Productivity & Device Management

Online Tools to Manage Attention, Focus, and Off-Task Wandering

Keeping focused and on task is a huge challenge today. So much time is spent in front of screens, where the opportunity to digress abounds. However, the wise use of resources, especially time, can provide greater accomplishment, success and goal achievement. Here is a handful of apps selected to help limit wasted time on the internet or with screens, and to help manage the use of time better. Some are for computers, or phones, or tablets, some are free, and some need to be bought, although most can be used or tried for free. There are many more possibilities and more show up every day. It may be useful to try these and/or search more for the one(s) that work best for you. Please feel free to share your findings with others.

NOTE: a lot of material is from the different applications’ websites and a lot from Jocelyn K Glei who believes “focus is rapidly becoming the scarcest commodity of the 21st century. With this in mind, I’ve rounded up a handful of the best apps for fighting back against the constant distractions of our digital lives.”

1. Freedom– Block out distracting websites for a set amount of time.

Block the internet, apps, and websites. Used by over 250,000 people to improve focus and productivity. Try Freedom for free. Freedom makes it easy to block the most distracting apps and websites. Block what you want, when you want, and be more productive. Whether you use a Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad, or a combination, Freedom works on all your devices. Sit down to work knowing you won’t be distracted by any of your devices.

Visit Freedom here

2. Circle– Easily Manage your children’s screen time.

Managing your family’s connected devices is pretty much impossible, but not anymore with Circle. A cinch to set up, Circle pairs with your home Wi-Fi and lets you manage every device on your network, both wireless and wired, without ever needing to put software on them. With Circle you can set Time Limits for apps and web sites, finally getting screen time in check. You can also set up age-appropriate filters that apply to all their devices. And you can even give rewards to your kid when they’ve been good.
NOTE: Can be combined with other options, such as Circle Disney for Young children

Visit Circle here

3. Anti-Social– Block the social websites that are killing your focus.

Anti-Social is like a light version of full-scale Internet-blocker Freedom. Rather than blocking the Internet in its entirety, Anti-Social automatically blocks all of the known timesinks for a set period of time. Sites that are off-limits include Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Digg, Reddit, YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo, and all standard web email programs. It’s not that different from Self-Control (see above), except that it comes pre-equipped with a blacklist (which you can add to, of course). If you can’t handle your Internet abstinence, you can turn Anti-Social off by rebooting your computer. For Mac and Windows.

Visit Anti-Social here

4. Rescue Time– Audit how you’re spending your time on your computer.

With so many distractions and possibilities in your digital life, it’s easy to get off track or scattered. Rescue Time helps you understand your daily habits, so you can focus and be more productive. It gives you an accurate picture of how you spend your time and gives you a summary of what sites you have been on for how long. It helps you manage your screen usage and be more productive every day, and runs securely in the background on your computer and mobile devices.

Visit Rescue Time here

5. StayFocusd– Curb the time you spend browsing time-wasting sites.

This extension, for users of Google’s Chrome browser, works in a reverse manner to Anti-Social or Self-Control. Rather than setting a period of time for which you CANNOT use the internet, it allows you to set a period of time to indulge in time-wasting sites. Only want to give yourself 60 minutes a day for Twitter, vanity Googling, and updating your Netflix queue? This is your app. Rather like when you were a kid and only allowed to watch 2 hours of TV a day. For Firefox users, LeechBlock performs a similar function. For Mac and Windows.

Visit StayFocusd here

6. FocusBooster– (Different than #5) Focus on single tasks for 25 minutes apiece.

This app is based on the principles of the Pomodoro Technique, a time management system that challenges you to focus on a single task for 25 minutes and then give yourself a 5-minute break. Combining the features of a to-do list and a time-management coach, FocusBooster allows you to list out your daily tasks, and then it tracks your time as you work through them. When 25 minutes are up, an alarm sounds and you get a break. It’s an easy way to practice expanding your attention span without going overboard. For Mac and Windows.

Visit FocusBooster here

7. Stay Focused– (Different than #5) Break your work into sections, take breaks, and resume. Manage your focus and stress by giving yourself work times, interspersed with short breaks.

Time is gold. This is a cliché, but still rings true. We are all given 24 hours in a day, and the difference lies on how you make use of every minute you have. Fortunately, there are revolutionary tools available to be used as time manager, such as Stay focused, an app that will allow you to manage time better and get more done within a day.
Time tracking technology like Stay focused is based on the use of a timer for the purpose of breaking down work into smaller portions, usually in a period of 25 minutes. The short breaks in between the completion of work are known to be highly influential in making people productive and mentally agile in their work.

Visit Stay Focused here

8. Time Out– Take regular breaks to keep your focus sharp.

For optimal focus, we need to take regular time-outs to relax and rebuild our energy. Time Out is a super-simple application that runs in the background while you work. At set intervals (say, every 90 minutes), it fades in and gently reminds you to take a 5-10 minute break. You can also use it to remind you to take 1-minute “micro-breaks” to avoid eye strain from staring at your computer like a zombie for hours on end. For Macs only.  How Do You Stay Focused? What apps are you using to keep yourself on track? (We’d love more PC-friendly suggestions as well.)

Visit Time Out here

9. Focus– Reclaim your productivity.

Block distractions & improve your productivity with Focus. Snapchat? Facebook? Reddit? These services are great, but getting stuff done can be hard when they’re one click away. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to quickly create your ideal work environment on your computer? In the real world, it’s easy to close the door or put on some headphones. But blocking out distractions on a computer or smart phone is harder. We socialize and entertain ourselves on the same computers where we work. Interruptions make it hard to get into a state of flow. Focus is a Mac menu-bar app that helps you find your zen. One click creates an optimal work environment.

Visit Focus here