Fostering Focus: Cool Tools for Productivity

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Posted February 14, 2014 by Lindsay Bosch in Life After Five

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As a sucker for apps, tricks and tips for productivity, I’ll try anything once.  I have Lifehacker permanently bookmarked, and leave behind a trail of products and systems that I’ve adopted and abandoned.  (Admit it… when was the last time you looked at your Getting Things Done folder system.)  I tend to gravitate toward those tools that integrate seamlessly into my existing work patterns. I find myself drawn towards products designed to cut out the noise and cultivate focus. (Lets call them anti-multi tasking apps.)  In the past year a few new tools in this category have stuck with me, allowing me to cultivate concentrated focus for the task at hand.

Here are a few that are working for me:

  • Focus@Will –A kind of Pandora for the office space, this app is designed to deliver “Attention Amplifying” music.  As many, know deadly silence can be as distracting as loud chatter, and I’m one of those people who needs a bit of background din to work.  Regular music poses its own issues, as I find myself humming along, and before I know it, googling misheard lyrics.  This app, created by UCLA neuroscientists, delivers instrumental music designed to “engage with your brain’s limbic system.”  The app lets you choose a general genre (ambient, classical, spa etc) and an “intensity.”  While I can’t speak to my limbic system, I have found that the app delivers just the right amount of background white noise, that allows me to concentrate.
  • Any.Do –I know that most CGN readers need another to-do list like a hole in the head, but I’ve found the Any.Do app and Chrome integration to be better than most. As with most to-do apps you can add items to your Any.Do list from your phone or browser.  The selling point however is that once a day Any.Do pops up on my phone and invites me to “Plan my Day.”  In a short animation  it offers me my tasks, and allows me to assign them to a specific time, or reroute them to Tomorrow, Upcoming or Someday.  Tasks assigned to today will create pop-up reminders throughout the course of the day.  Best of all, Any.do has partnered with the online reward platform Kiip.  When tasks are completed, the  app actually rewards users with real life credits and coupons.  Any.do is the best I’ve used for prioritizing the things on my to do list, seamlessly separating the things I need to do, from the things (lets face it) I probably never will get to.
  • Ommwriter– This download is, at its core, a minimalist word processor.  Billed as a “unique environment for writing and thinking” the program functions as a private writing room.  I’d compare using the space to going in to a private office on your computer and shutting the door.  Extending all the way to the end of your screen with no buttons or menu bars in site, the program offers a space largely free of virtual distraction.  The beautifully designed Ommwriter, provides users a few different minimal backgrounds to write on (I prefer one that shows trees on the horizon of a snowy field) and a like Focus@Will some white noise sound options.  The program also generates some satisfying audio for your keystrokes, evoking the rhythm of an old-school typewriter.  While I still use Word to create polished documents, I love Ommwriter’s empty space for brainstorming and generating ideas.

No matter what tool you use it’s a constant battle to stay focused and tackle all the work we have on our plates.

Let us know…are there productivity tools online that help get you organized?


About the Author

Lindsay Bosch

Lindsay Bosch is an arts and nonprofit manager who has worked in cultural institutions for over decade including the American Library Association, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Film Festival. Lindsay is interested in the self-driven (and often self taught) trajectory of women’s careers in nonprofits and writes about issues related to leadership, branding and work culture. Lindsay holds a Bachelors degree in Film and Media from Northwestern Univ. and a Masters in Art History, Theory and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the coauthor of the art history textbook Icons of Beauty: Art, Culture and the Image of Women.

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