6 Tools That Stop Computer Distractions and Help You Stay on Task


It's hard to focus while working on a computer. With social networks, internet calls, instant messages, pop ups, and email notifications, distractions can occur every few seconds. And what's worse — even if you're not using a computer, they can still distract you. (See also: 6 Areas to Eliminate Distractions)

According to a Canadian study of students using laptops in a classroom, not only did the students using the computers receive lower grades, but students seated near computers also received lower grades.

The bottom line is that in order to stay focused, you need to make a conscious effort. Luckily, there several websites and applications dedicated to helping you maintain focus and improve productivity while working on a computer. Here are six to get you started. (See also: How to Stay Focused at Work)

1. Simpleology

Simpleology is an easy-to-use online productivity tool. While there are several different — and initially overwhelming — features, the following three provide the biggest bang for your buck:

Browser Bodyguard

Is Facebook getting in the way of your productivity? Join the club. But with Simpleology's Browser Bodyguard you can "block" your access to these sites with the click of a button.

Simpleology Browser Add-on

With this simple Chrome extension you'll (almost) never get distracted again. When you're working and a distracting idea pops into your head (e.g., what to buy at the store, what you need to do tomorrow, etc.) simply type that into your browser bar and Simpleology saves it for your "Start My Day" box the following day. And speaking of which…

Start My Day

Each morning you empty your mind into Simpleology. Then you can review each idea/task (along with those you entered yesterday via the Browser Add-on) and choose which ones you'll get done today. While this seems like an obvious solution, the proof is in the pudding. It works. (See also: 15 Hacks That Save You Time in the Morning)

What you need to do: Create a Simpleology account and download the Browser Add-on for either Chrome or Firefox. Note: To get the free version, send a support request, and they'll set you up.

2. Evernote

Evernote lets you quickly and easily "remember everything across all the computers, phones and tablets you use" by saving notes, images, web pages, emails, and just about anything else into one central location. You can create to-do lists, training documents, study notes — the list is endless. There is also another similar app called Pocket.

What you need to do: Sign up for Evernote (free), and either download the software to your computer or get the Chrome extension. Watch the guides to get started.

3. Inbox Pause

Gmail is great, but seeing a neverending flood of emails is distracting. While an obvious solution would be to close your email, you may need to refer to previous emails to ensure your tasks get done.

Enter Inbox Pause, a simple Chrome Extension which allows you to pause incoming mail with the click of a button. Simply pause your inbox, answer your existing emails, and move on to your next task.

What you need to do: Install the Chrome extension (free).

4. Timers

The Pomodoro Technique is a famous time management technique that involves the use of timers to enhance your focus. (Fun fact: it was named after the tomato shaped Pomodoro kitchen timer. "Pomodoro" means tomato in Italian.)

The technique is simple and powerful. Choose your task, set the timer for 25 minutes, and work on that task for 25 minutes. At the end of 25 minutes, take a break for 3-5 minutes (regardless of whether or not you finished your task). Then continue working.

While kitchen timers work, you can easily install a timer on your browser.

What you need to do: Read up on the technique and Install a timer for Chrome or Firefox.

5. LastPass

Trying to remember passwords is a hassle. Having to look up passwords or click "Forgot my password"and setting up a new one is a waste of time.

Enter LastPass — a website that saves your usernames and passwords, then automatically fills them in the next time you visit a website. The best part is that your passwords are stored online and are encrypted; you can access your passwords from any computer and your details are secure allowing you to share passwords with other people (co-workers, contractors, friends, and family) without giving them your actual password. (See also: How to Choose a Great Password)

What you need to do: Sign up for a LastPass account and install the browser extensions.

6. Music

So what's the best music for getting work done? Here are some good selections for when you need to focus:

  • Classical: Load up your Pandora with classical composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and Fryderyk Chopin (what I'm listening to now).
  • Ambient: Brian Eno is known as the pioneer of ambient music, but newer artists such as The Orb and Aphex Twin produce great background music.

If you really need to focus, consider using Focus@Will, a "new neuroscience based music service that helps you focus, reduce distractions and retain information when working, studying, writing and reading. The technology is based on hard science and proven to be extremely effective at extending your attention span."

Even though the internet is full of distractions, you don't have to play the victim. Use these six tools to help you maintain focus and improve your productivity. For more tools, see all the productivity apps in Google Chrome.

What tools help you maintain focus while working on a computer? Leave a comment below!

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