I chose a time just after everyone gets out of my house for the day.

Posted by Kenneth  | May 22, 2017 at 6:42PM | Reply

Google calendar actually has something to help plan for these blocks if anyone has difficulty finding consistent blocks. Google looks through your calendar and schedule these sessions. It’s called goal. Instead of adding event, add a goal and you can even track it!

I have done my start of day planning for many months now and it’s useful. I have a start of week reflection as well to see what I have done in the past and how I can do better this week.

Posted by Laurie  | May 22, 2017 at 6:57PM | Reply

Focus blocks scheduled at 5 am (eep!). I’ve been waking up at that time in order to have time for exercise, but I haven’t been doing it. Time to do better!

Posted by jmcruz  | May 22, 2017 at 7:01PM | Reply

I always have regular time blocks every evening (or “focus blocks” as you call it), every day, 7x a week, 1.5 – 2 hrs, starts at 8:00 – 8:30 depending on how i wrap-up my daddy duties. I no longer put it in my calendar, but it’s in my time table & i keep it as my routine and habit.

i like how you call it as “Focus Blocks”. but blocking a time slot for your focus blocks won’t still make you completely focused. you still have to eliminate distractions & i carefully spent this time in “isolation” mode.

Posted by Jay  | May 22, 2017 at 7:06PM | Reply

I have book the time in my diary and tried where I can to keep it the same time each day.

Posted by Sandeep  | May 22, 2017 at 7:23PM | Reply

Focus block has been added to my calendar for the whole week. First thing after reaching office.

Posted by Shelly D.  | May 22, 2017 at 7:31PM | Reply

Focus time blocked on the calendar!

Posted by Kaloyan Atanasov  | May 22, 2017 at 7:37PM | Reply

All done. Evey day, 12.00 – 12.30 PM PST

See you all tomorrow.

Posted by John H. Miller  | May 22, 2017 at 7:39PM | Reply

Mission Accomplished… I’m going to add focus time to my morning routine each morning. I was familiar with the Eisenhower box and the Big Rocks analogy. In fact, I just shared it with my students last week!

Posted by Teresa  | May 22, 2017 at 7:41PM | Reply

lets get this party started

Posted by Mark Hogan  | May 22, 2017 at 8:08PM | Reply

Focus blocks in the diary

Posted by Amy Smith  | May 22, 2017 at 8:32PM | Reply

Got my focus block created. Interested to know how many of us are able to keep the same time each day.

Posted by Lynn E. O  | May 22, 2017 at 8:44PM | Reply


Posted by Kim Cross  | May 22, 2017 at 8:56PM | Reply

Putting it in my paper agenda and also setting a reminder on my phone.

Posted by Joe  | May 22, 2017 at 8:57PM | Reply

Done! Ready for the next step!

Posted by Ken Choat  | May 22, 2017 at 9:07PM | Reply

I have my plan well thought out in my head and a brief summary on paper. Looking forward to advancing the ball down the field!

Posted by Linh  | May 22, 2017 at 9:07PM | Reply

Blocked time in the morning to do some active coding learning! Usually, I save this to the end of the day, and at that time I’m too tired, and since it’s not part of immediate work, I keep postponing it :'(

Posted by Rosalia Hubbard  | May 22, 2017 at 9:18PM | Reply

Done! Set for 8 every morning. I am so excited. I’m in such an overwhelmed, non productive state right now I know this will be the kick in the butt I need to get into gear.

Posted by Lei Huang  | May 22, 2017 at 9:28PM | Reply

Done! I read this article in the morning and set my Focus Block for today.

Posted by Neil  | May 22, 2017 at 9:31PM | Reply

Genius and done! Looking forward to 2 of 5.

Posted by Barb  | May 22, 2017 at 9:31PM | Reply

Focus block is on the calendar. Now to make myself get up early enough to follow through!

Posted by Newton Mota  | May 22, 2017 at 9:31PM | Reply

I already have a daily Focus Block in my calendar. But I created additional ones for every day of my challenge. Looking forward to check the next days tips.

Posted by Joe D  | May 22, 2017 at 9:34PM | Reply

Focus block booked. This is a good week for it, lots going on.

Posted by Jonathan  | May 22, 2017 at 9:36PM | Reply

I live my day in 4 areas, up before kids time (work or exercise), kids time, work time, kids & family time & then work time (I’m a single dad). to work focus time into my day, I have scheduled 3 blocks, 1 just before bed, so I know what to do in the first 2 time slots, then 1 after school drop off and another after dinner to focus what I need to finish in a day…. hopefully that makes sense.

Posted by Aliona  | May 22, 2017 at 9:37PM | Reply

Focus block is on the calendar.

Posted by Dylan de Jong  | May 22, 2017 at 9:43PM | Reply


Posted by Lori  | May 22, 2017 at 10:14PM | Reply

30 minute blocks created for the next 4 days. Ready to get focused!

Posted by Eric S  | May 22, 2017 at 10:15PM | Reply

4:30am to 5:00am now blocked as focus time. And alarm clock set to get up 30 mins earlier….

Posted by Hema  | May 22, 2017 at 10:18PM | Reply


Posted by Jessica  | May 22, 2017 at 10:20PM | Reply

Blocks are scheduled!

Posted by Susi  | May 22, 2017 at 10:22PM | Reply

Done! Focus block added to calendar.

Posted by SUE  | May 22, 2017 at 10:27PM | Reply


Posted by Rohit Kedia  | May 22, 2017 at 10:29PM | Reply

Created focus block!

Posted by SEW  | May 22, 2017 at 10:49PM | Reply


Posted by Lance  | May 22, 2017 at 10:55PM | Reply

Focus blocked out for 5:30 AM.

Posted by Dave R  | May 22, 2017 at 10:57PM | Reply

Done – focus block added.

Posted by Joel  | May 22, 2017 at 11:45PM | Reply

Done-zo! ✔

Posted by Jon Surratt  | May 22, 2017 at 11:56PM | Reply

Completed. Looking fwd to next days’ challenges.

Posted by Dave W  | May 22, 2017 at 11:58PM | Reply

Better late than never. Focus time set aside for tomorrow.

Posted by Michael  | May 23, 2017 at 12:01AM | Reply

Focus block created after school each day. Curious to see its effect!

Posted by DeNicea  | May 23, 2017 at 12:05AM | Reply

All set in calendar!

Posted by Shez Patel  | May 23, 2017 at 12:17AM | Reply

Done. And the Eisenhower matrix has been a life saver

Posted by Dhruv  | May 23, 2017 at 12:24AM | Reply

Focus block created for 8am IST. Looking forward to implementing it everyday!

Posted by Luciano Rizzi  | May 23, 2017 at 12:34AM | Reply

Focus blocks created for all the week.

Posted by Ola B  | May 23, 2017 at 12:47AM | Reply

I have created a block. Since I live in Norway I will be one day behind you guys. Getting the email updates late in the evening here, I will need to get the job done one day after the rest of the group. That is also a challenge when I want to watch webinars. They are always running after working hours (focus on family) or after bedtime.

Posted by Pat L  | May 23, 2017 at 12:57AM | Reply

I just created a Focus Block for 1 hour each day from Tues – Sunday at 9:00 am! Got my pomodoro app ready too. :)

Posted by Mandlods  | May 23, 2017 at 1:36AM | Reply

I have seen the Eisenhower box before but had forgotten about it. Prioritising has been on my mind lately because my life feels out of control. This matrix makes is super easy to see how I can practically set up what is a priority and what isn’t of my different activities. I have set up my focus block for first thing when I get to the office ( i get here an hour before my co workers come in).

Posted by Brian Shin  | May 23, 2017 at 1:45AM | Reply

Focus blocks created for the week! Insane how little space it takes up on the calendar, puts it in perspective how easy it should be to put the time aside and GTD!

Posted by Chris  | May 23, 2017 at 2:38AM | Reply

Was all ready for Day 2, had my time booked for 730am UK time….nothing!! Very disappointing!

Posted by Dalia  | May 23, 2017 at 2:40AM | Reply

Focus blocks are in the calendar :)

Posted by Theresa  | May 23, 2017 at 2:48AM | Reply


Posted by Tom S  | May 23, 2017 at 3:12AM | Reply

Got my blocks on my calendar.

Posted by dtj  | May 23, 2017 at 4:26AM | Reply

Had my best exercise day since getting my Apple Watch, or so it notified me. 111 mins vs 30 min goal, thanks to mowing the lawn and coaching lacrosse. Didn’t hit my 10k step goal, but came close.

Posted by Stephen  | May 23, 2017 at 4:43AM | Reply

Focus blocks created. My biggest issue will be in respecting them when they arrive.

Posted by Erzsebet  | May 23, 2017 at 5:16AM | Reply

I have created my focus block. :)

Posted by Andrew  | May 23, 2017 at 5:43AM | Reply


Posted by Karen  | May 23, 2017 at 6:19AM | Reply

Focus block added daily for the week…actually through June. Found at that my office is being moved in the next two weeks. A few extra things on my calendar that were unplanned so really need this blocked time more than ever.

Posted by Linda Maye Adams  | May 23, 2017 at 6:55AM | Reply

Done … couldn’t do it at the same time every day because of a meeting, but most of the blocks are at the same time.

I had started putting on a scheduled time for my side hustle of fiction writing in the evening. I was surprised to find that it really motivated me to go do it, and that if I didn’t have it on there (the weekend), it was harder to get to.

Posted by Maree  | May 23, 2017 at 7:52AM | Reply

Focus blocks have been entered in my calendar. I do see the need to block out time for the important things in my life. Thank you.

Posted by Amanda Watson  | May 23, 2017 at 7:59AM | Reply

Done! 30 mins blocked each day!

Posted by Omar  | May 23, 2017 at 8:03AM | Reply

I have really struggled to make this happen in the past, but here’s to hoping that some accountability will give me the constraints needed.

The trouble is, as a new parent, the overwhelming majority of my work is in the urgent but not all that important category. Switching out of reactive mode is a challenge!

Anyway, blocks of time are now on my calendar. =D

Posted by Eanna Black  | May 23, 2017 at 8:19AM | Reply

Up and and scheduled

Posted by Richard  | May 23, 2017 at 8:24AM | Reply

Locked in – looking forward to the challenges ahead….with a slight amount of trepidation :-P

Posted by Josh Gibbon  | May 23, 2017 at 8:50AM | Reply

So I decided to use this first challenge to not only book my Focus Blocks, but to actually get back into the whole concept of block-booking my calendar (thanks for introducing it to me AE & Kendra!)and I can’t believe how instantly I have been enjoying the benefits. I used to be good at this, but somewhere along the way, I lost it. And now, after less than a day I don’t know how I’ve done this long without it.

I’ve used colours to differentiate categories so that I can visualise my week at a glance, I’ve made sure to prioritise ‘me time’ to balance out the work commitments and I’ve even set aside each morning, night and my first ten minutes of my work day where I can go through my various morning rituals (and actually start doing my rituals ^_^). I think this course is going to be the trigger that reminds me of all the things you’ve already taught us, and inspires me to take action on them once again – along with the tools to do it right!

If this is how motivated and energise after one day, then I’m so excited to see what’s coming next

Posted by Steve Nikiforuk  | May 23, 2017 at 9:31AM | Reply

Nothing I haven’t heard, but haven’t made it happen with AE consistency. I do block off time (thank also to AE and Kendra) but for my business activitiesI have not created the habit of what (other than for meetings) I am blocking it off for.

Posted by Joe  | May 23, 2017 at 9:38AM | Reply

Blocked and ready!

Posted by Anh  | May 23, 2017 at 10:09AM | Reply

I have set a Focus Block in the morning now.

Posted by Sarah Jackson  | May 23, 2017 at 10:46AM | Reply

Focus Block created! Thank you for getting me focused on the basics this week!

Posted by Jerry Barron  | May 23, 2017 at 10:54AM | Reply

Focus blocks created. Looking forward to a productive week.

Posted by Jason  | May 23, 2017 at 11:05AM | Reply

Focus block added to my calendar for 4 days. Thanks!

Posted by Kristie Lemauga  | May 23, 2017 at 12:03PM | Reply

Focus blocks are officially on the calendar!

Posted by Janeson  | May 23, 2017 at 12:35PM | Reply

Focus block created on calendar. Time to use it!

Posted by Don Schulte  | May 23, 2017 at 1:11PM | Reply

Focus blocks are in for every day this week. Ready!

Posted by Gail Nott  | May 23, 2017 at 1:28PM | Reply

My focus block will be when my nephew is napping, which is usually around 11am every day.

Posted by Kimi  | May 23, 2017 at 2:01PM | Reply

Focus Blocks scheduled for the week. Though this is posted late, I did spend Focus time yesterday.

Posted by Joyce  | May 23, 2017 at 2:05PM | Reply

Focus blocks are already a part of my calendar :)

Posted by Phill Coxon  | May 23, 2017 at 2:09PM | Reply

Arrived back in town to join the focus challenge. Focus block in place for 6am each morning. :D

Posted by Tanner Gronowski  | May 23, 2017 at 2:20PM | Reply

Put the focus block in my calendar! Excited, having it listed makes me more organized and will help with my post night shift focus when my brain is melted.

Posted by Hank Xu  | May 23, 2017 at 2:48PM | Reply

Done. Looking forward to how this could start changing my life. :)

Posted by John Bowersox  | May 23, 2017 at 3:48PM | Reply

All scheduled and ready to go!

Posted by Jung  | May 23, 2017 at 4:39PM | Reply

I view my focus block as more of the time for review and list making. It feels like me time and helps me feel prepared for the rest of the day. I am resistant to blocking out time on the calendar, though I understand the reasoning for doing so. Partly because I have a mental block :) against the constraints of adding yet another calendarized appointment. Partly because my days are never the same and much of it is beyond my control (really), due to the nature of what I do and the environments I do it in, etc. etc.
But because I get a lot done every day, I usually give myself the freedom to do them in the order of mood whenever possible. However, I definitely need help in just focusing, period, during the golden times I have to myself, to focus on the big rocks and avoid getting obsessive on non-essentials.

Posted by Elizabeth C  | May 23, 2017 at 4:53PM | Reply

Excellent encouragement! I now have a focus block in my calendar. Will start with 30 minutes this week and expand it to a regular two hour block. Counter-intuitively I chose early afternoon (2 pm), rather than a more obvious morning time slot. I am hoping that this will allow other work, interruptions and meetings to be dealt with early, leaving the later time for focused work.

Posted by Greg Burgess  | May 23, 2017 at 6:17PM | Reply

Focus blocks created!

Posted by Amanda  | May 23, 2017 at 6:59PM | Reply

Blocks created! Going to set aside 30 minutes in the morning and another 30 minutes in the evening to focus on exercise and a personal growth project. squeezing some time in before the kids get up and again once they’ve gone down for the night!

Posted by Andrew Frost  | May 23, 2017 at 8:49PM | Reply

Focus blocks entered into my calendar first thing after my morning ritual

Posted by Sarah  | May 23, 2017 at 9:42PM | Reply

This is not a matter of doing something “new”, but of applying something I know I already should be doing. Sometimes, it’s enticing to chase something “new”, when it would be more beneficial to apply something known. Thanks for the reminder! Time scheduled for tomorrow.

Posted by Michelle Peppy  | May 23, 2017 at 10:11PM | Reply

Scheduled a day late but done!

Posted by Morgan  | May 23, 2017 at 10:25PM | Reply


Posted by Simon  | May 24, 2017 at 12:54AM | Reply

I ignore my calendar blocks as there’s always something more important (urgent?) to do, or people around to distract me. HELP!!

Posted by Chandler  | May 24, 2017 at 8:05AM | Reply

Focus time: blocked off :D

Posted by Kris Kuriger  | May 24, 2017 at 8:54AM | Reply

I have every morning at 6am blocked off for my morning routine! Ready to go!

Posted by Benson Hoi  | May 24, 2017 at 10:27AM | Reply

Focus time: blocked off in Google Calendar!

Posted by Jessie  | May 24, 2017 at 12:52PM | Reply


Posted by Di  | May 24, 2017 at 5:48PM | Reply

Ok done!! 2 blocks daily, one for planning in the mornings and the other for exercise and reflection.

Posted by Dan Brocklebank  | May 25, 2017 at 3:11AM | Reply

This was such a valuable exercise! I so often get flustered and overwhelmed by everything I have to do. I’m diligent about making lists, but figuring out what tasks should take priority is often a struggle. Thank you for this.

Posted by david robbins jr  | May 25, 2017 at 10:41AM | Reply

Made my focus block from 9 to 10

Posted by Śvani  | May 25, 2017 at 9:59PM | Reply

Big rocks, I’ve got.
Focus blocks are harder b-c my best focus times are mornings & I tend to spend those in meetings.

Posted by Melissa  | June 1, 2017 at 2:30PM | Reply

It’s amazing how much one little block of time can do. Planning to work an entire day, I’ve found, is typically less effective than planning specific blocks with breaks. If I’m feeling really in the zone, I could skip or push off a break, but not having them at all typically overwhelms me to the point of doing next to nothing.

Posted by César orlando Pallares Delgado  | September 8, 2017 at 4:17PM | Reply

I have saved the space for the block focus. I have so many big rocks, that I have to deal with it

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