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how to stay focused At MakeUseOf we have written countless articles on how to multitask. As it turns out, however, multitasking messes with your brain. Research shows that people who multitask a lot are “more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory” (Ophir 2009).

In other words, people who multitask are much more easily distracted. The implications are that multitasking makes you become less efficient and less productive. In this article I will show you ways to eliminate distractions and gain back your focus when working on the computer. The applications listed here are compatible with Windows, unless stated otherwise. If you are on a Mac, please see these articles for similar tools: Focus On Quality By Doing Less On Your Mac Focus On Quality By Doing Less On Your Mac Focus On Quality By Doing Less On Your Mac Read More and 6 Apps To Help You Focus & Be Productive 6 Apps To Help You Focus & Be Productive [Mac] 6 Apps To Help You Focus & Be Productive [Mac] Read More .

Focus On Only One Active Window

A great way to increase focus when you have multiple windows open, is to maximize the window you are presently working, while making the Windows taskbar auto-hide. This eliminates many distractions originating from running software. To go even further, turn off notifications for emails and IMs, e.g. set Skype to Do Not Disturb.

Assuming you all know how to maximize a window, let me show you how to auto-hide the taskbar in Windows 7. Right-click the taskbar and select > Properties. A window will open. In the > Taskbar tab, check > Auto-hide the taskbar.

how to stay focused

An alternative to maximizing your active window is to darken inactive windows. This can be achieved using a tool called Jedi-Concentrate, which was previously profiled in our Directory. Unfortunately, it was developed for Windows XP and doesn’t work properly in Windows 7. You should give it a try nonetheless.

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Execute the app, click the window you want to work in, followed by either one of these keyboard shortcuts and click the same shortcut to return to normal view:

  • F12
  • [WINDOWS] + [J]
  • [CTRL] + [/]

be more efficient

The last keyboard shortcut didn’t work for me, the second one was bumpy, triggering various behaviors, occasionally also including the intended one, and the first one is a shortcut also used in Google Chrome. Generally, I recommend to stick with F12, unless you work in Chrome. Sometimes the app stopped darkening the windows, but still darkened the wallpaper. In that case, just re-execute it.

If you are using AutoHotKey, an alternative for you would be Ghoster.

Use Text Editors Without Distractions

Writing is an activity that does not mix well with distractions. Common text editors are riddled with colorful buttons and interesting features. But what if all you have to do is get your thoughts down on the screen? There is a multitude of minimalist text editors out there that eliminate all of these distractions.

One of them is OmmWriter. Not only does it create a serene writing atmosphere on your screen, it also plays calming music, which will help you focus and get into the writing mood.

be more efficient

OmmWriter comes in two versions: Dana I and Dana II. “Dana II has additional audio and visual experience and is available for purchase.” Jackson previously wrote an article about OmmWriter for the Mac Get Over Writer's Block With OmmWriter, A Zen Distraction-Free Writing App [Mac] Get Over Writer's Block With OmmWriter, A Zen Distraction-Free Writing App [Mac] Read More . It is now available for Windows. Also have a look at the following articles for other alternatives:

Most distractions can be found when you browse the Internet. If you have to use your browser, you can at least block some distracting content using the Decreased Productivity addon for Google Chrome. We have profiled this addon in our Directory.

Limit Or Block Distracting Websites

If you are naturally drawn to your Facebook profile or Google Mail account, simply block these websites for a limited amount of time. There are dozens of apps that can do this. One that works with multiple browsers, including Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari is Focal Filter. You can add any website to your block list and block block sites for as long as you wish. Note that the program requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0.

how to stay focused

We have profiled FocalFilter in the MakeUseOf Directory. Also have a look at these similar tools: ColdTurkey, xMinutesAt, BinarySwtichEclipse, and ToVisitOrNot.

More suitable tools with one solution for any browser or operating system can be found in Yaara’s article Addicted To Google Plus? Here Are 4 Ways To Block Addictive Websites & Get Back To Work Addicted To Google Plus? Here Are 4 Ways To Block Addictive Websites & Get Back To Work Addicted To Google Plus? Here Are 4 Ways To Block Addictive Websites & Get Back To Work The new player in the field may be addictive, but even before it came along there was no lack of websites that are way more beckoning than work. Be it Facebook, email, Google Reader, or... Read More . (KeepMeOut, MinutesPlease, StayFocusd, LeechBlock)

Do you wonder how much time you lose to distractions on a daily basis? Check out 5 Tools to Track How Much Time you Waste while Online 5 Tools to Track How Much Time You Waste While Online 5 Tools to Track How Much Time You Waste While Online Read More .

Do you consider yourself a chronic multitasker? What are some of your best tricks to stay focused?

Image credits: mmaxer

  1. Trinae Ross
    January 18, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    In the end, it comes down to discipline. If you don't have the discipline to stay on task, what is going to prevent you from deactivating the programs and getting back to the distractions?

    • Tina
      January 18, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      Trinae,

      the tools can help to keep the distractions at bay. Discipline or not, our brain is evolutionary trained to react to signals and definitely not well adapted to the digital environment.

  2. Johan Klos
    January 17, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Ghoster doesn't have hotkeys, but it's pretty easy to add to the ahk and compile your own binary file. Could ask Skrommel to do that as well.

    Or do this (after which you can use WIN-J to toggle the effect):
    Add the following one hotkey line to the start of the .ahk (beneath Start: or something):

    hotkey, #j, toggle

    and add all (!) below to the very end of the .ahk:

    toggle:
    WinGet,progmanid,Id,ahk_class Progman
    WinGet,oldid,ID,A
    if GUI_Show = 0
    {
    gui, show
    GUI_Show = 1
    }
    else
    {
    gui, hide
    GUI_Show = 0
    }
    WinActivate,ahk_id %oldid%
    return

    • Tina
      January 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks for the hotkey code, Johan!

  3. Johan Klos
    January 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    You don't need AutoHotkey for Ghoster, Skrommel provides a binary file as well you can just run ;)

  4. Nirmal Shah
    January 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Great article, I think even this might help the readers : http://tinyurl.com/7baw85r

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