The goldfish has a bad reputation when it comes to focus. 9 seconds and it’s gone. Surprisingly, it turns out humans are no better. Email, ‘let me google that’, sharing your lunch with your followers, email! We’re living in the age of technological distraction and as a result our attention span has shortened from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013.
While technology might be the cause of our distractions, it can also be a very effective solution:
For making email work for you
Gmail – yes that’s right. Gmail does so much more than email. With some simple additions you can use Gmail to help transform yourself into an engine of productivity. Boomerang for Gmail is one such addition. This plug-in allows you to schedule your messages to send at a time when they are most likely to be read and responded to.
Another useful part of Boomerang is the tracking response which reminds you if you haven’t received a reply, and even allows you to schedule an automated follow up.
Inbox by Google, the newly released app, also deserves a mention. Using this you can undo send and snooze emails to return to your inbox at a later stage. Its smarter search feature also makes finding that booking confirmation number much quicker.
For when you’re overwhelmed
Wunderlist is a godsend for those with too much to do. It adds a level of organisation that a post-it note or annual diary can’t provide. You can add sub-lists, folders, project collaborators, notes (so you can capture thoughts all in one place instead of keeping them across scraps of paper) – all beautifully presented in an intuitive interface. It helps to keep on top of all the chaos with location based deadline reminders. It is available on almost every platform, and users can access their list from any device.
For tuning out
On a low focus day tuning out the open office can be very difficult. This is where music apps can help. While most music is created to distract you, to stir emotions or change your mood, Focus@Will curates music that has been scientifically proven to enhance productivity and keeps you focused. The service costs around 8 euro a month with a 15 day free trial. Once the free trial is up you will only be allotted 100 minutes of music for free.
If you don’t fancy paying a monthly fee, then a cheaper alternative is Coffitivity. This is a free app that recreates the sounds of a café. Research has found that the noises of a coffee shop make you more creative.
For keeping your hands off your mobile for 5 seconds
Forest keeps you away from your phone while you’re trying to focus. This app is like a Tamagotchi (some ’90s nostalgia for you) for productivity. You plant a seed and if you stay away from your phone for 30 minutes it becomes a tree. The tree is killed when you migrate to Instagram or answer a text within the 30 minute block, encouraging you not to procrastinate.
The app also works as a great time management tool. Use your 30 minute sections to achieve a task you have been ignoring. At the end of the day you can check your trees to see how productive you’ve been.
It’s a part of your job you always leave to the last minute, frantically trying to photocopy all your receipts the hour before the deadline. Expensify is an app that can help you with that.
This free app allows you to keep track of business expenses, mileage and billable time. You can capture receipts and important bank card transactions so that expense reports can be easily generated and little time wasted. For those in sales or those travelling frequently this app is a lifesaver.
Technology is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. Well not quite, but it’s definitely a major contributing factor to workplace distraction. Fortunately, as new problems emerge from our smartphone dependency, new technologies and research also emerge to help us adapt. With any luck we can get some precious seconds back before the goldfish take over the world.