The 2018 UK Communication Market Report stated that, on average, people spend at least 24 hours online a week. The report’s statistics also reveal that the average person has 81 screen-on or app sessions daily, which equals checking on the phone every 12 minutes. Did you check your TikTok and Instangam page before reading this paragraph, or are you inclined to do so now? Almost all of us are guilty of this kind of sin sometimes. It happens. And yes, we worry as much about this habit as you do. Read on to regain control of your life and your smartphone with focus apps.
Why Do Students Suffer from a Lack of Attention?
Seeking small guilty pleasures throughout your study sessions is natural. Don’t punish yourself or blame yourself for being inherently lazy or lacking in self-discipline. Although these traits are related to attention span, the crux of the issue more often lies in the sphere of neuroscience. The scientific terms associated with the brain’s ability to remain attentive are: limited processing resources, selective attention, and dopamine.
I have recently studied the neuroscience of attention span as a side project. Nothing is stronger than dopamine in our motivation system, so to stay focused, manage your reward system.
Jean Chavez, a nursing student and hospital worker from New York
Simply put, our brain has only that much attention to give to any activity. We need selective attention to navigate large amounts of data and to narrow in on one particular piece of information while ignoring all the other incoming signals. At the very core of cognition is, in fact, a constant hormonal eruption. One of the main hormones, dopamine, clings to things that are pleasant, interesting, and shiny. Hence, regardless of the strength of your selective attention, dopamine, and, relatedly, curiosity, lead the way.
Okay, but How Can Focus Apps Help?
There are two main ways to conquer our natural instincts and evolutionarily-rooted behaviors. The first way is to find greater pleasure in work than the distraction can propose. The second one is the complete elimination of all “shiny” distractions. Thus, you can consider focus apps that help you with:
- Tracking your activities. Seeing the time you spend working makes you feel good about yourself. It’s a strong enough incentive to work.
- Blocking visual distractions. Advertisement and app notifications can feel like pretty seashells we don’t need to pick up right now. Focus apps remove them from our sight.
- Enhancing the pleasure from the process. Apps with ambient background music, online coworking spaces, and visualized rewards for productivity stimulate your dopamine system.
Freedom. Declaring War on Your Social Media Addiction
Downloading the focus app is something you can do to help you overcome the temptations of one of the biggest drains on your concentration – social media. Freedom productivity app can become your personal productivity manager, handling multiple issues simultaneously. Here is what you can do with it:
- Use the Freedom app across all your devices. Some distraction blockers might work for your account on one particular device but leave open sneaky ways to be distracted on other devices. Instead, Freedom works with focus sessions, blocking the unwanted attention stealers across all devices simultaneously.
- Boost your productivity with background sounds. For instance, you might rely strictly on a YouTube collection of multi-hour playlists. Yet, each time you have to open the app. Inevitably, you wind up scrolling through video after video about productivity instead of being productive. Freedom kills two birds with one stone for you.
- Manage what to block, when, and how. With the Freedom focus application, you can schedule your block periods so they will align with your work sessions and shut down distracting apps, websites, or even access to the internet if you so choose.
Freedom’s main characteristics
The type of the focus app: distraction blocker, focus music app
Pros: available on multiple devices and platforms, scheduling option, blocks both apps and webpages, works as a focus music app, low subscription cost ($3.33/month with a yearly subscription), and free option available
Cons: Some people may find it a bit intrusive or overprotective that with the locked mode, you can only turn your block off via the customer support center. You also can’t leave the app until your session is done, even in an emergency.
I like the Freedom app because I use both laptops and smartphones for studying and managing distractions in two places would take more cognitive resources. Freedom is the best free concentration app I’ve found.
Xiu Zhang, a Business Administration student in Los Angeles
AdBlock. Eliminating the Visual Noise
Although sharing similar functionality, Freedom App and AdBlock are, in fact, not competitors but complementary workmates. Freedom focuses on your flow, removing the temptations that could interrupt you. However, distractions await you even on websites you use solely for work. Here is how AdBlock helps with that:
- Removes all advertisements. The distraction blocker manages ads, popups, banners, pre-rolls, third-party tracking, and all malware dangers. As a result, you get clean and neat websites for focused sessions.
- Enhances browser safety. AdBlock helps not only with removing distractions but also with removing all sorts of malicious programs. Also, no need to be concerned about whether the extension can see your sensitive data. Ad blocker is a simple tool that examines website content with generic filters and doesn’t record your personal data.
- Speeds up page load time and preserves the battery. Your device consumes energy displaying each bit of information behind the picture you see on your screen. The advertisements are usually made in a video format, which has a larger file size and thus require more resources. Distraction-blocking apps resolve this issue and extend the working time for you and your device.
Having a two-year-old daughter is a pleasure and a welcome distraction from my work and studies. So, I try to eliminate all the other less-valued distractions and focus on what matters. AdBlock helps me not to get carried off by engaging visuals on the web.
Jean Chavez, a nursing student and hospital worker from New York
AdBlock’s main characteristics
The type of the focus app: distraction blocker
Pros: manages both visual distractions and security issues, takes the form of a web extension with no need to download the app, shortens the page load time
Cons: there are risks in downloading AdBlock from somewhere other than the official website and getting a malware program instead of a safety manager
Focus Me. Multiple Functions in One App
Now, we go on to more complicated systems and how one app can become a collection of many “focus to-do” systems. Below we mention three ways apps that help you concentrate generally work. Focus Me performs two functions: it tracks your activities while blocking distractions. Here are the details:
- The app helps you maintain focus on your task. Like Freedom, Focus Me is also one of the best apps to stop your monkey mind from pursuing guilty pleasures. The application blocks social media, websites, games, and web browsers. For instance, if you don’t trust yourself with managing your sleep time, Focus Me can shut down all internet access till morning.
- The app has integrated the Pomodoro technique. Pomodoro, or the principle of scheduled and controlled break and work chunks, is one of the best focus ideas that humanity has ever invented. With Focus Me, you don’t need to think about setting a timer each time or searching for apps that will do one thing at a time. This application does it all so you concentrate on getting your work done.
- Focus Me is your personal database. It is one of the best apps to help you stay focused in from a long-term perspective. The application converts your work sessions into concise data charts where you can review all the info about how you spend most of your time. The app is focused on you and your progress so that you can make better decisions on your workflow and routines.
Source – Focus Me
Focus Me Main Characteristics
The type of the focus app: tracking app, distraction blocker, Pomodoro service
Pros: the availability of many functions in one app, low annual subscription cost ( $2.50/ month), the analysis of your productivity data
Cons: does not work with Linux or iOS devices, no free plans
Work Gamification with the Forest App
Forest is one of the most popular focus apps due to its simple idea of empowering both personal development and helping the environment. The trees that grow during your study sessions help you focus without overcomplicating the process for your motivation system. Here is how it works:
- Pleasant visuals. While you use the app, your brain gets a pretty understandable and visually accessible reward. We need focus tools because the dopamine system evolutionary wants to see the tiger slayed in front of us as a reward for hunting. With no tigers to slay, we still need visual confirmation that the work is worth the effort, so the best focus apps manage this issue.
- Real-world impact. The application collaborates with “Trees for the Future,” an organization that restores green areas and develops communities to overcome global hunger. You can become a part of the aid simply by pursuing your own goals. The users earn virtual inner-app coins for the focus sessions, and the Forest team converts those coins into real donations. You can use coins to unlock new visual styles for your trees or other virtual items.
Forest’s Main Characteristics
The type of the focus app: pomodoro timer app
Pros: positive ecological impact through an easy procedure, engaging interface, and gamification of the concentration process
Cons: it does not collect and analyze data from your concentration sessions and has no other useful features
I have to confess my sincere love for the Forest app! I like the simplicity and calming Forest interface, and the idea behind the app is just what I need for concentration. The best focus app ever!
Patric Johnson, a 4th-year student, and Assistant Engineer
Using apps to help you focus is a good way to add external control to your motivation system and help you save time and be more efficient. Choose what fits you best, and have a great study or work session!