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

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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.

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                      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 October 7, 2021

                      Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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                      Are You Addicted to Productivity?

                      “It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

                      Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

                      “Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

                      Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

                      Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

                      “The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

                      This is my mantra:

                      I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

                      But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

                      Addiction to Productivity is Real

                      Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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                      “A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

                      Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

                      “It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

                      Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

                      “A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

                      “There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

                      “For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

                      There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

                      Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

                      By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

                      Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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                      Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

                      Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

                      Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

                      The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

                      Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

                      • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
                      • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
                      • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
                      • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
                      • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
                      • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
                      • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

                      The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

                      Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

                      Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

                      1. Set Limits

                      Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

                      For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

                      2. Create a Not-to-Do List

                      Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

                      3. Be Vulnerable

                      By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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                      4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

                      Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

                      Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

                      There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

                      5. Don’t Be a Copycat

                      Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

                      That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

                      6. Say Yes to Less

                      Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

                      That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

                      Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

                      7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

                      “In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

                      “That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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                      • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
                      • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
                      • Establish realistic goals.
                      • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
                      • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
                      • Hold yourself accountable.
                      • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
                      • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

                      8. Simplify

                      Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

                      The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

                      9. Learn How to Relax

                      “Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

                      “But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

                      “And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

                      But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

                      • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
                      • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
                      • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
                      • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
                      • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
                      • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
                      • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
                      • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
                      • Visit a massage therapist.
                      • Just breathe.

                      “Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

                      It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

                      Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

                      Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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                      Reference

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