The Best Focus Apps for Busy Professionals

Sean Lund-Brown

You’re good at what you do. However, there’s a very good chance that your work environment, well, doesn’t really foster the ability to focus. That’s particularly true for those of us who work primarily online.

 

The Internet is an incredible tool that has enabled some almost miraculous achievements and advancements. However, it’s also rife with distractions. A single mouse-click is enough to take you away from your task and deep into almost anything, whether you’re browsing Amazon’s virtual shelves, digging into your preferred fandom, catching up with friends (or mindlessly scrolling) through Facebook, or something else.

 

If only there were a way you could exclude those distractions. Actually, there is! You’ll find several different apps out there that are all designed to help you focus and to block out distractions, whether that’s your email inbox or you’re finding it hard to leave social media alone. A focus app could be exactly what you need to ensure that you’re able to do what you do best and leave those distractions for later.

 

What should you know about focus apps?

 

Before we get into the list of the best options for you, it’s important to define what a focus app is in the first place. Really, the name is pretty self-explanatory. These are apps designed to filter out unwanted stimuli while allowing you to do what you do best, whether that’s dealing with balancing the books for your business, creating marketing copy for a new client, or something different.

 

As you might imagine, focus app design varies from product to product. Some work by limiting your ability to access other apps. Others use timers to encourage you to work in sprints. Which way works best?

 

According to our research, the best focus app will help you avoid distractions by eliminating access to a preset list of apps or websites, let you set a timer or a specific timetable, be challenging to turn off and offer support to help you keep going when things get tough. Finally, it should operate across different systems and environments to suit your usage and productivity needs.

 

So, which focus app fits the bill? We found several and we’ll highlight them below.

 

However, while we’re talking about focus, distractions, and productivity, let’s touch on just how much time you lose simply keeping up with communications. If your average client-facing phone call lasts just 10 minutes and you have three of those per day, that’s 30 minutes you must find some way of making up. It’s not just the time spent on the phone, though.

 

Even if you’re able to get off the phone and then jump right back into what you’re doing, you’ll spend several minutes just getting back up to speed. And let’s be honest, how often are you able to jump from a phone call back into your regular work? Most of us can’t do that. You need to follow up on what you discussed with the client, send information to someone else, or any number of other things. That 30 minutes quickly turns into an hour or more of lost time.

 

That’s where we come in. At Smith.ai, our live receptionists help field calls, answer questions, provide guidance, and so much more. Imagine how much more focus you’d have if you cut your phone use by 50% or more. With our help, that’s more than achievable.

 

Choosing the best focus app for You

 

A quick glance at the Apple App Store or Google Play will show you a host of apps that all promise to help you focus, cut distractions, and be more productive. However, there’s a world of difference between claiming to do something and actually doing it. We’ve done the legwork for you, sorting through myriad apps to find the best options.

 

Freedom

Freedom is a focus app that truly lives up to its name. Where most apps work on a single device, Freedom works across multiple options. The result? You can block websites and apps everywhere at the same time.

 

With Freedom, you can create multiple blocklists. You can start sessions manually, or you can schedule them as necessary. There’s also a handy feature called “lockdown mode” that ensures you can’t modify a blocklist while you’re in a session, which is great for those who might start with good intentions and then falter along the way.

 

Here’s what you should know about Freedom:

 

·   Free option? No, but there is a limited free trial

·   Price: $6.99 per month

·   Platforms: iOS, Android, Chrome, macOS, Windows

·   Custom sessions

·   Schedule sessions or start manually

·   Create multiple blocklists

·   Plays ambient background noise during sessions

 

Serene

Serene is an interesting focus app for a couple of reasons. There’s the obvious benefit – it helps you block problematic apps and websites, which it does quite well. However, it also does a lot more.

 

The Serene app is designed around the concept of helping you plan your entire day while allocating periods of focus throughout. When those periods occur, just click the Go Serene button. All your distractions are blocked and you even have the option to play music.

 

If you do decide to try to open an app or go to a blocked website during the focus period, the app automatically displays your countdown timer and reminds you that it’s time to focus on what you’re doing. Finally, it even integrates with other technology you use, like Trello.

 

A few other things to know about Serene include the following:

 

·  Free Option? No, but there’s a limited free trial.

·  Price: $4 per month

·  Platforms: macOS, Windows

·  This focus app is actually a productivity system designed around focus periods

·  Set custom timers

·  Choose concentration music/no music

·  Create custom blocklists

·  Create lists of goals to focus on, complete with duration timers

 

Cold Turkey Blocker

This app lives up to its name, with a dash of customization thrown in. If you’re looking for a way to block anything that’s bothering you, both during your workday and during your downtime, this is it. Cold Turkey Blocker is not just about productivity – it’s about freeing your entire life from distractions.


What does that mean, though? You can create custom blocklists during work hours, keeping you away from social media or Amazon, for instance. However, you can also set alternate blocklists that prevent you from opening work apps during your off time, which is a great help for those who just can’t seem to separate their home and professional lives.

 

What else should you know about Cold Turkey Blocker?

 

·  Free Option? No

·  Price: $39

·  Platforms: macOS, Windows

·  Frozen turkey mode prevents you from accessing anything on your computer

·  Block access to individual features to prevent workarounds during focus periods

·  Designed to help prevent self-sabotaging

·  Block apps, websites, and tools

 

LeechBlock

Perhaps the most affordable focus app on our list, LeechBlock delivers plenty of capabilities and is free for life. It’s designed to be easy to use, but it doesn’t suffer from a lack of capabilities for that simplicity. You will need a mainstream browser, though, and because it’s browser-based, it doesn’t block apps.

 

One nice thing about this focus app is that you can set outright blocks, or you can set durations. You can even set different durations for different websites. So, maybe you’re having a real problem with Facebook, but need more access to something like Gmail. LeechBlock lets you set the rules you need. You can also lock down everything if you want for a preset period.

 

The main takeaways with this app include:

 

·  Free option? Yes

·  Price: Free

·  Platforms: Browser specific (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera)

·  Browser-specific so it doesn’t block apps

·  Lockdown settings during block sessions

·  Customizable time limits for different websites

·  Custom blocklists

 

RescueTime

Need to focus while also tracking the time you spend handling tasks? RescueTime to the, well, rescue. However, this app differs significantly from the others on our list in that it’s only secondarily a focus app. Its primary purpose is time tracking.

 

Because of that, you get more bang for your buck. For distraction-free work, just turn on the FocusTime feature, which will help you block distracting apps and websites. However, that feature only works based on your time tracking history, so you’ll need to have used that capability to really get the most out of the app.

 

One of the nice things about RescueTime is that you can set apps as very distracting, distracting, or productive. The same applies to websites. Then, in FocusTime, you block those most distracting apps, but also have manual control to increase blocking. Other things to know about RescueTime include the following:

 

·  Free Version? Yes, but it does not include FocusTime.

·  Price: $12 per month

·  Platforms: macOS, Android, Windows

·  Designate apps as you see fit

·  Manual control over unlisted apps and sites

·  Track time in addition to blocking distractions

 

Forest

Forest is a focus app, but it’s pretty unique. It’s designed as both a smartphone app and a browser extension (Chrome only), but you won’t find any blocklists here. On your phone, you open the Forest app and tell it you want to plant a tree. Then you put the phone down and don’t pick it back up for at least 25 minutes.

 

If you last that long, your tree lives. Over time, you’ll build a virtual forest showing how much productive time you saved on your phone. If you don’t last that long, your tree dies.

 

The browser version is pretty similar, although it’s closer to a traditional focus app than the Forest smartphone app. You can choose which sites to block, and even override the block if necessary. The app does warn you that your tree will die if you open the link, though.

 

Want to up the ante a little bit? Opt for the paid version and you can plant real trees with your productive minutes through a partnership between the Forest developers and an organization called Trees for the Future.

 

What else do you need to know?

 

·  Free Version? Yes, but only for Chrome and Android.

·  Price: The iOS version is $1.99. The Android Pro version is also $1.99.

·  Platform: iOS, Android, Chrome

·  Works with both your computer browser and your smartphone

·  The desktop version works more like a traditional focus app

·  Manual override for “distracting” sites if desired

 

SelfControl

Our final focus app is SelfControl. Only available for Macs, it’s a minimalist offering that never the less delivers important capabilities in terms of cutting distractions and focusing. It gives you two capabilities – you can create a block list and you can set a timer. Clicking the Start button kickstarts the timer. You can edit the block list as necessary, too.

 

However, there’s one thing you should know: the blocking is permanent until the timer runs out. There is literally no way around this. Even deleting the app or rebooting your computer will not work. As such, this is perhaps the strongest protection against distractions.

 

What else should you know?

 

·  Free Option? Yes

·  Price: Free

·  Platform: macOS

·  Seriously streamlined – set your list and choose your timer.

·  Designed to prevent you from unblocking in any way, shape, or form until the timer expires.

·  Note that this app only works on Macs, is not tied to a browser, and is not available for iOS.

 

Retake control and focus

 

Each focus app we’ve covered above brings something unique to the table, whether it’s innovative features, ironclad control over your time, affordability, or something else. However, let’s not forget that distractions come in many different forms. They’re not just websites and apps.

 

How much time do you lose playing phone tag, answering basic questions, or fielding phone calls that should go to someone else in the office? At Smith.ai, we help you recapture that time so you can better focus on what you’re supposed to be doing. And we do it in a way that builds your brand, delivers an ideal caller experience, and helps strengthen your company.

 

Contact us today to learn more about our live receptionist services, how our text messaging service works, and how we can help with web and social media messaging. Call us at (650) 727-6484 or email us at hello@smith.ai. Or you can go ahead and schedule your FREE consultation right now.

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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