If you’re a freelancer, then you’ll know that procrastination is part and parcel of working from home. With no supervisory figure to hover over your shoulder and an almost limitless collection of digital ’come hither’ distractions right there at your fingertips, keeping one’s attention from drifting away from work-related matters for the entire duration of your working day is rarely an easy thing to do.
For sure, there are times when – even with the best will in the world (and the greatest exertions of willpower to go with it) – the myriad distractions of checking social media and answering smartphone alerts has more pull than the particular project you’re meant to be working on. Similarly, there are also times when the quiet and stillness of your home seems to compound the urge to procrastinate, ostensibly turning your ’to-do’ lists into veritable ’to-do-some-other-time’ lists.
Fortunately, we live in an age where nothing as transient as mere willpower needs to be relied upon to maximise the chances of achieving something as important as working hard. So, as with everything else in the twentyteens, there are apps available – good ones, too – that can help home-based freelancers to remain focused on their work for longer.
Here are four of the best.
1. StayFocusd / Mindful Browsing
Social media sites are often the first place freelancers go to at the beginning of the working day. Let’s be honest: it’s nice to ease yourself into the waking world by seeing what’s trending on Twitter and admiring photos of your friends’ meals on Facebook. The thing is, though, social media sites – even the more ’professional’ ones like Google+ and LinkedIn – are like DVD box sets at times: once you start, you just can’t seem to call it quits. Suffice to say, this can be hugely detrimental to productivity, especially if you keep these sites open all day in other tabs whilst you’re working.
Site-blocking apps like StayFocusd (Chrome) and Mindful Browsing (Safari) can be utter godsends in this respect, as they do exactly what they say on the tin: they block access to any sites you identify as undesirable. Of course, this wall is easy enough to get around as you can easily disable the extension any time you like. However, it’s surprising how effective this extra one layer of focus security can be as you invariably end up asking yourself “Is it really worth my while disabling this and interrupting my work just to see yet another status update?” every time you feel the urge to drift off topic.
2. Now Do This
It is sometimes the case that, when it comes to making a ’to-do’ list, the generation of the list itself somehow manages to become the key focal point. Indeed, facets such as how good it looks, how well it reads and perhaps even how accurately it gets saved become vitally important somehow when your attention to work starts to wane a little. Now Do This is the perfect antidote to this very specific form of procrastination as it only allows you to make super-simple text lists which you get to click on as ’done’ once you’ve actually completed them. There are absolutely no bells or whistles, so there’s no fear of getting sidetracked – you just write the things down you want to get done and, well, get on with them. Perfect.
An intriguing and, on the face of it, quite counter-productive option, BetterBuzzer’s main hook is that it promises to ’Not stop calling you until you pick up’. Now you may be thinking, “More noises to distract me. Surely that’s not going to help me stay focused!” Well, think of it this way: if you have a landmark time (i.e. a deadline of some kind) that you need to be reminded of, it’s fair to say that a ringing phone that will absolutely not stop until you answer it will focus your attention in much the same way as an overbearing manager or supervisor would. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but still very handy when used accordingly.
Being in silent, peaceful surroundings can frequently exacerbate feelings of lethargy and engender procrastination. This smart app is a great way to break up such toxic stillness as it brings the ambience of the freelancer’s favourite haunt, the coffee shop (or ’coffice’, if you will) to the comfort of your home. This may sound a little hammy, but you’ll just have to take my word for it; it does actually work. Turn it on and once you’ve got used to it, you find yourself gradually drifting into a world where your brain feels comforted by the reassuringly familiar sounds of tinkling mugs, stirring spoons and mumbled conversation. Be warned, though: Coffitivity will make you drink more coffee than you normally would and – most bizarrely of all – make you feel a pang of guilt for not buying more stuff every now and then!
These are just a few of the many apps available that can help freelancers to stick to the straight and narrow. If you know of some others, or use one yourself that hasn’t been mentioned, then we’d like to hear about it: the comments box is all yours!