Seven Simple Ways to Stay Focused

Hey everyone! It’s me, your friendly neighborhood Highly Distractible Person, back with some more tips on amplifying your workplace productivity.

With summer and all of its endless planning potential on the way, we’re in prime distractibility season, so we’re going to take a slightly deeper dive this time around. If you’re only reading this to procrastinate at work, shame on you, but also, keep reading.

While part of the issue might just be that you were born with a brain that functions best while being fed grapes in a lounge chair, that’s not something we can really address for you today. What we can address, however, is technology, and the immediate-gratification-ness of it that seems to break these specific grape-loving brains. I’m sure there are plenty of more reasonable ways to manage distraction issues than blocking your access to specific tech, but let’s go ahead and start big:

Whew, we’re already so productive that we don’t even have time to go back and add an “e”. This Chrome extension allows you to set daily time limits on sites that may be particularly time-wasting; once you’ve run up your daily clock, you will be blocked from accessing them. If you’d like to make sure you don’t lose more time than you intended on certain sites, but still want a small daily fix, this extension is for you.

Self Control
If, like me, you prefer a more nuclear option (yeehaw, etc.), this desktop app is the way to go. Self Control completely blocks access to any sites that you add to its blacklist for any amount of time up to 24 hours. This app was a godsend to me during finals weeks in college, and I like to occasionally switch it on during the work day as a hard reset when I find myself falling back into the habit of checking Facebook or news sites more often than I’d like.

Forest App
Site blocking is great, but it’s useless if you’ve actually got a real phone addiction, which I think the majority of my generation probably has, to some degree. That’s where Forest comes in. It’s a phone app specifically designed to help break phone addiction. (What a time to be alive.) Joking aside, it’s a lovely app that I’ve occasionally used in the mornings to meditate or just start the day with zero phone interruptions, regardless of what might be showing up on my screen. Good for time-crunchy deadlines, too. Here’s how it works: You set the amount of time you want to stay away from your phone, and the app starts “growing a tree.” So long as you don’t try to exit the app in the time limit, the tree will complete its growth and sit as a lovely green tree in your virtual forest. If you bypass the app to use your phone, your tree dies, sitting forevermore in your forest as a looming reminder of your failure as a citizen of the 21st century. The shame. A cool little additional feature is that when you save up enough Forest coins, you can cash them in to have the Forest team plant a real tree on your behalf. Look at you: Lowering your carbon footprint while bravely fighting phone addiction, you beautiful millennial, you.

While those three suggestions are the big guns for major focus issues, I’ve got a few gentler approaches for those who just need a little nudging, and not an intervention, to stay on track:

This Chrome extension builds in a daily task list to each default browser window, so your to-do list is front and center to help you stay on track and remind you not to fall down a Wikipedia rabbit hole of investigating the (trigger warning) Dyatlov Pass Incident. Don’t click it. I warned you.
I’ve been using this app for a while, and it’s made an incredible difference at work. It uses ambient music/soundscapes paired with specific sound waves to supposedly result in a more focused brain state. I have no idea if there’s any real weight to the science of it, but there IS an intimidating warning to pregnant women and folks prone to seizures, and that’s good enough for me! Read more about it in my previous post, here.

I’ve already written about this oldie but goodie (I saw Goody Noisli dancing with the devil by a beautiful sounding stream that amplifies productivity by 110%), and it still stands. More here.

If you prefer a bit more din, Coffitivity is a great little site for ambient tracks closer to what you’d find in a coffee house. There is surprisingly specific situations to pick from here between “Paris Paradise”, “Brazil Bistro” and “Texas Teahouse.” The world is your ambient alliterative oyster.

That’s all I’ve got. Stay well, work hard, and, come 5 p.m., tell me all of your theories on the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Please don’t text me before then; I’m very busy saving the climate with my focus trees.