Productivity Tools

A deep life is a good life.

This simple concept, the foundation of Cal Newport’s great book, Deep Work, can have a profound impact on how you work and live.

I deploy a variety of strategies that help me to better structure my time and work environment in a manner conducive to long periods of focus. In addition, I’ve benefitted greatly in this effort from a few smart technologies (ironic, given that so many of the distractions in our life are technology-driven).

Below, a list of the resources I use to help me go — and stay — “deep.” Some of these tools I pay for, some are free. All have had a material impact on my ability to get focused, stay focused and do hard work.

I hope that they are similarly useful to you.

Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator

Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator

Facebook had been a time-killing “crutch” of mine for a long time.

Whenever I had a little open space on my calendar I found that I would habitually check the social media site. Sometimes I’d spend just a minute or two, but every once in a while I’d “wake up” after 15-20 minutes and wonder “what the heck am I doing?!?”

I didn’t want to “quit” Facebook. I truly appreciate the way the site allows me to stay connected to people whom I don’t see all that often. That said, I needed to get the mindless surfing under control.

The solution: Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator.

This is an “extension” for the Chrome and FireFox web browsers. How it works, I have no idea but, long story short, when you logon to the site, the newsfeed (i.e. the random list of posts and updates from friends) is gone, replaced by a smart little quote reminding you why you are subjecting yourself to this pain. (One of my favorites: “Rule your mind or it will rule you!”)

Getting shut down while looking for a quick FB fix may take some getting used to, but you’ll get over it. The next problem to solve: what to do now with all that extra free time in your day?

How much?: FREE! (But I would pay for it I had to – it’s that good).

Get it here: http://news-feed-eradicator.west.io/

Freedom

Freedom

Ah, Freedom.

If the answer to the question: “what will I do if I can’t browse Facebook?” is “switch to Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn instead, then consider adding the Freedom app to your tech tool kit.

In a nutshell, Freedom is an app that shuts down your access (cold turkey!) to any website of your choosing, for a time period of your choosing.

There are both free and paid versions of Freedom. I pay for the Premium version because it allows me to schedule “Freedom” sessions on a recurring basis. (With the free version you have to manually start it). So, from 9a to 4p, every day, I am “Free” from sites like Twitter, Washington Post, NY Times and ESPN. I can always de-activate it if I have to but, really, why would I?

How much? Three pricing tiers – Free, Premium ($24/year), Plus ($45/year).

Get it here: https://freedom.to

Brain.fm

Brain.fm

I love listening to music while I work. Always have.

Music helps me to drown out the ambient noise in my environment and focus deeply on whatever is in front of me.

For a long time “Classical For Studying” on Pandora was my go-to, but I’ve recently switched to the Brain.fm app and there’s no going back.

The difference: Brain replaces your Mumford & Sons, Mozart or Miley with sounds (no lyrics) carefully crafted by neurologists to help you improve focus, relax or sleep.

I find that once I begin a Brain.fm session (you can set them to last 30, 60 or 120 minutes), I rarely come up for air until the session has run its course. It works.

How much?: Three tiers – Monthly ($6.95/month), Annual ($48/year), Forever Unlimited ($149)

* I got in early and got a special deal on the Forever Unlimited plan. My recommendation: start with a monthly plan and then upgrade if/when you realize how well it works.

Get it here: https://www.brain.fm/

Headspace

Headspace

I finally took the plunge.

For a long time I pushed back on the practice of meditation. Frankly, all of the woo-woo YouTube videos out there kind of annoyed me. (“Imagine your perfect day…blah, blah, blah.”)

My opinion at the time: I don’t need to escape from reality, I need help more effectively finding the signal in the noise.

And then I found the Headspace app.

All I can say is that this is my kind of meditation and, through the practice, I have become increasingly effective at getting, and remaining, focused – even when random thoughts, fears and questions attempt to invade my deep thinking.

I got started with their introductory “10 for 10” program (10 minutes of meditation a day for 10 days), and feel like I finally “get” why so many people whom I admire and respect credit their meditation practice.

How much?: Monthly ($12.95/month), Annual ($96/year), Two-Years ($150), Forever Unlimited ($419.95)

Get it here: https://www.headspace.com