When human resources professionals talk about productivity and techniques to improve it among their employees, the focus is often on helping people perform more tasks in a shorter time period.

But for organizations whose employees need to work alone and creatively, such as creators of white papers on complicated subjects, paralegals preparing documents for court, or magazine and newspaper writers, a different kind of device is needed.

Employees who need to think deeply and stay focused need to be able to shut out distractions for half-hour to hour-long periods at a time so they can concentrate on tasks at hand. They don’t need to lose their train of thought by notification of a new email or Facebook posting. They can’t be tempted to tune out and move into a favourite site on their browser.

Here are three great apps that will heighten employee concentration when it is crucial for them to stay focused:

  1. Focus Booster – Developed in 2010, this productivity app is based on the Pomodoro technique. The idea is that we should work in springs (known as Pomodoro sessions) that last for 25 minutes, and then take five minute breaks. These scheduled breaks are essential to keeping our mind fresh and fast, two prime components for working with focus. The app also helps us manage distractions so they will not intervene with the time period of our intense focus. For example, it will remove email and browser tabs that tend to distract us. Phone calls are not to be taken during that time. With Focus Booster on, you work until it rings for your break. After every four sessions, you take a longer break of about 20 minutes. The app is listed on their website for $2.99/month. There is a free starter plan. It is available online for Windows and Macs. A similar app, Cold Turkey is a free productivity program that lets you block yourself off from popular social media sites, game sites and addictive websites. It also has a timer.
  2. Self Control – This is a free Mac app that allows you to block access to websites you find distracting, you mail servers and anything else on the Internet. You set a period of time in which you want to work without distractions, add the sites to your blacklist, and click “start”. What makes this app different from others is that you can’t turn it off until your time is up, even if you restart your computer or delete the app.
  3. Coffitivity – Have you got an at-home worker who desperately misses the buzz of the coffee shop or the background noise of work? Does the quiet make it hard to focus? Suggest Coffitivity. This is a free app that plays coffee shop sounds, murmurs and conversations in the background while they work. On the free version, there are three possible choices: Morning Murmur, Lunchtime Lounge, and University Undertones. Nobody has to work to the sounds of silence again!

You’d be surprised by how many different factors effect productivity. Hopefully one of these apps will help make you a little more productive if you’re the type to get easily distracted.

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