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Let’s be honest: focusing at work isn’t always very easy. The fact that you’re reading this blog may be evidence enough! No matter what day of the week it is, there’s always going to be a good excuse for a distraction. It’s Monday, I just need to ease into the week. Oh, it’s Wednesday, I need a little break to get me through to the weekend. Hey, it’s Friday, I’ve worked hard enough already. Three day weekend, baby! And on top of that, it seems like almost every aspect of our lives is continually updated and optimized specifically for the explicit purpose of distracting us: with every new update to our phone, every new streaming service, and even the technologies supposedly designed to help us be more efficient (ahem, email), there’s another excuse to pull away from our work.
So understandably—and especially with those new excuses at your disposal—it’s natural that you’re going to need some help to get focused and maintain a “get $#*& done” attitude no matter what day of the week you’re on. It’s OK to ask for help: the first step is just admitting you need it. And with that in mind, we’ve distilled some of the Internet’s best attempts at eliminating the chaos into an essential tool belt designed to keep you actually focused on your work. Think of them as noise-cancelling headphones for your brain. If you’re struggling to maintain focus on the tasks at hand, take these to your team this week and see if you can’t use them to turn around your productivity rates in an instant.
Problem number one: staying on task. You can blame anyone or anything in the world, but at the end of the day, the onus is on you to stick with your chores—whether you like them or not. The truth is, as sexy as our lofty goals for the year may seem, they can’t get accomplished without a lot of grinding through mundane items day-in and day-out. So when you get stuck in the mud with too many mundane tasks, and find yourself taking a few too many “coffee breaks,” is there an accountability partner that can keep you honest?
Enter ClearFocus. Ever hear of the Pomodoro technique? It’s a method of time management that aims to keep you your most productive by working in intervals of 25 minutes with a 3-5 minute break in between. This gives you a clearly defined work period, and a clearly defined break period, helping you to stay focused for long enough to actually get something done. ClearFocus is basically just a timer that adhere’s to this technique. It’s got a sleek design, with minimal frills and a pleasant UX. Translation: a distraction free app that keeps your free of distractions until the next time you actually deserve a break.
Distraction culprit number two: your calendar. How much of your time is spent trying to schedule one-on-ones, reschedule touch base follow-ups, or figure out a time when everyone can actually make it to a team meeting? While face time is an important aspect of developing your team and having healthy communication, it invariably becomes a time-suck when you’re constantly just setting up new conversations.
Shouldn’t meetings drive solutions rather than create more problems? Doodle is the perfect solution for cutting down on all of that. It even promises to find a meeting time twice as fast as conventional methods. You can schedule events, sync your calendars, and easily see when times will or won’t work for you. With added on features you can even see who’s missing, send out quick reminders, and display your availability to the whole team. No more back-and-forth: just simple scheduling in a snap.
We often decry social media as one of the great distractors: it keeps people locked to their screen through almost anything: meetings, movies, and even meals with friends or clients. If anything, it’s ubiquitously become an anti-social concept. And yet, it’s an essential aspect of growing any business or brand. Even the government has its own social media accounts! So there’s certainly value to it.
But we should never have to feel held back by the ever increasing demand to communicate on these channels. They should serve to benefit us—not the other way around. And this is why Buffer has become one of the most valued tools that the internet has to offer. Rather than spending time on five different social media accounts, tweeting and updating in real time, Buffer gives you the freedom to schedule your posts ahead of time, and gives you the analytics you need to most efficiently engage with your audience.
If you’re not using Buffer to manage your social media accounts, you’re doing double the work with only half the benefit. Unshackle yourself from the weight of social media: let it work for you.
And speaking of being weighed down, how many of your daily emails are actually necessary to read?
Do you really need a full report of the new sale items at your favorite clothing outlet?
Are you honestly going to read all of the articles in your favorite magazine’s daily digest?
Did you actually ever mean to sign up for that one local restaurant’s weekly updates?
Probably not. Unroll.Me knows that as well as you do, and has created the perfect solution for managing all of your myriad email subscriptions. Given permission, the app will crawl your email inbox and find every subscription you have. Then it will give you the chance to “roll” them up into one daily email, so that instead of 500 different marketing offers, you see them all in one single email.
And if you do have some that you want to unsubscribe to, you can click a single button within the app and you’ll never see one of those emails again. How’s that for a zero-inbox strategy?
Ever find yourself working on a project and overwhelmed, not sure where your progress lies or even where to start? Well, Hoopla can help with that. Hoopla keeps your goals front and center, reminding you how you’re doing relative to progress as well as to your peers. By letting you set your own benchmarks and milestones, the big picture of your goal seems even more tangible. And once you achieved a benchmark you or your manager set, you’re celebrated on the big screen TV, office-wide, for all to see. Hoopla lets you get recognized for all your wins – big and small – to help get you moving in the right direction
And finally, let’s come full circle and remind ourselves of enemy number one in this distraction war: ourselves. There are a lot of wonderful places on the Internet where we can waste our time.
Surely some site just came to mind that you’d rather be on than working. SelfControl is sort-of a last ditch effort to keep you distraction free. Create a list of your go-to distraction sites, and SelfControl will block you from accessing them during specified work hours. Obviously, you can get around it if you want. But having a stopgap in place to keep you honest may be all the push you need to get back to work.
Remember: as many distractions as there are on your computer, the power is in your hands to stay focused on what you need to get done. Take back control, install these tools today, and see how your productivity rockets back up to its fullest potential!
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