Ben Gilman

Fix your concentration with free technology

We’ve all been there: you’re sat at your desk, you’ve got a cup of coffee (or your chosen brew) and there’s a mountain of work awaiting your attention. Unfortunately somewhere along the way between bed and your desk your ability to concentrate got lost. Here are some quick tips on how you can refocus your mind and get working again.

Sound

Unless you work alone in a remote mountain range then likely there’s a fair amount of background noise in your work environment. Outside of your control that noise can be distracting, confusing, infuriating and unconducive to good concentration - it’s time you blocked it out.

Firstly, you’ll need some headphones or earbuds - something noise-cancelling/reducing ideally - unfortunately this bit isn’t free! If you work in an open-plan office it’s best to get something that won’t leak sound. I swear by these Sennheisers but as ever, do your own research. With your sound system procured and the background noise muffled it’s time to replace it with something better.

Noise

  • Simply Noise
    Some people claim that white noise can help you sleep. Importantly for the premise of this blog post, they also claim it can enhance your concentration. I’m not convinced - but, if listening to the gaps between the radio stations is your kinda thing then SimplyNoise.com allows you to create your own comfortable stream of white noise to fill your headphones with.

Music

  • Spotify
    The arrival of Spotify has made a vast library of music available for free. Now you can make your own playlist of music and repeat it to your heart’s content. Of course, once you’re addicted you may want to consider paying for a Premium subscription to avoid the very unconducive advertisement breaks. Get in touch if you’d like an invite for the free version, I have a few.
  • Last.fm
    If making playlists isn’t your thing then Last.fm offers custom radio stations - pick a band you like and Last.FM will play you a stream of similar music, some of which you can be sure you won’t have heard before - I’ve bought numerous albums off the back of recommendations made by it.

Vision

Working on an internet-connected computer can be a curse - it’s hard to get down to the real work when a world of information (or entertainment) is hiding behind your browser’s icon. These apps should help.

For anyone

  • Isolator
    This is a tiny little free app that dims your other applications, leaving only the current application visible, letting you concentrate on the job in hand. Isolator is Mac only.
  • Dropcloth
    For Windows users, the tiny Dropcloth app does a similar job, and its free too.

For writers

If you have writing to do, creative or otherwise it’s good to put the visual distractions to one side. Fortunately there’s a selection of applications that help you do just that:

  • Ommwriter
    A charming application that gives you a clean fullscreen visual workspace to do your writing. With the added bonus of calm soundtracks, Ommwriter lets you can engage your brain to write without distractions. Ommwriter is free while in beta and helps you to tame “your wild monkey mind”.
  • WriteRoom
    If you just need a clean space to write (without the audio bells and whistles of Ommwriter) then WriteRoom is for you. It’s Mac and iPhone only, $25 for the Mac version, $5 for iPhone.
  • Creawriter
    A rough clone of OmmWriterFor Windows users.

Once you’ve got all these in place you’ve really only got yourself to blame for not being able to knuckle down to your work!

So, what are your technological tips for better concentration?

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