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Apps Aren’t Always Distracting. These 10 Apps Actually Help You Focus!

Apps Aren’t Always Distracting. These 10 Apps Actually Help You Focus!

Our computers and smartphones are often considered the ultimate machines of distraction. They can be so full of entertainment possibilities that many of us can’t go a single hour without looking at our phones many many times.

When some apps seem built to test our self control, placing themselves in our minds, almost like addictions. These 10 apps don’t demand our attention, but instead aim to improve it. With them improving your productivity and reducing stress [1] in your day-to-day life will be easier.

Headspace 2.0

    Headspace is a very popular meditation app. Don’t worry though, the meditation here is stripped of any religious and spiritual stuff and instead aims to help you receive the many benefits meditation can give you.

    Aside from improving your focus and concentration, meditation has been shown to make you less prone to anger, improve memory, make you more empathetic, and improve your ability to make good decisions.

    It’s little wonder then that Headspace advertises itself as a kind of “gym” for the mind. Headspace aims to bring you in easy ten minute chunks.

    Noizio

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      Noizio, and Noisli are not only pretty similar in name, but also function. Noizio is an ambient sound generator, one exclusive to Apple devices such as your Mac or iPhone. I have written about how ambient sound helps boost your focus, so if you loved Noisli or other ambient sound apps, then you’ll love this one, too.

      Panda Focus Mode

        While online, with the sum of all human knowledge and cat videos at your finger tips, it can be easy to get distracted and forget why you went on the internet in the first place. Panda Focus Mode counters this by showing you a to-do list you entered every time you open a new tab. By being reminded of everything you need to do, the items on your list will take center stage in your mind.

        Focus Booster

          Focus Booster is built around the Pomodoro technique [2] , a time management system, where the time spent on work is broken down into manageable chunks.
          The app is extremely versatile, it allows you to set the time spent on work or rest, as well as generate graphs showing you how your time was spent throughout the day. With this info, you’ll be able to plan your day and time, exactly according to how you use your time.

          Currently it’s only a desktop app, but mobile versions are coming soon.

          Noisli

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            Noisli aims to boost your focus and productivity through ambient sounds and music. What’s more it helps you create a playlist of your favorite sounds, making sure you are as happy and comfortable as possible while you listen.

            But how can simple ambient sounds actually improve your productivity?
            Surely, the only way ambient music can improve your focus and productivity is by boring you so much you want to work instead of listening.

            Actually, there are many ways ambient sound can improve your self control and focus. For example, normally when we listen to sound, it is coming from many different directions and different distances. Ambient sound presents a persistent sound that doesn’t change. Enabling you to listen without your mind jumping to the causes of each noise. It helps you focus on the present [3].

            In a way, ambient sounds creates a new mental environment. This is what Nosili can bring you.

            Forest

              Forest is a pretty ingenious app. The previous two sought to improve your focus and concentration aimed to hack your brain and subconscious through meditation and ambient sounds. Forest functions more like a game. Some of you more seasoned readers may remember the Tamigotchi, that annoying little virtual pet that had the habit of dying on you when left alone. Forest functions remarkably similarly.

              Once you activate the app a virtual tree begins to grow, and grow. Soon a virtual forest powered, by your productivity can grow and flourish. While its growing you are encouraged to work, or at the very least, leave your smartphone or computer alone. If you pick up your phone and turn off the app, your virtual tree dies.

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              Its a unique concept, an app that doesn’t want you to use your phone. But its popularity suggests it works.

              Brain.FM

                Like Noisli, Brain FM uses music to help your concentration. However the music here is artificially generated and designed for you to improve your focus. There are different channels on the app to aid you through a number of tasks, working, for example, but also a channels for meditation, and sleep.

                Though the pieces of music are computer generated, they, none the less are generated with relaxing and improving focus and concentration in mind. As such, the app is extremely effective at boosting your focus while in use.

                Freedom

                  Freedom is an app that is growing in popularity. The way it works is quite simple, it blocks access to chosen apps, programs, and even your browsers cutting away all distractions.

                  We all have that app we check or use more than we should. I was a fiend for Angry Birds a couple years ago. This is fine, but it becomes a problem if they are distracting you from work or creative projects. Freedom (the app not the concept) eliminates the issue by making it impossible to access these distracting apps.

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                  Unlike some other, similar apps, freedom can be used across many devices, making both it and you more efficient in the process.

                  Hocus Focus

                    Hocus Focus is pretty similar to Freedom, in the way it helps boost your focus by cutting out distracting apps and programs. However, what makes it different is that it hides applications which are not in use, making you less tempted to move away from whatever you’re doing and go back to it.

                    There are different ways it works. You can have it hide applications as soon as you move away from them, or instead, hide them after a few minutes have passed. It works according to your preferences.

                    Self Control

                      Where the other apps in this list are like friends or parents, lovingly guiding your hand to productivity, Self Control is like an angry drill sergeant who plans to break you into working.

                      There are many productivity apps which try to block distractions for a predetermined time limit. Some of them are on this list. However what makes Self Control different, is that it cannot be turned off.

                      That’s right, even if you choose to delete the application or turn off your computer, it keeps working. The only way to get it to stop is by waiting and working until the timer runs out. By doing this it enforces rigid discipline and focus.

                      Reference

                      [1] Huffingtonpost: 4 Unexpected Benefits of Increasing Focus
                      [2] Lifehack: The Pomdoro Technique: Is It Right For You?
                      [3] Noisey: Ambient Music Isn’t Boring, It Changed My Life

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                      Last Updated on July 10, 2020

                      The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

                      The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

                      Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

                      Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

                      The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

                      Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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                      Program Your Own Algorithms

                      Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

                      Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

                      By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

                      How to Form a Ritual

                      I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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                      Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

                      1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
                      2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
                      3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
                      4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

                      Ways to Use a Ritual

                      Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

                      1. Waking Up

                      Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

                      2. Web Usage

                      How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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                      3. Reading

                      How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

                      4. Friendliness

                      Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

                      5. Working

                      One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

                      6. Going to the gym

                      If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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                      7. Exercise

                      Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

                      8. Sleeping

                      Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

                      8. Weekly Reviews

                      The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

                      Final Thoughts

                      We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

                      More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

                       

                      Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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