How do you defend your focus time?

2 min read

Earlier I wrote about the importance of making room for focus time—an interval without distractions where you allow yourself to get into “the flow” and focus not on the noisiest demands, but on the most important thing to be done for the moment. In my routine, I use a couple of tricks to carve out and defend my time for focus, which I’m happy to share.

First, I mentioned an app I loved while it was available, called Timeful. This app combined to-dos and the calendar, helping you find time for the things you wanted to do. I used the app to create one-time tasks or repeating goals, such as getting in a run three times a week. The app would find space on my calendar and add an event, so that I’d remember to do the event and others with access to my calendar would know I was busy. After an event, I could check off a task I’d done or reschedule it with a tap. In a world where it was easy to feel owned by my calendar, Timeful was my ally in finding time for what was most important to me.

A few years ago, the Timeful app and team were acquired by Google. Fans were promised it wasn’t the end for Timeful, and that the team would be working with the Google Calendar team to bring features to even more people. Eventually, a feature called Goals was announced which was an evident result of the Timeful addition.

Recently, I gave Goals a try with Google Calendar and I’ve found that while they’ve changed a little bit to fit into a general-purpose calendar app, I’m able to recreate a lot of what I loved about Timeful and the team has even added some clever touches that delighted me.

To use the Goals feature, you need to download Google Calendar for iOS or Android (Goals are not available in the web version). After downloading the app, you can, of course, connect your Google account, but you can also allow access to other calendars, including those already on your phone.

Next, set up a goal. I created two: Focus Time, and Go for a Run. You’ll be asked how frequently you want to do the activity and then the app will get started scheduling for you, using preferences you select. On other calendar apps, your scheduled goals simply show as events, and you appear busy to others during that time.

Once set up, Google Calendar does a really nice job keeping you on track for your goals. You get a notification the evening before, saying, “Focus time Tomorrow at 9:00 AM. Ready for it?” You can even use rich notification actions to choose “Later,” and Google Calendar will automatically try to find another time for you. This makes it easy to take action, even on my watch, without having to open up the app.


After an activity, you’ll get a notification checking in to see if you’ve done the task toward your goal. Again, notification actions allow you to choose Done, to check off an item, or Later, to reschedule it. As a nice touch, if you allow Google Calendar access to health data on your phone, the app automatically discovers when you’ve completed, say, a run workout, and checks it off for you. Magic.

Over time, I’ve found the Goals feature really convenient to use. I’ve set my goals just once, and now I get daily reminders, as well as booked calendar slots, for the two goals I’ve committed to. Using the Goals feature has enabled me to, well, meet my goals, and I’ve been able to consistently check off the target number of sessions for weeks now. Try the feature and see how Goals works for you, and please let me know how it goes! I’m @hey_aw on Twitter and always happy to discuss the life hacks that help people be more effective and more intentional with their time!