Stop Being Distracted: 7 Powerful Tools to Help You Stay Focused on Your Business Goals

Stop Being Distracted: 7 Powerful Tools to Help You Stay Focused on Your Business Goals

Switching from one task to another can reduce your productivity.

A study from the University of California Irvine found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for you to get back to your task after being distracted.

This means that if you are constantly distracted while working, you could be spending longer time than necessary to get a task done.

When this becomes a habit, you may find it hard to see any significant progress on your business goals, even if you feel busy and drained.

Having a razor sharp focus on your tasks one at a time can significantly increase the amount of work you get done in a day.

This way you can hit your business milestones one by one, seamlessly pushing your business to the next level.

Especially for new business owners with limited time and resources, having razor sharp focus can become your hidden advantage.

The good news is that you can now regain your focus using tools that are already available.

In this post, I will show you 7 tools used by business owners and professionals all around the world to become more focused on their tasks.

Are you ready?

Let’s go.

Rescue Time

You may be doing many things in a day, but yet, by the end of the day, you may find that your most important tasks are still incomplete.

This may be because you are spending too much time doing things that do not contribute to your business goals.

This includes checking email or Facebook a few times an hour, or browsing websites like Buzzfeed.

The bad news is that most of us are not aware of how much time we are spending on these activities. In fact, we often underestimate the time we are spending on these activities.

Without knowing for sure how much time we are spending on these activities, we may not know what exactly to cut down on.

This is where a tool like Rescue Time becomes useful.

Rescue Time Focus Tool

Rescue Time tracks all your activities on your computer to show you what you are doing throughout the day.

screenshot-rescuetime-3Screenshot from Edshelf.com

From the data gathered on Rescue Time, you will be able to identify a pattern in your work flow from day to day. By knowing this, you can tweak your activities to reduce unproductive activities or increase productive activities.

Price: Rescue Time is a paid tool, but there is a ‘Free Forever’ option that gives you basic functions of the app.

Self-Control (Mac)

When you are doing work on your computer, it can be tempting to distract yourself in the middle of a task by going on news or social media sites.

This can slow down your work progress as you can end up spending hours on the web just browsing around.

If you have limited willpower like most people, it may be difficult to control yourself from surfing around.

For this, you can make use of the Self-Control tool.

The Self-Control tool is an application that blocks you from specific websites for a set amount of time.

When you start Self-Control, you will not be able to access any of the websites you have blacklisted until the timer runs out.

According to the website, there is nothing you can do to undo the blocking effects of self-control.

Once started, it can not be undone by the application, by deleting the application, or by restarting the computer – you must wait for the timer to run out.

All you see when you try to access your blocked sites is this error page:

Self-Control Block Websites Increase Productivity

It is easy to set up Self-control. First, download the application here.

Once you have the application, add websites you want to block.

Self Control Blacklist

Add as many websites as you want to your ‘Blacklist’.

Self-control blacklist 2

Once you have added the websites you want to the list, you can click ‘Start’ on the application. You can adjust the duration for website blocking by adjusting the bar below the ‘Start’ button.

Self-control start

(here I have adjusted to ‘1 hour’)

Price: Self-Control is a free Mac only app. For non-Mac users, you can check out Freedom. Freedom, however, is a paid tool starting at US$2.42/month.

Marinara Timer (Pomodoro Technique Timer)

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity technique which helps you get work done by switching between periods of concentration and break.

It works like this:

You set a timer for 25 minutes (one Pomodoro). Within this time period, you completely focus on a task.

When 25 minutes is up, you take a 5-minute break.

After your fourth Pomodoro, take a 15-minute break.

In the original Pomodoro Technique, you use a physical Pomodoro Timer, like the one below:

Pomodoro TimerPhoto from Caspeeradvisors.wordpress.com

But if you do not want to buy a Pomodoro Timer, you can simulate the Pomodoro Timer on your computer using the Marinara Timer.

All you have to do is select the Pomodoro Timer from the home page and click ‘Start Pomodoro’, as below:

Pomodoro Timer Start

The timer will count down from 25 minutes and go through the entire Pomodoro cycle before stopping.

Pomodoro Timer countdown

If you do not want to follow the Pomodoro Technique time cycle, you can customise your own focus and break cycle using the ‘Custom Timer’ option on Marinara Timer:

Marinara Timer Custom Timer

Use the Custom Timer to design a focus and break cycle that fits your own schedule.

Price: The Marinara Timer is free and does not require sign up or login.

Google Calendar

One of the best productivity techniques is known as time-blocking. In time-blocking, instead of working on random tasks throughout the day, you use time blocks (from 30 minutes to a few hours a block) to focus on specific tasks.

For instance, if you are a writer trying to finish writing a book, you may block 3 hours every morning to write.

According to Cal Newport, an author and computer science professor who popularised this technique,

a 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure”

Newport uses a physical notebook to do his time-blocking.

bxhm4rn9lcvwdqa3ucvmPhoto from Calnewport.com

But if you prefer to use the digital method for time-blocking, Google Calendar is the best tool for doing this.

You can create time-blocks in Google Calendar by first opening Google Calendar and then clicking on the time you want to do time blocking, as below:

Google Calendar event

After that, click on ‘Edit event’ so you can get into more advanced settings. Here you can write down your activity and set the time period for your time-block.

In the example below, I have blocked 4 hours between 8.00am and 12.00pm for ‘Writing’.

Google Calendar event settings

If you want to apply the same time-block for more than one day, you can tick ‘Repeat’. Then, you will be brought to another page where you can choose the days you want the time-block to repeat.

In the example below, I have selected for the time-block to repeat every week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can choose any repeat cycle you want.

Google Calendar Repeat

Once you are done creating your time-blocks, it may look something like this:

example of time-blocking

Test different time-blocks to find the one that produces best results. It is likely that your time-blocks will change over time.

Price: Google Calendar is free.

It is easy to set up your own Google Calendar. All you need to do is create a Google account and go to this link.

Cold Turkey Writer

No matter what you do, writing is likely plays an important role in your career. In a study by American Express, it was found that most managers see soft skills like writing as important.

So having good writing skills can give you an advantage on the job.

On the other hand, if you are a professional content producer or writer, writing may be the most important part of your job.

But yet, you may struggle to produce content fast enough or with high enough quality. This may be because you have become distracted with checking your email or clicking around the web when you should be writing.

To help you focus on writing, you can use the Cold Turkey Writer.

Cold Turkey Writer It is a full screen editor where you can only exit full screen mode when you are done with your writing goals. This forces you to stay focused on your writing task.

On Cold Turkey Writer, you can choose to unblock from three types of goals: the number of words typed or the number of minutes spent writing as a task goal.

Cold Turkey Writer

When you are starting out, set an easy to accomplish goal such as 300 words. Setting a goal too big may discourage you from writing.

Price: Cold Turkey Writer is free to use and does not require sign up or login.

Headspace

Meditation has a positive impact on our brains. It can make you more creative, compassionate and less stressed, to name but a few of meditation’s benefits.

Especially when you are stressed out from working, meditation can help you to unwind and relax. A period of relaxation can make it easier for you to focus on your work.

Some of you may already be familiar with meditation. Some others may never have tried it before. Regardless of your level of experience, Headspace is an app that can help you get into the habit of meditation.

It does this through a series of 10-minute audio lessons like this one:

Headspace audio class

You can try Headspace for 10 days for free to see if you like it.

Price: Headspace is a paid tool, but you can start with the trial, which offers 10 days of Headspace for free.

After 10 days, you can opt to pay US$7.99/month to continue meditating using Headspace.

SoundDrown

There are people who work well in quiet environments. But there are also who find it hard to focus in quiet environments.

For people in the second group, some amount of background noise would help them to focus better.

If you belong to this group, you will find SoundDrown useful. You can choose to have ‘coffee shop’, ‘rain’, ‘waves’, ‘fire’, ‘birds’ or other sounds to accompany you when you are trying to focus on completing a task.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.00.57 PM

You can even combine different sounds to produce a multi-dimensional feel to your background noise.

Price: SoundDrown is free to use and does not require sign up or login.

Conclusion

It is becoming easier now than ever before to become distracted. When we are distracted, our productivity drops and we spend more time than necessary to complete a task.

The good news is that there are now tools available that you can use to help you stay focused on your task. You can use a tool like Self-Control to block websites that you go on to distract yourself.

Other than that, you can also use the Marinara Timer to take advantage of the Pomodoro Technique to finish your work.

But spending too much time working on your tasks can make you feel stressed. Stress can reduce your ability to focus on your work. For this, you can use the Headspace app to help you relax and come back to your task focused.

You will find that by using these tools your productivity will increase and you will get to see an improvement in your business.

Have you tried any of these tools to help you stay focused before? Do you find them useful?

Lu Wee is the Founder of The Entrepreneur Campfire. The Entrepreneur Campfire (TEC) is where smart entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia gather. You can find practical articles on how to grow, market and scale your business on TEC.



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