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Best Business Apps to Help You Focus

You have the internet in your pocket. Your smartphone is an amazing tool that gives you access to unlimited and very cool resources. But having the whole world at hand can also make it very hard to focus. Fortunately your smartphone also has some incredible tools to make you more focused and productive. Most are free so you can experiment with what works for you with little investment.

  • Minute makes light work of tracking meeting agendas, pre-reads, notes and follow-ups. Helps you look like you always have it all together. Easy to use and integrates with most business platforms.
  • Focus Zen is for a noisy office or a mind that needs quieting. This highly rated app is designed to provide “audios that boost your focus” and forget distractions. Use it to concentrate on work, reading, writing, studying, or for think-time.
  • 30/30 task manager turns your day into manageable and adjustable chunks of time. Helps you stay on task in a motivational way. Many claim it is a procrastination buster. It is simple and yet highly customizable.
  • Rescue Time will tell you how much time you spent on Facebook, or any other program. And if you don’t have the self-control to not get sucked into an app, it will block it for you or keep you out of it for whatever time you want. You stay in control. It runs in the background of your computer or mobile devices and then gives you a report of how you spent your time. You can analyze your biggest time sucks and have tools to be more focused.
  • Mindfulness training can be hugely beneficial in developing your ability to concentrate and stay attentive. Given the long list of psychological and mental benefits, the number of apps for mindfulness training has grown to over 700 apps according to one study http://mhealth.jmir.org/2015/3/e82/. They also found that only 4% of them actually provide training and education. At the top of their rankings was Headspace. Others that show up consistently on this and other notable lists are Smiling Mind; iMindfulness; Calm; Stop, Breath & Think.

Instead of letting your smartphone be the cause of your distraction, let it be a powerful tool for your productivity. Take back your independence and focus on the work that makes you successful.

 

Are You Connected or Distracted?

Ding! You’ve got an email, better see if it’s important. Buzz! You reach for your phone like Pavlov’s dog, better look at that site. Ring! You’re not going to answer it, but who is calling? Now what were you doing? Which time?

 

It’s easy to feel frustrated, like you can’t get anything done.  The demands just keep piling up so you come in early, work at home evenings and weekends. If you don’t change the way you work, you may never climb out.

 

Being connected through these devices is vital to success.  But, often we react to them because it just feels good.  With every ding, buzz and ring we get a shot of dopamine which is associated with the reward system of our brain. If not kept in check, they can be an alluring distraction that doesn’t accomplish your most important work and can zap your productivity.

The real cost, however goes beyond wasted time.  Our ability to focus at deeper levels may be the price we pay, according to Professor Clifford Nass, Stanford University.

 

However, you can improve with a few simple, but impactful, changes to your work habits:

 

  • Practice – Disconnect periodically each day for work that requires deeper levels of thought.  This rewires our brain by building new pathways.  The more practice, the stronger those paths, making dedicated attention and focus easier.

 

  • Begin with focus time – We are most capable of both the discipline, and the actual ability to concentrate, early in the day.  Determine the most important work for tomorrow and begin there.

 

  • Pivot completely – Switch between deep focus work, and other types of activities.  Interact with colleagues, electronically or in person.  Or take a break and move around.  Even a little bit of exercise or activity can actually change the chemistry of your brain, according to Dr. John Ratey.   When it’s time to pivot again, do so completely.

 

  • Check email less often – Decide how often you truly need to check and stick to it.  People who thought they were checking every 15 minutes found that when a camera recorded them they were looking 30-40 times per hour.  Whether every 15 minutes, or 3 times a day, minimize the time you self-interrupt.

 

Turn your devices back into productivity tools instead of tethers.  People frequently say “work smarter, not harder.”  This is where you can begin.  Clarity and a sense of accomplishment may be at your fingertips.

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