Staying focused in a busy age is difficult for many of us. We’ve all been there. You’re chugging along working on your latest project when suddenly your email is pinging with alerts about a new sale at your favorite store and an update on a different project. Meanwhile, your IM is dinging with coworker chats about that meeting this afternoon. These distractions are incessant. Sometimes we can handle all the juggling that the Information Age has demanded of us. But other times, we need a stretch of deep focus, with as few interruptions as possible. This is true whether we’re in an office or working at home or on the go. However, technology can be a friend as well as foe. Luckily, there are great tools, apps, and software for productivity to help you out.
Here are 5 essential productivity tools to increase your focus on the task at hand:
Five Tools to Increase Productivity
1. Pomodoro technique:
This is a classic for a reason. You simply set a timer for 25 minutes and work straight through, and when your timer goes off you take a 5-minute break. Then start it over again and take a longer 15-30 minute break every four Pomodoros (what each little section is called).
You can find a Pomodoro timer online, use a kitchen timer, or just use the timer on your smartphone, whatever works best for you. This is optimal for seriously focused work. Does it seem counter-intuitive to take more breaks to be more productive? It’s a top technique because it gets results.
2. To-do lists:
To ensure you’re focusing on what needs to be done today (no more midnight panic about forgotten projects!), nothing tops a classic to-do list. And there’s no shortage of excellent apps out there to help you out. One of the best is ToDoIst, a versatile app that allows you to create not just lists but whole projects with sub-folders of action items. The clean interface means fewer distractions and more getting things done and checked off.
3. Background music:
It can be hard to focus. Whether you’re in an office or at home – the distraction of your cubemate’s constant phone calls, the chatter of your kids in the next room, or just too much silence. Brain FM is full of music that’s designed to help you focus – whether you want to work, sleep, or relax, there’s a playlist for you. It’s scientifically proven to help you focus better, and just might be the sanity savior you need in a noisy world.
4. Get in the flow:
Time management is a gamechanger for serious concentration. Making your tasks flow easier means opening fewer apps or sites, which means less distraction (like that sale email from your favorite shop above, which sends you into an online shopping spiral and suddenly two hours have passed without getting any work done). The Workflow app allows you to create a button for any task you do often – call an Uber before you head to work, call your spouse before you head home, or open email when you get to the office. It eliminates friction and distraction from your regular tasks so you can bring your deepest focus every day.
5. Bring your notebook online:
Paper notes are often hugely helpful, but they can get lost or forgotten at the office or at home. Make sure you have your notes with you digitally so you never miss a beat or a chance to get a bit of work done on a task (perfect for those long doctor’s office waits or the line at the DMV). Evernote lets you collect notes, web pages, tasks, pictures, PDFs, and more. Plus, it automatically indexes everything you add so you can easily search whether you’re at your desk at work, on the train with your tablet, or scrolling through your iPhone in a spare moment.
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