Everyone needs help focusing now and then, so I thought it might help if I share a few productivity tools that help me get a lot of stuff done. Those of us who work independently probably get pulled in even more directions than those who have bosses telling them what to do right now, but these tools may be useful for just about anyone who works in an office.
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- Boomerang is an add-on to either Gmail or Outlook that lets you pause your inbox for designated lengths of time. The default is two hours, but you can make this longer or shorter. Blocking out the distraction of constant email is a powerful way to boost productivity. The free version is pretty robust, or you can subscribe to get additional features. There even is a way to allow urgent messages or email from specific people to get through during your pause.
- Noise canceling headphones or earbuds. There is plenty of research that indicates that the human brain gets pulled off task just by sensing certain sounds, so the loss of productivity adds up fast if there are phones ringing or people talking around you. A friend gave me a pair of Pioneer Rayz noise canceling earbuds for Christmas. These are amazing, and not just when I am on an airplane.
- Focus@Will provides a huge selection of focus music (or ambient noise) that has been a big part of my ability to power through projects in the past year. Lately, the classical music options have worked well, but sometimes the cafe sounds help me get into the mood for writing.
- RescueTime app: This is a downloadable piece of software or a Chrome or other browser plug-in. You can set it to block social media or other counter-productive websites for certain time periods. It also can track your activity so you can get a report card on your online time.
- Kitchen timers. I recommend having two. Set one for a longer interval, maybe 18-30 minutes, and the other for a short interval, 3-5 minutes. Use the long intervals for focused work. Alternate with breaks using the second timer. This interval method is one of the best ways to power through just about anything.
There are many other tools that may be useful depending on the kind of work you do and what your style is.
What tools do you find helpful? Let us know by leaving a comment.