I was struggling to finish a recent assignment. I would find myself checking out just about any online distraction I could find. From Instagram to the Google Play Store to my iPhone, there is truly no shortage of ways to distract yourself while you should be working. So I thought it might be useful to share the results of a recent one-person study (done by me, with me, and for me) that yielded some surprising results. Basically, I uncovered a treasure trove of fabulous Mac apps that will help you stay focused. They range from simple plugins that limit your web browsing to full-fledged apps that force you to focus. Depending on your needs, I’d recommend trying out a few of these bad boys. They’re solid study tools, useful ways to stay distraction-free, and free.
Hopefully they’ll help students study a bit better, teachers focus a bit more, and everyone else get a little bit more accomplished. It won’t be easy though.
This one is free and open source so expect it to be updated relatively frequently. Basically, Isolator is a menu bar application that dims your desktop with only active windows visible.
You can tweak it as needed. For example, you can adjust the filter, fade, and how long each fade lasts. The best feature, I think, is the ability to hide the dock on your Mac so you can’t easily open new apps.
This app is so simple that you’d wish you had it all these years it’s been available (since 2010). The app checks your computer on a regular basis to see which apps have not been used in a certain period of time. It then closes those apps and makes them stop sucking up your battery life and attention.
You don’t have to even lift a finger. It’s great for multitaskers and power users who keep too many things going at once. This could help you get your computer’s battery life to last a bit longer too. Plus you stay focused. Win win!
Like its namesake, Houdini is a magic little app that makes things disappear. It is simple to use and doesn’t offer as many features as some of the other tools I’m showcasing on this post. However, it works. I’ve tried it. So that’s a plus. It lets you hide particular applications and inactive applications, just like Spirited Away. Free to get on the Mac App Store.
There are some paid apps out there but this one is free. And it probably shouldn’t be. It’s good enough that I’d pay some cold hard cash for it. Focus Booster was built on Adobe Air (easy to use and update) and lets you easily use the Pomodoro Technique to get things done. In case you don’t know what that is, here’s a bit more about it from the Focus Booster site:
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980′s. It can be used for any kind of task and enables you to view time as a valuable ally in accomplishing what you want to do.
The technique uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals (referred to as “pomodoros”) separated by breaks and is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.
There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
Time Out is a simple bit of freeware that makes you (okay, it encourages you, but still …) take breaks between the time you work. It’s default mode is to create regular breaks of 10 minutes every hour. It also offers you 15 second “micro breaks” which let you clear your head a bit by looking up from your computer screen.
When it’s break time, the screen slowly fades over your desktop and disables the dock on your Mac. All you can do is NOT work. I love this one!
Feel free to share your favorite ways to stay focused down in the comments! I’d love to see how you are able to actually accomplish things using technology (or not).