There's nothing quite like the feeling of checking off your to-do items at the end of the day, knowing you were able to combat distraction and accomplish tasks assigned to you. But if you're like me, the distractions come a mile a minute, so the struggle to fight them off and focus solely on work becomes exhausting if you're not using the right tools.
Fortunately, there is a great variety of free tools available for the picking. After having tested and used a bunch of them over the course of months (some even for years), I've distilled them down to these 10 distraction-killing apps that will help you: quiet down, avoid needless browsing, write without distraction, use audio to focus, and organize your work. Try them out and tell me if they work for you!
Hush (Mac): temporarily silences your Mac’s system alerts so you can work without getting distracted by popup windows or chiming notifications. This one's great for quieting your machine when presenting a deck at a meeting or for silencing the Mac for 30-minute work sprints.
Shush (Android): does the same thing for your Android phone. Set the timer for 15 minutes or 2 hours or indefinitely, and when the timer runs out, your phone goes back to its default sound settings.
TabZolo (Chrome extension): allows you to focus on only one Google Chrome tab, while temporarily hibernating every other open tab. One click restores everything you had open once you decide your work is done. It's a perfect tool if you work within your browser a lot and need to cut out the temptation to check Facebook or Gmail.
Fluid (Mac): is a downloadable tool that can turn a web app such as Wrike (or Gmail, or Evernote, etc.) into a standalone OSX desktop app that you can place in the dock. It's almost like an internet shortcut in that one click launches the web app. This cuts down on the possibility of getting sucked into your Twitter feed (though you could always make a Fluid app just for Twitter). Tip: hide the status bar and the toolbar, so you forget you're actually using a browser — fewer chances of typing in a new URL.
OmmWriter (Mac): is a beautifully-designed fullscreen word processor with built-in audio tracks and keyboard typing sound effects. (If you don't like the new-age music or sound effects, turn them off and use your own music.) While the older version was freeware, the current version is now pay-what-you-want (they do have suggested amounts). Although, you can still find the old free version via your favorite search engine.
Dark Room (Windows): is a no-distraction writing app for Windows whose appeal lies in having absolutely no bells and whistles. Though, you better enjoy having green text on a black background a la The Matrix.
FocusWriter (Mac/Windows/Linux): is an open source (free) writing tool available for Mac, Windows, and Linux! It can do everything Dark Room does, and pretty much everything OmmWriter does (no audio however and it isn't very appealing graphics-wise). But hey, stop complaining: after all it’s open source, and multi-platform.
Coffitivity (Mac/Android/iOS): is a simple app that allows you to play three different versions of coffee shop ambience (basically the background sounds of a coffee shop). Some people swear it helps you focus and block out distractions. But if music is more to your liking, read on...8tracks (browser): is a website for listening to (or assembling) playlists of audio tracks of every genre of music imaginable. Do a search for playlists with tags such as "focus+work," "study," or "productivity" to find curated music that may get you in the flow. Or check out our two favorite playlists: Relax to Infinity and Welcome to the Grind.
Organize it, process it!
Wrike (browser/Android/iOS): our work management tool that can hold everything from your grocery lists to more gargantuan projects involving people from different departments, regions, and even countries. Organizing your work means your tasks can be prioritized, delegated, and assigned. It's also the best place to log all your ideas, and schedule all your project plans. making it the central hub for everything you have to do.