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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 November 27, 2020

                      15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

                      15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

                      Where you work has an enormous impact on how you work – on your ability to focus (and stay focused) and your overall ability to be productive. That means the design of your office, whether you work at home or in a larger company environment, is of supreme importance. This isn’t just about Feng Shui, this is about producing results and getting things done.

                      According to studies done on workplace and productivity, the most significant factor in determining an employee’s ability to focus is their physical environment. In fact, it’s been said that a well-designed office can increase your productivity about 20%. However, despite the studies and statistics, nearly half of the employers interviewed don’t consider workplace design a good business investment.

                      So what is a productivity hack to do? What if you work in an environment that doesn’t promote focus?

                      Check these 15 factors and make changes where you can. A little adjustment can produce a lot of impact.

                      Lighting

                      Lighting is one of the most important factors in staying focused and feeling inspired to create, yet it’s one of the most overlooked and least invested in. Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and overall irritability. Dark spaces can actually produce depression.

                      If you work in a company office:
                      You probably have no control over your general lighting so bring in your own, if need be. Consider using natural light bulbs or a light therapy device.

                      If you work from a home office:
                      Open the windows and doors and let natural light in. Using lamps in a variety of areas for cloudy days or when it’s dark.

                      Chair and Table

                      If you’ve ever sat at a desk to do work but found yourself adjusting, stretching and moving too often to actually stay focused, then you’re aware of the importance of having a correctly fitted table and chair. In today’s work environment where so many of us are sitting for most of our day, it is critical that your throne fits your body probably.

                      Consider these quick ergonomic checks:

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                      • Eyes 24-36 inches from the computer screen. The top of the monitor should be below or at eye-level.
                      • Feet should be on a foot rest or resting on the floor.
                      • A slightly reclined chair posture is best to reduce pressure on your spine and minimize lower back pain.

                      If you work in a company office:
                      Ask for an adjustable chair. Add pillows for your lower back or bum, if you need it. Many companies will also provide risers for computers to adjust the height of your computer screen (and a separate keyboard to keep your hands and wrists in the ideal position)

                      If you work from a home office:
                      Invest in a decent chair or at least use a few pillows to make the chair more comfortable. If the table is too high, add pillows to your chair. If it is too low, consider buying leg risers from your local hardware store and using books beneath your computer to raise the screen. Use a separate keyboard.

                      Clutter

                      Your mama was right, it’s important to clean up your room. Clutter may help the creative mind create, but it isn’t necessarily helpful for focus and productivity.

                      If you work from a company office: While you can’t control the cleanliness of the office at large, do keep your own environment around you clean. Spend 10 minutes every morning or evening making sure things are put away, filed, organized and generally out of sight so you’re not distracted by it later.

                      If you work from a home office: Because you work from home, the entire house or apartment is potential for distraction. If you can afford it, hire a professional cleaning service to keep your home clean. If not, schedule a specific day and time to clean your home. Commit to doing daily pickup at a specific time. And spend at least 10 minutes every day making sure your office  is organized and tidy.

                      Room Color

                      The colors around us all have an effect on our moods and brain function. It evokes both a physical and emotional response. So choosing the right colors for your work space has the ability to affect your productivity. For instance, blue has been said to illicit productivity. Mind you, too much of anything can be overwhelming, even color.

                      If you work from a company office: Bring in items from home that are a certain color that inspire you and keep you focused. Use postcards, magazine cutouts, even just blocks of color will do.

                      If you work from a home office: If you work from home, you have much more control over the colors around you. Consider repainting a wall, adding color to the table you work at, or hanging pictures that are dominated by a specific color.

                      Room Temperature

                      Most offices keep their temperatures around 65-68 Fahrenheit but it turns out that this might not be good for productivity. Warmer rooms actually make people more productive.

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                      If you work from a company office: Most offices are regulated by somebody else, so bring a space heater, sweaters and blankets to your work space.

                      If you work from a home office: Depending on the season, open the windows or adjust the heat or a/c so that you’re more comfortable and warm. Pile on the sweaters in the winter or add a space heater to your feet.

                      Room Scents

                      Like the color of the space you work in, our sense of smell can powerfully affect our mood, mindset and thus our productivity. Consider adding scents to your work space to jar your mind into focus when you start to notice yourself drifting off.

                      Try using these scents to stay focused:

                      • Pine – Increases alertness
                      • Cinnamon – Improves focus
                      • Lavender – Helps to relax you during a stressful work day
                      • Peppermint – Lifts your mood
                      • Citrus (any) – Wakes you up  and lifts your spirits

                      If you work from a company office: Most people will not appreciate added scents to their work environment so you’ll need to keep it subtle. Keep essential oils in your bag or drawer and when you’re in need of a boost put a few drops on a handkerchief or cotton ball.

                      If you work from a home office: Use candles, incense or essential oils. You can also simmer herbs and spices in the kitchen to fill your home with a warm scent.

                      Noise Level

                      The noise level in a work environment can vary greatly depending on the size of the team you work with, the office design and company culture. But make no mistake, the noise around you affects your ability to stay on task. Not only can it be distracting, it can also raise stress levels making your ability to sustain productivity far more difficult.

                      If you work from a company office: Bring in noise cancellation headphones and use music services like Spotify or Songza and choose concentration boosting sounds, like white noise.  Find out if your office offers quiet work spaces for times when you need the utmost focus.

                      If you work from a home office: Sometimes the complete quiet can be as distracting as an office. Use a service like Coffivity to mimic the noise of a coffee shop, which has been said to help with concentration.

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                      Air Quality

                      Air quality can drastically affect our ability to focus and think clearly. Get this: OSHA estimates that the total annual cost of poor air quality in office environments costs employers $15 billion “due to worker inefficiency and sick leave.” Yeah, it’s serious business.

                      If you work from a company office: Talk to them about installing air filters. If there is a way to bring in fresh air through windows or doors, arrange to have them opened for at least a portion of the day. If nothing else, get a personal air filter to have on your desk or nearby.

                      Also, get a plant (or better yet, have the company buy and use more plants in the office!). Plants are great at filtering the air and providing clean, purified oxygen.

                      If you work from a home office: Open windows and doors and let in the fresh air. Install an air filter or get a portable air filter to keep near your desk. And, yes, you too should get a plant.

                      Different Spaces

                      If you can manage it, give yourself more than one space to work from. Putting yourself in a new space with different qualities and things to look at quite literally shifts your brain and helps you stay focused.

                      If you work from a company office: Many offices offer a variety of environments to work from: your personal space, lobbies, break out rooms, conference rooms, kitchens and eating areas and, if you’re lucky, they also provide lounge areas. Use all these spaces to vary your routine. Make sure your supervisor knows so they don’t think you’re slacking off and know tat you’re actually getting more done!

                      If you work from a home office: If you work at a desk, add a comfortable couch or chair to the room. If your space is less flexible or ultra tiny, think about more creative ways to change your work space. Rotate the pictures on your walls every couple of days. Sit on the other side of your desk. Get a lamp and multiple colored bulbs. Or go work at a café, the library or in a park.

                      Organization of People

                      Most employers organize employees around job function or in specific divisions. Instead, studies show that people are more creative and productive when they are sitting with colleagues that share the same goal or client. Not only are you able to get answers and generate solutions quicker, but because you’re directly accountable to the people around you, you’re more likely to stay on task and productive.

                      If you work from a company office: Ask your employer if you can experiment by clustering your group together in a conference room for a day or a week. Get feedback from everybody involved. Show the results. If your company won’t make permanent adjustments, perhaps they’ll allow you to work together a couple times a week when the conference room or lounge area is free.

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                      If you work from a home office: This is a little bit more difficult because when you work at home you’re not with colleagues. You can recreate a similar space digitally, however. Create a Skype group and have everyone logged in during working hours. You can do morning accountability and check-ins while remaining available for questions, solution-finding and general banter that promotes creativity.

                      Idea Storage

                      Ever been working hard when you’re suddenly distracted by a great idea? At first you try to push it away, but then the next thing you know you’re 20 pages deep into an online search on the topic. Ideas should be encouraged and cultivated, but when they come right in the middle of another task it can be incredibly distracting. Instead, create a place to store your ideas that’s easily accessed from your work space.

                      For both a company and home office: Keep pads of paper around, have a chalk wall, get a white board – when you have a spark of inspiration write it down right away to get it out of your head then return to the task at hand. Then, at the end of the day or when you have free time, collect all the ideas and review them. With a little time and space you can better decide if it’s worth pursuing or better to leave it on the back-burner.

                      Refreshment

                      Our brain needs nourishment to keep going, especially when we’re driving hard and staying focused. You can let a rumbling stomach go on for only so long before the brain shuts down. Assuming your different is like wanting your car to keep driving without having to stop and fill it with gas. A novel idea, but not realistic.

                      If you work from a company office: Pre-make snacks for the day and/or week. Or, bring in prepackaged snacks. Keep in mind that junk food has properties of diminishing returns so if you’re buying your food prepackaged think nuts, fruit, unsweetened yogurts, and hummus and crackers. Likely, your company provides coffee, tea and water so you don’t have to worry about supplying that for yourself.

                      If you work from a home office: If you work from home, this can be a key distraction. Try to reduce the number of times you walk into the kitchen each day. To do this, keep quick and   easy snacks pre-made or prepackaged ready and near your desk. Keep a water bottle nearby. And consider bringing a kettle into your office and stocking tea and coffee so you’re   not tempted to wander around the house and lose time poking through the pantry.

                      Bring in Nature

                      We are biological creatures, first and foremost. So we are deeply affected by our access to (or lack of) the natural world. It’s important for our psychological and physiological functioning, which directly affects our ability to be productive.

                      If you work from a company office: If you don’t have windows in or near your work space, bring in pictures of the outdoor world. Keep a picture of something natural as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks outdoors at lunch or in between major tasks. Just a few minutes outside in the fresh air and sunshine can boost our mood and shake out the doldrums. Be sure to add a plant to your desk, too!

                      If you work from a home office: Keep the shades open and, if you can, let in fresh air. If you can’t see anything natural out of your window, keep pictures of the natural world as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks. Or, just step outside and put your feet on the ground. Put plants in your office – research shows that having live plants in your office makes you more productive, happier and less stressed.

                      Digital Space

                      For most people, our primary work is housed within our laptops and our physical environment simply the backdrop to our digital lives. Make sure your computer has software that helps you sculpt the digital environment that best elicits productivity. Use focus apps like this one or this to decrease distractions. Or design your day using intervals with an app like this one to keep you at your peak focus throughout the day.

                      Featured photo credit: Phil Desforges via unsplash.com

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