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 and 6 Apps To Help You Focus & Be Productive.
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.
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.
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:
- [WINDOWS] + [J]
- [CTRL] + [/]
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.
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.
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. It is now available for Windows. Also have a look at the following articles for other alternatives:
- FocusWriter – Minimalist, Distraction-Free & Beautiful Text Editor
- Eliminate Writing Distractions with JDarkRoom
- Battle of the Minimalist Text Editors
- Penzen: Conveniently Type In Distraction-Free Writing Environment
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.
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. (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.
Do you consider yourself a chronic multitasker? What are some of your best tricks to stay focused?
Image credits: mmaxer