High School High School Life TSS

Paperless Productivity: Focus Apps

Here are some Great Tools that can help you to deal with everyday distractions.

A paperless student can boast about saving their environment, but can they boast saving time? In a recent TheStuSci college article called “The Effects of Social Media on the Brain”, Shanni Lam states that,

“The addictiveness of social media may play too large a role in individuals’ lives, as it famously leads to procrastination. And no, multitasking does not really exist. Switching back and forth from work or homework to checking your notifications is distracting and reduces the productivity and quality achievable from each process. In fact, the APA estimates that humans waste around 40% more time performing two tasks at once (multitasking work/homework and social media) as opposed to performing the tasks at separate times.”

In response to this, I thought I would share my arsenal of focusing productivity apps that help keep me motivated to keep working. Frankly speaking, I have to agree with Shanni (and the facts. Personally, as a paperless student, I utilize my phone, tablet, laptop, and PC to do my work over the cloud. Even though technology can allow me to take notes faster or plan more effectively, there are a lot of distractions that can appear. Being able to stay on task and being open to unplugging from things you don’t need is how you can truly approach productive minimalism.

Many of these apps will encourage you to use the Pomodoro Technique which you can learn more about here. The Pomodoro Technique encourages you to set productivity and break times at increments to prevent interruptions and overworking.


  1. The Forest & Flora Apps

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Forest and Flora are apps that encourage you to stay off your phone by planting seeds of productivity. Originally a part of the same project, the two apps both provide a similar experience where a time is set, anywhere up to 2 hours (Forest) or 4 hours (Flora). Everytime you open your phone screen, you’ll unlock to the app telling you to put your phone back down or risk killing off your virtual trees. There are a number of differences between Forest and Flora. On one hand, Forest is a paid app, but is available on both Chrome Browser Extension and iOS and Android mobile platforms with a much better UX for both single and multi-user experiences. On the other, Flora is a free app, but only available on iOS mobile for Facebook users and is much better for multi-user experiences than single user experiences. My advice would be to start off with Flora if you’re looking for a free experience and then maybe move on to Forest if you find it worth the investment. Personally, I keep both Flora and Forest so I can utilize multi-user experience (where you both stay off your device together) with users from both apps as well as use Forest for independent progress.


  1. Tide

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Tide is another iOS and Android mobile app that includes features from sleep tracking and sounds for meditation to Pomodoro timers for focus and motivational quotes. It doesn’t necessarily have the same method of keeping you off your phone as Forest does by reminding you that you’re killing trees, but it does give you a peaceful and motivating push when you open to it to stay focused. Recommended to me by a friend, it’s the perfect everyday pocket pal.


  1. Offtime

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I thought I would include this too because it was mentioned in Shanni Lam’s article. Offtime is an iOS and Android mobile blocker service that will allow you to restrict notifications and access to a wide range of apps and other distractions on your phone. Their desktop versions are still in beta but are accessible over sign up. In addition, Offtime provides you with a wide range of in-depth analytics about your productivity hours so you can get better insights into your most effective productivity times.

  1. Stayfocusd

Stayfocusd is a simple Chrome Browser Extension that allows you to block out certain URLs from being accessed on Chrome. With a wide range of customization of active days, active hours, challenges to resist whitelisting, and so on, it’s easy to automate Stayfocusd into your daily activities so that you don’t spend too much screen time on productivity eating sites.

  1. Cold Turkey

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Cold Turkey is a blocker service that can help you completely eliminate your access not only to certain websites during productivity hours, but also various applications on your desktop. In addition to their “Blocker” product, they also have a “Writer” product that locks you in a text editor until you’re done with work.

  1. Freedom

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Freedom is the ultimate blocker, if you’re willing to pull out the cash. (P.S. you can use the code “STAYFOCUSD” for 40% off) From mobile to web to apps, if you’re willing to pay $3 a year for the service, its a great opportunity to access a wide range of features refined in a way that probably takes the cake of the blocker services above!

Interested in learning about more productivity services that improve task management and planning? Stay tuned for the next installment of Paperless Productivity!

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