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Tag: tips

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!

Finding the Joy in Anticipation Beyond All the Communication

A while back, I heard someone say that technology has brought about the end of anticipation. Before the internet, when we went to visit a family member or friend who lived far away from us, we had a lot to talk about and catch up on since the last time saw each other.
Continue reading Finding the Joy in Anticipation Beyond All the Communication

Turning Off Your Work Mind

Do you find that it’s hard to turn your work mind off even after you stop working? Is the “end of the work day” concept foreign to you because you keep your nose so close the grindstone? Many of us find ourselves in this situation — particularly with smartphones, laptops, and mobile internet enabling us to stay connected at all times.

Those of us who work from home can find it especially difficult to create boundaries between work and personal life. Here are some suggestions for doing just that.

1. Try to develop a regular work schedule.
This allows you to get into the habit of starting and stopping work at certain times of the day. It doesn’t have to be a traditional schedule. Just find what works for you. It can even include several different periods of work on different days. The key is doing your best to schedule certain regular times for starting and stopping work, creating a habit in your mind through repetition.

2. Develop starting and ending work habits/rituals.
These are certain actions that you perform and thoughts that you have to transition your mind into and out of work mode. They could be as simple as stopping and pausing for 5 or 10 seconds and thinking about what you’re going to transition into. You might say it out loud or in your mind to engage your focus. It could be something as simple as arranging things on your desk or simply starting work. No matter the tasks, these should help you make the mental transition to and from work.

Rituals are found in several other traditions. For instance, when you walk into a Japanese martial arts school, you pause and bow at the threshold before entering. At the beginning of each class, there is also a bowing ceremony. I was always taught that one of this ritual’s purposes is to help us reach a more focused mental state.

These tips have something in common: They help to create and enforce mental boundaries between work time and non-work time. I think these boundaries have always existed, but it’s particularly important these days to intentionally create them because they’re missing in the way that many of us work. Technology makes information and communication available to us at all times and in all places. Many of us can work without going into an office, with different people, and on different projects. Obviously, this situation suffers from a lack of boundaries.

If we want to have them in our lives, we have to create them ourselves through force of habit.

Here’s another resource that could help: Shutdown Rituals: Leave the Work Stress at Work.

How to Prioritize Responding to Important Messages


Have you ever planned to respond to a particular message and then found yourself replying to new ones as they arrive? Of course you have. We’ve all done it. Continue reading How to Prioritize Responding to Important Messages

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

The Mind Can Also Follow the Body

As mindfulness in the West is picking up and taking off as a popular movement, I’m getting the feeling that many people are being introduced to it as a purely intellectual and mental practice. After all, the word “mind” is in mindfulness. 

However, there are ways to achieve a state of mindfulness that don’t start with or focus primarily on your mind. Other approaches focus more on the body or integrating mental and physical training. Continue reading The Mind Can Also Follow the Body

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

6 Tasks We Should Recover From Daily – Part 2

Last week we talked about how and why we need to recover from tasks in our 6-tasks-we-should-recover-from-the-day-part-2daily life and we covered, recovering from work and technology. I challenged you to take on both of these, did you try it? How did it go? Did you notice a difference in your stress or sleep?

Today we’re moving on to the other 4 areas of our lives that we need to learn to recover from: people, fitness, food, & being awake.

Continue reading 6 Tasks We Should Recover From Daily – Part 2

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

Five Ways to Practice Mindfulness Without Meditating

Zen stonesThe term “mindfulness” is often used hand in hand, or even synonymously, with “meditating,” and for good reason–mindfulness meditation is one of the most longstanding and widely-used techniques for practicing mindfulness.  It isn’t, however, the only way.  In Buddhist teaching it is said that there are 84,000 doors to enlightenment.  Here I’ll mention just five:

Continue reading Five Ways to Practice Mindfulness Without Meditating

A Technological Trick for Avoiding Mindless Meetings

mindless meetings

A good meeting can energize people, refocus a team, and strengthen interpersonal connections.  A bad meeting can suck the energy out of a room and leave everyone feeling frustrated and exhausted.  No wonder that corporate meetings are the bane of office workers and are an endless source of humor for comedians and sitcom writers.

Continue reading A Technological Trick for Avoiding Mindless Meetings

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

Protecting Yourself Against Yourself: Blocking Apps for Focus

screenshot focus

Although we’d all like to have such a high degree of self-control that we don’t need any external aids to keep ourselves focused and present when using technology, in practice we can all use a little help.  There are a variety of apps you can use to resist technological temptation by making it impossible (or at least very difficult) to succumb to that temptation.  Some good examples are:

Continue reading Protecting Yourself Against Yourself: Blocking Apps for Focus

5 Tips for Using Technology More Mindfully

phone

 

We all complain about how technology distracts us and makes it harder to be mindful. Now is the time to stop moaning and take charge. Here are five tips for using technology to help you be more mindful.

Continue reading 5 Tips for Using Technology More Mindfully

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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