Digital tools are often seen as the mortal enemies of deep work. Their ease-of-use, instant notifications and dopamine-inducing interactions have huge potential to derail our attention and lock us into unproductive passive cycles. But a new breed of tools is putting users’ attentional systems back in their own hands – helping people access new levels of concentration and create the optimal conditions for regular, prolonged deep work. Here are just a few smart tools that can help set you up for deep work success.
Tools that structure deep work
Meetings are prime obstacles to deep work – carving up long stretches of concentration, and creating bubbles of unproductive inter-meeting intervals. Clockwise tackles this solution head-on – it optimizes your calendar to free up blocks of uninterrupted time, effectively creating more space for unbroken deep work. As an added bonus, this removes shallow work around meetings – like resolving meeting conflicts, navigating different time zones, and ensuring you still have time for lunch – leaving you with more mental energy for the tasks that actually matter.
Structuring deep work and knowing what you want to get from each session is essential to staying effective. If you struggle to identify or stick to your priorities, give Weekplan a trial. It helps you clarify and commit to deep work tasks, and plan out your deep work in advance. By scheduling your most important tasks, and moving new undeveloped ones to the “Parking Lot” for later, it makes it easy to stay focused on work that is important, not just urgent.
Tools that measure deep work
You can’t be sure you’re actually getting anything out of deep work – or know how to improve – without actually measuring it. That’s where Dewo comes in – it captures everything you do across web and desktop and uses AI to quantify the amount of deep work, shallow work and context switching you do in a day. It can highlight your most and least productive apps, and breakdown the days, times of day and locations in which you do your best work. As an added bonus, it can automatically toggle “Do Not Disturb” mode across all your devices once you enter a flow state, and move your meetings to free up more time for prolonged deep working.
Tools that keep time accountable
Effective deep work sessions reflect the amount of time needed to complete different tasks – which can be extremely difficult to gauge. By automatically tracking all your web and desktop activities and intelligently tagging them, Timely can help you see exactly how long you spend on different types of work. It provides a flawless timeline of your work, highlighting where your time actually goes and where you get distracted. Its simple calendar interface is also ideal for time blocking your deep work, and automatic tracking helps you see whether you actually stick to your plans. It also has the major added benefit of automating a universally-resented type of shallow work – time tracking!
Tools that lock your focus
Deep work requires your undivided attention. If you ever finding yourself straying from your tasks, check out StayFocusd – a Google Chrome extension that restricts the time you waste on distracting websites. You can give yourself a set time for social media browsing, but once you’ve reached your limit you’re cut off. Because it doesn’t block sites entirely (unless you want it to) StayFocusd is more flexible than other tools – and you can even block specific subdomains, pages, and even in-page content you find distracting.
For iOS and Android, Freedom remains one of the best tools for removing distractions – and because it works just as well on your laptop, it’s super handy if you work on the go, too. Block selected websites and desktop apps, or block the entire internet… If you really want to knuckle down, try Locked Mode, which stops you from ending a block session, no matter how hard you want to take a peek at Twitter.
Called LeechBlock because it blocks the sites that suck the life (and focus) from you, this Firefox extension is another way to limit your use of social media and distracting websites. Choose which sites you want to block and when – then choose an annoying website to be redirected to whenever you try to access a blocked site. If you want work to seem more alluring, landing on a video that really grinds your gears will do the trick!
Safari users should download WasteNoTime, an extension that helps you increase your productivity and gain insight into the way you work. The tracker feature reveals which websites you spend – or waste – the most time on, and the time range feature allows you to outline your work hours and leisure time. You can then adapt how long you’re allowed to spend on certain sites for different periods.