Ian shares a real-life example of implementing some of the tips and strategies from the book into his firm.

Following a discussion of the basic principles of the book, the trade mark fee earners and support staff agreed to:

  • Transition from WhatsApp to Teams – prior to the discussion, both systems were being used and it was agreed instead to focus on just one platform
  • Turn off all email pop-up notifications, all Teams pop-up notifications and other distractions
  • Introduce focused time
  • Introduce an emergency contact protocol
  • Be mindful of appropriate use of emails.

Focused time

We agreed to only send meeting invites for 10am and noon, and 2pm and 4pm . We avoided arranging new meetings during these periods wherever possible, and rearranged existing meetings. 

Note, it was not forbidden to send emails and Teams messages during these periods but we agreed that one should not expect a reply – thus we did not need to check emails and Teams during these periods,  allowing everyone to focus on their work. We agreed that if a reply was needed before the end of the focused time, then the emergency protocol would be used.

Emergency protocol

We devised an emergency protocol that would override use of email: to call the person you need to contact on Teams, or speak to them face-to-face if you are both in the office.


Trial participants agreed to turn off all email pop-up notifications, all Teams pop-up notifications and other distractions during the trial.

Appropriate use of email

All participants in the trial were invited to think about what is and what is not good use of instant messaging outside of defined workflows. We agreed that instant messaging is generally not suited for any long messages or messages that are likely to prompt a group discussion. We decided that meetings should be arranged in place of those long or complicated messages.

Outcome – 1 month

The new system was reviewed after one month.   

The ultimate goal, from a business perspective, may be seen as an improvement in productivity that directly influences the charges to clients. However, the variation in workloads from day to day and week to week, particularly in a trade mark practice, and the lack of availability of a control group, makes it difficult to isolate the benefit of any initiative in relation to billed and booked hours. 

A subsidiary goal can be seen as an improvement in engagement and work satisfaction, which is more subjective but should lead indirectly to the ultimate goal of improved productivity.

At the one-month point, participants were asked to give feedback:

1.     How do you feel focused time helped your productivity?

50% positive, 25% neutral, 25% negative

2.     I am more/less able to concentrate on the things I need to do

75% positive, 16% neutral, 8% negative

3.     I feel a greater sense of achievement as a result of the reduction in distraction

50% positive, 33% neutral, 17% negative

Revision for next phase

For the next phase of the trial we made some adjustments. We re-emphasised that instant messaging can still be used but that participants should not expect a response outside of the focused time. 

In response to negative feedback from some participants regarding focused time, the meeting invites relating to focused time were changed from “busy” to “free”, as the busy status was impacting interactions with departments not involved in the trial, clients, and forcing some meetings outside of normal working hours. However, we agreed that the time would remain blocked out as a reminder.

A review was made of the “status options” in Teams to allow better visibility of someone’s status prior to contacting them.

Outcome – 3 months

At the end of three months, participants were asked again for  feedback, comparing that position with their feelings before the start of the trial:

1.     How do you feel focused time helped your productivity?

46% positive, 54% neutral, 0% negative

2.     I am more/less able to concentrate on the things I need to do

46% positive, 54% neutral, 0% negative

3.     I feel a greater sense of achievement as a result of the reduction in distraction

38% positive, 62% neutral, 0% negative

We noted that the changes agreed for the second phase of the trial had removed the small volume of negative feedback but had also reduced the positive feedback, with the majority of respondents now in the neutral category, albeit slightly in favour. 

A discussion with the group indicated that the removal of distractions had a positive effect on work satisfaction. However, the changes made to focused time to make that system less rigid had reduced the effectiveness of the system for some users, but on the other hand, those changes had also enabled a greater degree of acceptance from those who previously rated the system negatively.

Further changes have now been agreed to focused time to allow people to choose their own time each day for focused work – this removes the simplicity of everyone having the same focused time, but recognises that the different working times and working patterns, even across a small group of people, make it difficult for everyone to accept the same periods each day.

The greater flexibility offered by allowing individuals to choose their own focused time brings with it the time impact of each user having to ensure that their calendar accurately reflects their availability, and to check the availability of another user before making contact, unless there is an emergency.


Different people across the group have taken different elements from the trial and made a variety of changes to their personal work habits.

Overall, we feel that the process has been a success, particularly in raising awareness of the negative impacts on unstructured instant messaging, and that it has given people ideas on how to deal with those issues.  

An essential part of the improvements are the removal of distractions, clear shared expectations of response times, and a suitable emergency contact protocol. Engagement with the team during the trial phase and enabling them to feedback and make changes on an individual and team level was also a critical part of the successful implementation

FICPI's view and involvement

FICPI uniquely combines education and advocacy on developing the professional excellence of its individual members and on work around topics around practice management, patents and trade marks. FICPI Forums, Congress, committees and meetings are opportunities to gather insights from the international IP attorney community on any issue, whether it be practice-related or topics of patent and trade mark law.

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