Some tools to help me focus
I’m terrible at focusing. I flit around from task to task like a goddamn hummingbird, never stopping too long on one thing to make too much progress. Flow state? More like “no state”, amirite?
I’ve got many legitimate things contributing to my lack of focus, and I know not to beat myself up over it. As my life returns to normal, I’m already seeing big improvements in my ability to focus and make actual progress on actual things.
But distractions still abound, and I find myself pulled away from the things I need to be doing. So I thought I’d share some tools that have proven to be helpful focus my attention.
Hazeover dims out everything except the active window, which reduces visual clutter and keeps my eyeballs on the task at hand. While I don’t use it for coding (keeping my editor and browser side-by-side is important), it’s really helpful for other things, like writing this blog post.
I’ve been using Focus for years to block distracting websites and apps. I can control which sites and apps I want to block, and I can set a schedule for working hours so I don’t find myself putzing around on social media instead of getting things done. (Side note: managing social media use is incredibly hard for me because social media is both a distraction as well as a tremendous source of news, resources, inspiration, and community. It’s tough to put a binary switch on all that).
RescueTime overlaps a bit with Focus in that it has a feature that can block out distractions. I use Focus out of habit, so I don’t use RescueTime’s focus tool.
But! RescueTime is easily some of the best money I spend all year. The tool captures what sites and apps you use, lets you flag them as “productive” or “distracting”, and creates beautiful reports on how you spend your time. They also have a fantastic blog (shoutout to Robin Copple) that in my view captures a really healthy and holistic view of productivity and wellbeing. Insights abound with RescueTime!
xTab is a Chrome extension that limits the number of open tabs you can have. I’m one of those people who ends up with 2px-wide browser tabs because I have 9583289 open. With xTab, I’m able to keep that bad habit under control. You can configure it to automatically close older tabs, or just yell at you that you can’t open any more (that’s what I set it to). When that happens (which is often), I’ll go through and decide what’s worth closing.
Android Focus Mode
On my phone I’m able to define working hours that disables distracting apps. Blocking out Twitter, Instagram, and Galaxiga keeps me from getting sucked into the black hole of my phone. I’ve found a lot of value in all of Android’s Digital Wellbeing tools, and would love if it was more front and center in the operating system.
Plenty more where that came from
I’m with it enough to know that tools alone won’t magically take me to a focused, productive nirvana. But also, tools can help keep the train on the tracks when my brain wants to do anything but. So with that in mind, I’d love to hear what tools, techniques, processes, etc you use to stay focused.