10 apps to boost your concentration

We love flexible working. Work when you want, where you want, we say. But even we admit that it’s quite easy to get distracted. Whether it’s busy baristas, chattering coworkers or the Internet itself, there are, fortunately, tools to help improve your concentration and productivity, wherever you are.


  1. SoundCurtain (iOS only). SoundCurtain for the iPhone and iPod touch cleverly masks distracting noises with white noise and harmonic sounds, adjusting its volume, pitch and tone in response to the noise around you. You need a headset with a mic for it to work properly.
  2. White Noise Concentration (Android only). White noise – the sound your untuned TV used to make – absorbs ambient noise and helps you concentrate. This app for Android makes that sound. That is all.
  3. DeepFocus (Mac only). If you prefer your white noise in a desktop app, DeepFocus, available in the Mac App Store, combines white noise with “sonic auralscapes” and allows you to enter “varying productive states”. It is, also, a little bit frightening.
  4. Quiet (Mac only). Another Mac app, Quiet silences the noise on your desktop by setting your chat status to ‘busy’, blurring or hiding unrelated windows and shushing notifications – all at the push of a button.
  5. RescueTime. RescueTime claims to recover 3 hours and 54 minutes worth of productive time per week per person – and is used by companies such as Twitter, DropBox and eBay. It does this by allowing you to voluntarily block distracting parts of the Internet, track how you spend your time and nudge yourself when you succumb to procrastination. It’s available for individuals or managers.
  6. StayFocusd (Chrome extension). StayFocusd is an extension for Google Chrome that limits the amount of time you can spend on websites you find distracting. It can’t stop you firing up another browser though!
  7. Freedom. If blocking parts of the Internet for part of the day isn’t enough for you, you can block the entire Internet from your Mac or PC for up to eight hours at a time. Writers Nick Hornby and Nora Ephron swear by it, so does Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki. Could you cope?!
  8. OmmWriter Dāna. Simple text processor Dāna uses sights and sounds to help writers concentrate. A beautiful full-screen interface cycles colour and ambient sound to create an environment conducive to distraction-free writing. It’s available for the Mac, PC and iPad.
  9. Awareness (Mac only). Sometimes, when we’re distracted, we just need a break. Working for too long without one can be bad for your wellbeing as well as your work. At the same time, a ringing alarm to remind you to take a break can really interrupt your flow. Awareness for the Mac plays the gentle sound of a Tibetan singing bowl to mark every hour of continuous computer use, so you can decide for yourself when it’s time to stop.
  10. Notepad. Not really an app, as such, but if tech is getting in the way, and you really need to focus on an idea or strategy, go offline – and take a notepad with you. That’s what mobile working sales professional Ian Brodie recommends. And why not go outside and take advantage of the summer?

Photo credit: Chevysmom

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