With texting, emailing, Skyping and more, we’ve become a 24/7 culture where the lines between working and living life haven’t just been blurred. For many us, they’ve disappeared completely.

How many of you have read email late at night, laying in bed? Or on vacation? Or first thing in the morning, before your feet hit the floor?

Here’s the thing: With technology’s ability to reach us all over the globe, we need to find a way to disconnect when needed, despite it.

On the flip side, being productive outside the office can be important, too.

We shouldn’t have the mentality that if we leave work we can’t work anymore. For working mothers and traveling employees (and working moms who are traveling employees), it’s especially important to be able to be productive outside the four walls of work.

Laptop Work College Mom

Working & Playing: It’s a State of Mind

“I’ve had to travel extensively for work, both as a road warrior locally and to trade shows nationally for different employers, all while raising a family,” said Carol Archebelle, the Digital Media Manager for Foundations Wellness Center. “What I found was that you can work from anywhere, it’s about your ability to focus…and what you need personally in order to do that. You can work at a busy Starbucks, but maybe in order to focus you need headphones, or to sit facing a wall.”

Turns out, the key to getting stuff done in an “always on” world is managing your focus.

Said another way, it’s being able to be fully immersed in the present moment, whether you are working, socializing, exercising, spending time with your significant other or kids, or even watching a movie. You need to be able to make the mental switch to your next activity when needed…and stay there until it’s time for the next task.  

Multi-Tasking? There is No Such Thing

Problem is, too much switching back and forth is not productive.

Research shows that multitasking is a myth. In fact, you are losing time and energy as your mind completes the mental processes necessary to focus on a new task. People who regularly engage in multitasking get less done and make more mistakes. Witness the fact that it takes 23 minutes to recover from distractions, whether it’s an email or an unexpected drop-in.

What is the solution, then? Just two words: time blocking.  

A Block in Time Saves Nine

Basically, time blocking is a method by which you focus on one thing at a time. If you are at work, for example, and you have to write a report, you should focus on that task exclusively. Don’t check email, social media or your phone for a block of time (say, an hour).

Not only are you able to become fully engaged in the task, you can get more done than if you allowed those interruptions to disrupt your attention. You’ll be more productive and use less energy this way.

Conversely, when it’s time to focus on your personal life, don’t check work emails or watch TV while engaged in activities with your friends, for example.

Once again, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that you can do more than one thing at once. What you are actually doing is switching back and forth between tasks, and there is a price to pay for doing that.

Ready to give time blocking a try? You could start by blocking out your schedule for just one week. This can be done on your phone’s calendar app, an Outlook calendar, or even on a sheet of paper. You simply schedule out one task at a time to be completed.

A DeskTime study showed that the most productive workers worked for 52 minutes and then took a 17-minute break. Following this formula, schedule a new task (or a continuation of a task) every 1 hour and 10 minutes. These long stretches of interruption-free time followed by short breaks should make big differences in your level of productivity.