4 apps to help distracted designers increase productivity and focus

4 apps to help distracted designers increase productivity and focus

Have you ever sat down to knock some client work off your plate only to find yourself still sucked into your Facebook feed an hour later? Or have you ever ended up on a wild goose chase by clicking links and then can’t remember what it was you were looking for in the first place?

If you’re easily distracted, working on the web can be difficult. There are distractions everywhere! And once you’ve been distracted, it takes a while for your mind to refocus on the task at hand.


Thankfully, you aren’t alone in your struggles. You can overcome your distractibility while you’re trying to work, and learn to stay focused. To help, check out these four web tools designed to minimize distractions. There are options available for every budget, so you can keep distractions away starting today!

1. Self-Control


Using Steve Lambert’s free application, you can block yourself from accessing email and Twitter (or other distractions) for a certain amount of time. You’ll still have access to everything else online, but your computer will not allow you to open anything you’ve added to your blacklist.

A possible downside? There is no way to gain access to the blacklisted sites until the timer runs out, not even restarting your computer. You just have to wait. Of course, this wait time means you can get a lot of focused work done without worrying about being distracted.

Self-Control is an OS X application, so the original will only work on Macs. However, this is Free Software, so others have created a Linux and Windows version. (You can find the links for those versions here.)

2. Freedom


For just $29 per year, or with a $119.99 Forever plan, you can experience distraction-free working. A subscription to Freedom allows you to use the application on unlimited devices. So whether you’re working on your tablet or your desktop, you’ll be able to focus.

You can customize the sites you block during each session, and each device you use can be customized to block different sites. One option is to block the entire internet, which is perfect for designers who have offline work to complete.

If you have a fixed daily work schedule, you can have Freedom sessions start automatically. Then you won’t have to worry about distractions during your productive work hours. To really improve your focus, you can start “Locked Mode,” which keeps you from removing any blocked sites during a session. Being forced to wait until it’s over will help break the habit of being distracted.

3. Focus booster


Have you heard of the pomodoro technique? The objective is to have a short-focused work time (called pomodoros), followed by a break. Then you repeat. As you work through your pomodoros during the day, you’ll be able to accomplish everything on your to-do list.

The focus booster app understands the benefit of short work sessions and staying focused. Instead of blocking sites for you, focus booster provides a mini on-screen timer. This counts down the time until your next break, helping your brain to learn to stay on task without an app doing it for you.

You also have the option of tracking your time with this application, making it perfect for completing time sheets for clients. There are three different plans available for focus booster, depending on your needs. The Starter level is free and will help you see if this tool is a good fit for you.

4. StayFocused


If you work in Chrome, this free extension will help you make the most of your productive work time. You can add sites to your blocked list, or use the nuclear option to block everything except specified sites.

Once you’ve got your lists updated, you get to set the timer. This is the length of time that you’ll be unable to access those sites. Of course, you could always just open a different browser as a workaround, but if you’re trying to get some focused work in, just tell yourself no.

With this extension, you can also grant yourself a set amount of time to waste on each of your favorite distraction sites. That means you can allow yourself 15 minutes of Pinterest a day, and then once your time is up, you’ll be blocked. If there’s a site you struggle with the most, this might be a good option for you.

Distractions happen to everyone, but using tools like these can help you stay focused while working online. Do you have a favorite tool that you utilize that wasn’t on this list? Please share it in the comments.

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