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Category: Distraction

10 Mindfulness-Based Tools to Reduce Distractions and Improve Your Focus

It’s a daily struggle.

You sit down at your computer, ready to tackle your day. And then it happens.

A notification pops up – you’ve got three new emails. Before you can open them, there’s an instant message on the bottom of your screen.

Then you hear your phone ping and think, “Is that the sound of a calendar reminder or just a reply on my social media post? I’d better check before I start working…” And so it goes.

Sound familiar?

In today’s notification-obsessed world, it’s harder than ever to focus. Distractions like these can really add up.

Not only do you lose time reacting, but it also takes time to refocus. In fact, according to a study from the University of California Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after being interrupted.

Fortunately, technology doesn’t always have to be a distraction– it can also be a tool to help you focus. We’ve gathered 10 of the best mindfulness-based tools that put the power back in your hands.

These technologies will help you focus by blocking interruptions, removing distractions, getting you in the zone, and reminding you to take short breaks for better productivity. Ready to have a more mindful work day?

Let’s take a look!

Tools to Block Interruptions


Our culture often feels the need to respond to everything the moment it arrives, but it’s really not necessary.

Tools like these allow you to pause the continuous stream of information for a period of time, so you can concentrate without interruption. You decide when to check emails, texts, and instant messages– not the person sending them to you.

Inbox Pause by Boomerang

Inbox Pause stops new email from coming into your Inbox until you’re ready. You can receive emails automatically on a schedule of your choice.

If you feel anxious about not checking emails immediately, you can set up an auto-responder to let people know when you check messages and how they can reach you in case of an emergency.

Inbox Pause is part of an email productivity tool called Boomerang, which is available through Google, Outlook, and iPhone. They have a free plan that includes the inbox pause feature.

Windows 10 Focus Assist or Do Not Disturb for Mac


Regardless of whether you use Windows or a Mac, you can pause notifications on your computer. Microsoft calls it Focus Assist in Windows 10 (known as Quiet Hours in earlier versions).

On your mac, it’s called Do Not Disturb. These tools work for desktop computers, laptops, and tablets. Take time to get familiar with the options, rather than letting the default setting disrupt your day.

Do Not Disturb for Android and iPhone


Just like the tools above, you can pause notifications on your phone, both Android and iPhone. Many of us are juggling multiple devices – you may have a laptop open, the phone next to you, and tablet across the room.

Make sure you check out all the do not disturb settings available. Otherwise, you might find yourself reacting to whatever technology is making a noise!

mindfulness tools
Inbox Pause by Boomerang gives you amazing control over your email. You decide when emails arrive. Any exceptions are easy to set up.

Tools to Avoid Procrastination


We’ve all fallen into that black hole of social media. Whether you love reading about the latest Game of Thrones episode, watching cat videos, or commenting on politics, we’ve all been there.

Two of these tools let you limit access to certain websites or apps for periods of time. The third tool is geared toward writers who want a distraction-free interface to avoid any temptation to stray from their work.

Freedom


Freedom is a website and app blocker. This tool has some great customization features to make it work for you. You can block only certain sites, the entire internet, or everything except the sites you need.

Freedom also allows you to schedule your blocks in advance – you can even save frequently used blocks so you don’t have to set it up every time. Think you can be sneaky and check your phone to access a blocked site? Freedom can sync blocks across all of your devices.

They offer a seven-day free trial. After that, you can pay $6.99 per month, $29 per year or $129 for lifetime access.

FocusMe


FocusMe offers a similar service to Freedom. Like Freedom, you can block specified websites and apps using a scheduler or as needed.

However, it doesn’t sync across devices (yet). It works with Mac, Windows, and Android – iOS is coming soon.

FocusMe has some additional features like break reminders and a built-in Pomodoro timer.

This is a popular productivity technique that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. FocusMe is a nice all-in-one tool if you’re trying to be more mindful and productive.

At the moment, their Android version is free. For Mac and Windows, it’s $6.99 per month, $30 per year, or $119.99 for lifetime access.

FocusWriter


FocusWriter is a simple, distraction-free writing environment. No icons, no toolbars, no notifications – nothing to take away from your writing.

To access additional features of FocusWriter, you can move your mouse to the edges of the screen. Then you can use spell check, choose a theme, set up timers or alarms, and even assign writing goals.

This program is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X for a voluntary donation.

mindfulness apps
Tools like Freedom allow you to police yourself when it comes to internet usage. Customize the blocks based on your personal weaknesses.

Tools to Help You Get in the Zone


Although the jury is still out on the connection between music and focus, many people report that music (and certain sounds in general) enhance their focus.

These tools offer two ways to use music for greater concentration.

Focus@Will


Focus@Will is a unique music streaming service. They offer specially curated and produced music tracks designed to improve your focus.

They claim, “Scientists have discovered that depending on your personality type, there is a specific type of music that when engineered just right, puts your brain into a flow state making you hyperfocused and exponentially more productive.”

Based on their research, they assign types of music based on a questionnaire you answer when signing up. However, you can listen to any of the music in their collections. Focus@Will offers a two-week trial, then it’s $89.95 per year.

Noisli


For some people, music can be distracting in and of itself. You might prefer a little background noise instead.

Noisli is a site that allows you to create your own set of background sounds by combining clips from rain, water, wind, and more.

As one user says, “Perfect for working to — enough background noise to help me concentrate but not distracting enough to prevent me from being able to read or write. I love being able to layer the sounds and change the volume simultaneously as well!”

Noisli is available for $1.99 on Google Play and the App Store. It’s also free on the Chrome Web Store.

mindfulness tool
Focus@Will offers over 25 channels of specially curated and mixed music based on neuroscience research. By taking a questionnaire, they’ll recommend the best channels for you.

Tools that Remind You to Take a Break


We’ve talked a lot about staying focused on your work, but taking short breaks is also important to maintain overall productivity.

Instead of mindlessly taking a social media break, try these two tools to pause, take a deep breath, and recenter yourself.

Do Nothing for 2 Minutes


Do Nothing for 2 Minutes is brilliantly simple. It displays a countdown timer for two minutes on top of a peaceful nature scene. If you move your mouse or touch the keyboard, it will start again. Available for free on any browser.

Time Out


Time Out promotes a similar idea – that you need to pause throughout the day. However, it has more features.

The default settings offer a “Normal” break (typically for 10 minutes every hour) and a “Micro” break (a brief pause of typically 15 seconds every 15 minutes). This helps you remember not to tense up too much for long periods. You can change or remove either kind of break, or add new ones.

Available on the App Store for free or you can make a donation.

Do Nothing for 2 Minutes is exactly what it sounds like. A simple way to take a mindful break in your day.

You don’t have to be a victim of constant interruptions.

We expect to see many more mindfulness-based tools enter the marketplace in the coming years.

Are there any others you’ve found that help you reduce distractions and improve your focus? Let us know in the comments!

Social Media: Taking a Break

For many of us, the holidays are a time when we spend precious connected moments with our loved ones. We may also engage in sacred rituals associated with these holidays. Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays — or even if you don’t celebrate them specifically — this may well be one of the few times during the year when you can enjoy the presence of your family and friends in person and celebrate your relationships together. Continue reading Social Media: Taking a Break

Positive Affirmations Around Social Media Reactions


Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are designed not only to enable but encourage people to provide feedback about content posted by others. This might take the form of a like, a simple thumbs up or down, text, or something more sophisticated like a text or video response.

If you’ve ever posted content online, then you know just how enticing it can be to check how many people have liked what you’ve posted.

Continue reading Positive Affirmations Around Social Media Reactions

Let’s Start Planning for Meetings as if There’s No Internet


For those of you who are old enough to remember what it was like to attend a meeting before the internet, the only opportunity to speak to that person was at the scheduled appointment.

I remember when I started working as a lawyer and I was going to meet with a client. What would I do? I would prepare!

Continue reading Let’s Start Planning for Meetings as if There’s No Internet

Positive, Negative and Neutral Posting on Social Media


We all know that the image people portray of themselves on social media is highly selective and curated. People often post only the information that paints them in a positive light and makes them seem as interesting as possible. As a result, their social media lives don’t always reflect their full reality.

Continue reading Positive, Negative and Neutral Posting on Social Media

Turn Off Autoplay for Videos


Do you ever find yourself binge-watching on YouTube, Netflix, or any other site/app on which you view videos? It’s so easy to get lost in the content and then wonder where the time went.

To minimize this issue, turn off autoplay so that when you’re done watching one video, the next one doesn’t start automatically.

Continue reading Turn Off Autoplay for Videos

Responding, Not Reacting to Your Smartphone

Have you ever watched a tennis sequence in which a player serves and the receiver runs in reaction to the serve and then hits the ball back off balance? Throughout the exchange, the server stands firm and is seemingly dictating where and when the receiver moves. 

Do you ever feel like that with your smartphone? Are you the receiver and is your smartphone the server? Continue reading Responding, Not Reacting to Your Smartphone

You Use Technology More Mindfully Than I Do


Since I write and teach about using technology mindfully, many people assume that I’m somehow naturally gifted at that practice.  They believe I’m always focused at work and never struggle with distractions when I should be doing something more productive.

In fact, when I tell people about my work in this field, they get embarrassed and think I will look down on them because of how poorly or distractedly they use technology. Continue reading You Use Technology More Mindfully Than I Do

Practice “Not Even One”


On this blog, we’ve shared many tips on the following topics:

  • How to use technology more mindfully.
  • How to exercise more control over how and when you use technology in order to be more productive, focused, and creative.
  • How to enable your use of technology to be more aligned with your intentions and goals.

This article is about what to do when none of the suggestions seem to work.

Continue reading Practice “Not Even One”

How to Manage the Pull of Your Smartphone

Do you ever feel like your smartphone is calling to you even when it’s just sitting in your pocket not doing anything? When your phone beeps, vibrates, or buzzes, do you ask yourself, “Why is my phone doing this to me?!?”

Continue reading How to Manage the Pull of Your Smartphone

The Case For Adding “Call Me” Back To Your Vocabulary

When you pick up your phone, how often are you using it to actually do what itthe-case-for-adding-call-me-back-to-your-vocabulary was first intended for? How often are you actually talking on the phone? And I don’t mean talking via text, or email, or some other form of digital communication. I mean actually talking. Picking up the phone and calling someone.

If you’re like most people today, your answer is probably something like “very rarely.”
Continue reading The Case For Adding “Call Me” Back To Your Vocabulary

How be Happier & More Productive at Work This Week

Work is a place that we can easily feel stressed and overwhelmed. Maybe you How be Happier More Productive at Work This Weekhave multiple projects going at the same time or an impossibly short deadline that your boss wants you to meet. It’s happened to all of us at one point! The key to keeping calm under all this stress? Mindfulness.

When a workplace promotes mindfulness a few changes begin to happen. The entire company culture changes. The workplace begins to attract (and keep) the best employees. And performance within the company improves!

Continue reading How be Happier & More Productive at Work This Week

Track Your Screen Time with Moment

How much time do you spend on your phone each day? I bet it’s probably more track-your-screen-time-with-momentthan you’d expect! According to a new study, U.S. consumers spend an average of 5 hours per day on their phones. That means that about ⅓ of your time awake is spent staring at a phone screen. If you ask me, that’s a lot of time wasted. And nearly 20% of that time is being spent on Facebook—FOMO, anyone?

Continue reading Track Your Screen Time with Moment

Study: Facebook is Might be the Reason You’re Unhappy

I’ve talked before about how technology is taking over, about how many times Study: Facebook is Might be the Reason You’re Unhappywe’re “accidentally” sucked into our phones. We’re checking our social media accounts, multiple times a day for no other reason that the fear of missing out (FOMO).

Continue reading Study: Facebook is Might be the Reason You’re Unhappy

Is Your Time Well Spent?

I know I’ve talked about this so many times before, but let me say it again for is-your-time-well-spentthose of you that are new to the blog or new to mindfulness: technology is taking over our minds.

Whether we realize it or not it’s happening. And a movement that goes by the name of Time Well Spent it looking that help change that! Fighting back against digital distraction. Asking technology companies to create app designs that “empower us and reduce pollution to our attention.”

Continue reading Is Your Time Well Spent?

Podcast Episode #02: Interview with Maggie Jackson, Author of Distracted

maggie-jackson-smallWe’ve just posted the latest episode of the Technology for Mindfulness Podcast, where author Maggie Jackson joins host Robert Plotkin for a discussion about how technology can distract us and what we can do about it. Jackson is an award-winning author and former Boston Globe columnist known for her penetrating coverage of social issues, especially technology’s impact on humanity. Her essays and articles have appeared in publications worldwide, including the The New York Times, Business Week, Utne, and on National Public Radio. Her acclaimed book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, jumpstarted our global conversation on the steep costs of fragmenting our attention. Jackson’s first book, What’s Happening to Home? Balancing Work, Life and Refuge in the Information Age, examined the loss of home as a refuge. Find more info on Maggie Jackson at maggie-jackson.com.

Continue reading Podcast Episode #02: Interview with Maggie Jackson, Author of Distracted

Ask Yourself These 5 Questions When You Reach for Your Phone

You’re about to start cooking dinner when you have a question about the ask-yourself-these-5-questions-when-you-reach-for-your-phonerecipe… what can you substitute for tarragon? So you pull out your phone to type your question into Google. But what happens first? You see a new text message, notifications from 3 different apps… By the time you’ve finished checking everything out you’ve completely forgotten why you originally grabbed your phone in the first place.

Does that sound like something that’s happened to you? It’s probably happened to most of us!

Continue reading Ask Yourself These 5 Questions When You Reach for Your Phone

Meditate to Calm your Political Anger and Learn to Accept Trump

No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, if you’re like most people, you’re meditate-to-calm-your-political-anger-and-learn-to-accept-trumpprobably feeling angered or even outraged by the outcome of the latest election. Either you’re upset about who has been chosen to run your country, or all the people that are upset are angering you. Either way, no one is very happy. Not even Donald Trump has been able to “enjoy” his presidency win with so much negativity going around. So how can we find a little bit of calm and rationalization at a time when tension and emotions are so high? My answer: meditation.

Continue reading Meditate to Calm your Political Anger and Learn to Accept Trump

Increase Your Productivity Every Day with Deep Work

We all have had those times when we’re feeling a little crunched for time, we Increase Your Productivity Everyday with Deep Workhave so much to do, but so little time… but what if someone told you that you could get more done in less time? That would be impossible right? Not according to Cal Newport’s idea of “deep work.”

Continue reading Increase Your Productivity Every Day with Deep Work

Digital Distraction is Changing Our Ever-Evolving Minds

Distraction isn’t something new, throughout history humans have always been Digital Distraction is Changing Our Ever-Evolving Mindsfaced with distraction, but today it seems as though distraction has become a bigger issue. But why is that? A large part of it is due to technology, something that’s supposed to make our lives easier—and often times succeeds—also has the ability to make life harder by being such a huge distractor in our everyday lives.

When a notification pops up on your phone (a feature that’s supposed to be helpful) while you’re in the middle of an important task, or even in the middle of a family dinner, do you check it? If you’re like most people, then the answer is probably yes, even if for just a moment.

Continue reading Digital Distraction is Changing Our Ever-Evolving Minds

Take a Break to Stay Focused

stay foucsed

The workaholics among us (I can count myself in that group too much of the time) often feel that taking a break is a sign of weakness, or at least will reduce our productivity.  In reality, and perhaps counter intuitively, taking breaks can help you to rejuvenate and regain your focus, and thereby increase your overall effectiveness and productivity, whether the work you are doing is physical, mental, or a combination of both.

Continue reading Take a Break to Stay Focused

Technological Distractions are a Bug, Not a Feature

Technological Distractions are a Bug, Not a Feature

I can’t count how many times I have heard the following responses to a complaint about how technology can distract us:

  • “You can’t turn back the clock.”
  • “If you find it distracting, just turn it off.”
  • “It’s the price we pay for the benefits of technology.”

Continue reading Technological Distractions are a Bug, Not a Feature

Make Each Evening Worth Remembering

 

Make Each Evening Worth Remembering

Morning rituals are an important part of many people’s daily routines, but have you ever thought about evening rituals? Evening rituals can help to put us in a better, happier place at the end of the day and allow us to have a positive memory of the day.

Continue reading Make Each Evening Worth Remembering

The Third Theory of Distraction: Is There a Solution?

The Third Theory of Distraction: Is There a Solution?

In our previous post Two Theories of Distraction: Is it Becoming a Bigger Issue?, we talked about the two oldest and biggest theories of distraction: spiritual and material distraction. But there’s a new theory of distraction that’s been brought to light by Matthew Crawford in his new book “The World Beyond Your Head: Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.”

Continue reading The Third Theory of Distraction: Is There a Solution?

Two Theories of Distraction: Is it Becoming a Bigger Issue?

Two Theories of Distraction: Is it Becoming a Bigger Issue?

Distraction, it’s something that happens to all of us in today’s modern society. It can be enjoyable at times (scrolling though Facebook while waiting for a flight), but it can also lead to some terrible situations (scrolling though Facebook while driving).

Continue reading Two Theories of Distraction: Is it Becoming a Bigger Issue?

Shutdown Rituals: Leave The Work Stress at Work

 

Shutdown Rituals: Leave The Work Stress at Work

We hate to admit it, but nearly all of us take work home with us, it can be hard to just pack up and the end of the day and leave everything at the office. Whether we literally take home things to do after leaving work, or mentally take work problems home, it happens. Unless your job requires it—leave work stress in the office!

Continue reading Shutdown Rituals: Leave The Work Stress at Work

A Sneaky Way to Eliminate Technological Distractions at the Dinner Table

Have you ever sat down with your family for dinner, only to be faced with the glare of smartphones from everyone at the table?  If so, then Dolmio Australia claims to have a technological solution to the problem:

Continue reading A Sneaky Way to Eliminate Technological Distractions at the Dinner Table

iPad Update a Step Back for Mindfulness?

Apple recently announced that iOS 9 for the iPad will allow two apps to be displayed side-by-side simultaneously.  This feature, like every multitasking “improvement,” is being promoted as a way to enable users to be more productive, so why do I find myself feeling sad that Apple didn’t continue to hold the line against the “everything, everywhere, all-the-time, simultaneously” philosophy that consumes device and operating system design all too often?

Continue reading iPad Update a Step Back for Mindfulness?

Nattch Offers a Social Networking System with Reduced Distractions

Nattch is an online social networking system that only allows users to post updates about their actual lives–no links to other information on the Internet allowed.  The goal is to limit posts to information about users themselves, and to eliminate the clutter and temptation of links to external–and usually irrelevant–information.

Continue reading Nattch Offers a Social Networking System with Reduced Distractions

David Levy Teaches Course on “Information and Contemplation”

University of Washington Professor David Levy teaches a course entitled, “Information and Contemplation,” in which he guides students through mind-training exercises, such as engaging in only one digital task at a time, to raise students’ awareness about how they use computer technology.  He also begins each session with a short meditation.  Read more about it at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

Mexican Resort Introduces Digital Detox Program

The Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico have introduced a “Digital Detox” program.  If you sign up for the program, a “Detox Concierge” will cleanse your suite of digital distractions upon your arrival, such as by removing the flat screen television from the room, replacing it with classic board games, and taking your personal electronic devices from you and storing them in a safe. I was interested to hear Sharon Brody’s commentary about the program on NPR this morning, which the NPR web site entitles, “Digital Detox Vacation: For Those Who Have Everything–Except Willpower.” 

Continue reading Mexican Resort Introduces Digital Detox Program

Attention as a Resource

Matthew B. Crawford has an interesting piece in the New York Times suggesting that we view our attention as a resource and recognize that “a person has only so much of it.”  “What if we saw attention in the same way that we saw air or water, as a valuable resource that we hold in common? Perhaps, if we could envision an “attentional commons,” then we could figure out how to protect it.”

 

The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

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