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Tag: Productivity

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!

3 Easy Ways to Form a New Tech Habit


On this blog, we often provide tips for how to make more mindful, productive, and efficient use of technology. It’s easier to describe what to do than to actually create and engage in the habit of doing it. Suggesting that you don’t use your smartphone immediately upon waking up in the morning or within an hour of going to bed doesn’t make creating and following that habit easy to do. 

Today, I’ll offer three pointers that will improve your chances of forming a new and enduring technology habit.

Ease into It

Many of us try to create a new habit by just engaging in it directly. For example, if you want to practice not using your smartphone for an hour after you wake up, you might try going cold turkey right away. I’ve found that this approach often results in failure, as it doesn’t help change my behavior or reinforce the intended behavior.

Try easing into a habit like this: On the first night, start out by not using your phone for the last five minutes before you go to bed. That should be much easier than an hour. Practice that for a few days, a week, or until you feel like that habit is ingrained and does not need additional practice. Then increase the amount of time and keep expanding the habit in that way until you reach your original goal.

By easing into it, you may find that you’re more likely to create the habit than if you try to bite off the entire task from the beginning. Start with a smaller, more manageable version of it and increase it over time.

Make It Easy on Yourself

When I try to create a new habit for myself, I often do it in a very austere kind of way. This can work if I pose some structure around it, but it can be quite boring. Other than the reward of feeling like I’ve accomplished my goal, it doesn’t really create any other positive associations in my mind. As a result, I’ve found that trying to create a new habit in this way sometimes either fails or leads to habits that don’t stick.

With that said, there’s a wide variety of ways to make it easier to create the habit. For example, these are all things I’ve done and you can try:

  1. Enlist the help of your friends, family, and coworkers to support you. For example, they can provide reminders for you or even just give moral support.
  2. Use technology to set a reminder to do or not do something.
  3. Associate a positive feeling with this new habit. Focus and draw your attention to that positive feeling.
You may worry that these tricks are crutches. If you ask friends to remind you of something, you may feel like you’ll rely on them and may stop engaging in the habit altogether if they stop reminding you. On the flip side, sometimes we can do things to help us create a habit and supports for the habit, and once the habit is ingrained in our minds and bodies, we no longer need those initial supports to keep the habit going.

Be creative when thinking about what you might be able to do to help you form a new habit. In addition, make the trigger for engaging in it fun if that helps you.

Pay Attention to How You Feel Each Time After Engaging in the Habit

Say you’re practicing not using your phone before bed. Maybe you set an alarm 15 minutes before bed to remind yourself not to use your phone. When that 15 minutes is over, pay attention to how you feel now that you have not used your phone. Bringing my attention to how I feel after I’ve practiced something I want to form as a habit actually helps that habit to form better. It’s a way to bring mindfulness to the formation of a new habit to help enforce the behavior you’re trying to habituate in yourself.

Bear in mind that you can apply these tips to any kind of habits. I hope you find them helpful for any change that you are seeking.

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

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

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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