Let’s face it, there are tons of things both online and offline that are vying for our attention, and it is just plain hard to stay focused sometimes. I’m always looking for cool tools to help me be more creative, more productive, and to stay focused. Now, most of you know that my favorite tool is mind mapping, but today I want to share some new apps and tools that I’ve recently found work really well to enhance focus and are fun and easy to use…at no cost to you. How good is that?
Stay Focused With…
This handy tool is an app that sits on your computer screen or in your task bar and helps you track time for tasks and breaks. Developed using the pomodoro technique that breaks down tasks into 25 minute time periods, it is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.
You can use it to remind you when to take a break in a productive or creative task that requires you to mentally stay focused over a period of time. Taking a 3-5 minute break allows you to rest your eyes, do a few stretches or run in place, deep breathe for 60 seconds, and drink water to help maintain focus and ultimately get more done in less time. Resetting the timer confirms your commitment to the task.
You can also use it to limit yourself on the tasks that I refer to as the 80% tasks. Those are the time sucking tasks that can distract you from the things that you should stay focused on – those tasks that produce revenue and results. Focus Booster reminds you to stop doing things like email, social media, and busy work you could and probably would outsource if you had the financial resources. These are the tasks you should only be spending 20% of your time doing, so this handy tool is the nudge that’s helpful in getting you to turn that task off and move on.
Do you like to listen to music when you read, study or work? Studies show that 2 out of 3 people do. But, brain research has also shown that listening to music we like and love can actually be distracting to the task at hand. Instead of distraction, how would you like to listen to music that has been scientifically proven to enhance your focus and the length of time you stay focused by 300 – 400%? You can with focus@will.
“The focus@will system makes it easier for you to get into the concentration flow, and then keeps you there. It works in the background by subtly soothing the part of your brain, the limbic system that is always on the lookout for danger, food, sex or shiny things.”
Unlike Focus Booster, which improves focus by reminding you to take a break at the point you start losing focus, focus@will works with your brain to help you stretch the time you can stay focused from the normal 20-25 minutes to 90-100 minutes. There is a no cost version, with several different music genres to select from and run 60 minutes each before repeating. For a minimal fee, you can upgrade to unlimited music on multiple devices.
750words.com (aka Morning Pages)
Some of you may be aware of a practice called morning pages from a book called The Artists Way. Morning pages are the simple habit of writing 3 pages every day, typically in the morning, about anything and everything that comes into your head…basically a brain dump. The purpose is to clear your mind through free writing without editing. In doing that, you are able to empty the thoughts that might be distracting you from focused work and work through emotions that might be clogging your creativity. The premise is that it will help get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day.
I’ve found a great online resource for doing this habit digitally, if long writing is something you prefer not doing. The great thing is that if you come up with some amazing ideas or content, you can easily cut and paste to start writing something that can also be transferred into a working asset.
The person who created the tool determined that 1 written page is approximately 250 words, so 3 pages is 750 words, hence the name of the site is 750words.com. All you have to do is log in and start writing…it’s that easy. It takes a little effort to get the habit ingrained in your schedule, but the site makes it easy to track your words, lets you know when you’ve passed the mark, automatically scrolls as you write and saves as you go. There is even a point system for those who like to get rewards and compete a little with other writers.
Even better, they’ve added some pretty cool analysis and stats to help you discover more about yourself while you write.
So, if you’re like me and have lots of different projects going at once, have a hard time staying on task, and struggle at times with getting things completed, why don’t you try one…or maybe even all three, and let me know how they work for you. I’d love to hear your feedback! And, if you have some cool tools you use to stay focused, please feel free to share them in the comments below.