Everyone who works on a computer would know that it’s not easy to concentrate on work the entire time. This is especially apparent when working on your own computer where there’s no network restrictions to what websites you can visit, giving you the ease of access to social networks, non-work related news websites or watching tech channels on YouTube.
Doing any of the above distracts you, wastes time and ultimately you won’t be able to focus on your work, be it working at home or in an office environment. So here are a few apps that we think could help you focus and concentrate better. Although you may not like the idea of installing some of these apps, but giving it a try won’t hurt if you want to up your performance at work.
Recommended Reading: 5 Ways To Keep Yourself Focused At Work
Distractions Be Gone
Here are some tools for your web browsers to help you stick around in sites that take up all your valuable time. Installing these tools means you’ll be blocked from your favourite websites until work time is over.
[Chrome Extension] StayFocusd is an extension for your Google Chrome browser that limits the amount of minutes spent on a list of ‘blocked sites’ determined by you. You can set the maximum allowed time per day for every blocked site and once you’ve used all of it, you won’t be able to access the sites until the daily reset time or when the active period (for example: 9am – 5pm) is over.
Once the timer is running, accessing these options is not easy as they require you to type in a paragraph of text without a single mistake. There’s also a Nuclear option for those desperate times for urgent deadlines – all blocked sites will be disabled and only sites on the Allowed list can be accessed (take note of all possible sites you could possible need before you turn this on). If you find yourself surfing on Facebook too often, you need this.
[Firefox Add-on] Here’s one for Firefox. Like StayFocusd, LeechBlock has options like blocking sites for a set period of time, limiting the amount of minutes online in a day, and setting which day LeechBlock will be automatically enabled. They also allow you to redirect these blocked sites to a predefined page or just make it load really, really slow.
Once these options are set, you can prevent access to the settings. Parents can also set a password so their child will not be able to access it, or hide it from the Add-ons manager so it’s harder for them to find and disable it. They also give different sets of sites that you can block. These presets make it easy for you to block a set of sites while allowing another block for the same period of time.
Work & Play Balance
Balance is important, so give yourself a small reward when a job is finished. A small reward could be some time off work to read your favorite magazine or 5 minutes of surfing social networks after 25 minutes of non-stop work (read: Pomodoro technique).
[Chrome Extension] Strict Workflow is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to concentrate on work for a certain amount of time then reward you later on. It helps you concentrate by blocking a list of websites for a fixed period of time. Once that is over, it’ll unblock those sites to give you a break from work, then block it again after the break time is over.
All you have to do is list down websites which you want blocked. You can then set a timer to how long you want to these sites blocked (work timer), and then set the break timer duration. This lets you keep track of time so you don’t spend too much time on non-work related sites.
[Firefox Add-on] Simple Timer for Firefox does not have the ability to block websites like Strict Workflow. However, it still gets the job down by way of a countdown time. The countdown timer is the main thing you should set up, e.g. for each 25 minutes of work give yourself 5 minutes of break time.
Once these countdown timers are set, you can save the list for future use. The timer sits on the bottom right corner of the browser letting you know how much time you have left. There are options like desktop notifications and alarms for you to configure, giving you a lot of flexibility to how you want the timer to help you focus on getting things done.
Create A Peaceful Environment
If all you need is a conducive environment to collect your thoughts then here are three more tools to create that peaceful work bubble for a smoother brainstorming session.
[Mac OS] If you’re a freelance writer and need to focus on just writing something without any distractions then you can try Ommwriter. This is a free text editor app for Mac OS that runs in full screen. The only text formatting you can find here is to change the font type and size. The text box floats on top of a serene picture in the background, which can be changed to suit your writing mood.
If you are someone who likes to work with music, there are also ambient sounds to help you sooth your senses, and even keypress sounds for that friendly tapping on the keyboard sound some of you love. Once you are done, save your work on a simple .txt file to be used elsewhere.
[Windows] CreaWriter is a free program for Windows that where you can customize the background ambient sound and background picture. Unlike Ommwriter, you cannot change the font, text size or add formatting in the free version, but you can in the paid version.
The full program is ‘donationware': a donation as low as 6 Euros will get you the full program and all its features. While the free version suffices, the full program allow you to change things like the text box color, and font color to suit your needs.
There are some of us who may doze off if we work in total silence but then find it hard to focus when listening to songs. Here’s where Soundrown can help. It provides ambient sounds instead of lyrical songs to accompany your work session.
You can choose the calming sound of waves crashing on the beach which sets up the lovely illusion, or the sound of raindrops, coffee shop chatter, a passing train, kids and even crickets. Going to the site gives you a random ambient noise and can also mix the sounds by opening 2 tabs on your browser, giving you a combinedeffect like coffee shop chatter on a rainy day.