We live in a world that’s digital, borderless and virtually connected. We can chat with friends across the world, follow news as it breaks, source information in seconds. But hyper-connectivity has come with a heavy price – making it almost impossible to focus and be present in our work.
Our concentration is continually broken by Slack, email and tool notifications. Many of us suffer from ‘inbox anxiety’, and can’t go 30 minutes without checking our email. We are immediately available to every request, using asynchronous communication synchronously and dropping whatever we’re doing to check a social alert, or respond to an urgent but unimportant email.
This digital dissonace makes it almost impossible to do productive deep work that requires prolonged, unbroken concentration. But thankfully, for all the pointless sites and meaningless apps that distract us, a select few exist purely to solve their disruption. Check out these smart anti-distraction apps that help return your focus to where it matters.
The ceaseless circle of notifications, emails and social media alerts has made it impossible for us to immerse ourselves in deep work and prioritize the things that truly matter. As human beings we’re extraordinarily fallible, and sometimes, no matter our best efforts, the lure of Twitter can be too much. Step in Dewo, your intelligent “deep work assistant”.
Using machine learning to analyze when you’re most productive, Dewo captures your real-time activity to understand how you do your best work. Aside from providing insights into how you work deeply, it actively helps you get there. It automatically triggers “Do Not Disturb” mode across your devices once you reach a flow state, helping to protect your focus. It can also reschedule badly spaced meetings to construct a more effective working week – freeing up more space for uninterrupted deep work.
Freedom gets rid of distractions in the most ruthless (and effective) way possible: by blocking the entire internet for up to eight hours. You can tailor what to bar and choose whether to block out all social platforms or apps, or leave one or two unblocked. Freedom can stop you opening all those irrelevant apps that distract you, or accessing those websites you intend just to check for a moment, but find yourself still reading an hour later – plus, it works on both your phone and laptop.
If you need a firm hand in managing distractions, Freedom’s Locked Mode will be your saviour. Once you’ve activated it, you can’t change the settings until your session is over. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’ve earned a quick peek at Facebook – you won’t get it! Locked Mode may turn your laptop into a computer from 1994… but sometimes that’s just what we need to work.
FocusMe is all about creating productive routines that work for you. It allows you to block specific sites or apps for certain periods – or forever, if you’re really trying to eliminate distracting habits. It’s popular with parents because it allows them to set controls on their children’s use of tech – whether that’s limiting how long they play games for or which sites they can visit.
A big perk of FocusMe is that it can help you develop healthy working routines. It reminds you to take breaks for optimum productivity, encourages you to create scheduled blocks for specific tasks and activities, and helps suggest productivity targets. Just like Freedom, it has a Forced Mode where you’re unable to access distracting sites – even if you try to delete the app!
Blocking the entire internet isn’t always an option... so for a less obtrusive solution to distraction, there are smart browser extensions. Leechblock is a Chrome and Firefox extension that blocks the sites sucking the life from you. The timer allows you to choose which sites to block, when and for how long: you can give yourself a 15 minute window to browse Twitter at lunch, or set Facebook to be accessible for 10 minutes in the morning. Other than those times, however, you’re locked out.
One of Leechblock’s best features (or worst, depending on how you look at it) is its redirect page; you can choose a site you’re redirected to whenever you try to access a blocked site – and this can act as a surprising motivator. Imagine trying to hop onto Twitter and instead finding yourself redirected to a music video you hate. Getting back to work will suddenly seem much more attractive.