Anti-procrastination medicine: the ultimate productivity tools to achieve deep focus

“Procrastination is the thief of time”

Charles Dickens

You’ve got time on your hands and exams in the not-too-distant future, an approaching deadline, or personal goals to achieve, but you aren’t getting anything done. You mindlessly drift from tab to tab, incessantly checking notifications in the social media platforms you use. Face it. You’re a procrastinator. We all are to some extent… and you can read all about the 6 types right here (but please, wait until after you’ve finished reading this article to click that link).

For an overstimulated and excessively-connected generation, the deep, slow focus required to study is in such sharp contrast with the fast pace of modern life, that it can be difficult to silence the noise and simply get started.

Let’s frame Russian study in terms of navigating a ship. When you have complete control of the ship (your mind), things will generally be smooth sailing (learning will take place) and no matter how rough the waves may get (the challenges you face as a learner), as long as you remain calm and make rational, well-considered decisions (i.e. have a solid study plan which you stick to, use quality learning resources and ask the right people questions when necessary), you’ll weather the storm and it will just be a matter of time before you are make it to your destination (eventually, you’ll see just how much progress you have made).

In contrast, each time you lose control of the ship and make bad decisions, it will sail aimlessly through the seas (those slick AI algorithms developed know precisely how to steal your time). Don’t be surprised when the rough sea waves take control and water comes crashing onto the decks, drags you into the sea and you drown. I paint a rather morbid picture, I know. But it’s the reality. Every distraction you permit is an act of self-sabotage which pulls you away from attaining your objectives and you need to subdue the urge if you want to achieve your goals.

You might not be able to resist the temptation to indulge your floating mind all the time, but the key is to become more aware of how it affects your attainment and cull it as much as possible.

Paradoxically, the very thing causing your procrastination, may hold the answers to solving it. The phone applications and desktop programs below will help you to build the discipline you need if you wish to successfully master Russian. Sit tight as I take you through some of the best productivity apps as we enter 2021.

Gentle dissuasion for mild procrastination

You almost can’t enter a shop, or read a self-help article, without encountering the term mindfulness these days. In a truly mindful fashion, the app will gently redirect you before you indulge your cyber-slacking urges, presenting you with scenic landscapes and asking you if you’re absolutely sure that you want to jump on Twitter and down the rabbit hole. Just enter the websites that you know you waste a lot of time on and you’re ready to go!

A classic pomodoro-style timer, which will allow you to commit to X-minutes of study and reward yourself with X minutes break time. There is no hand-holding with this app; the responsibility is on you to commit to a period of study and stop your mind from wandering.

Beginning with a little plant, the smartphone app will reward you by ensuring that your little plant grows up to be a strong, leafy tree. Try to exit the screen however, and your tree will be no more. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you have your own little digital forest. The tool is free on Chrome and Android, but there is a tiny fee to pay for the iPhone app.

Eliminate desktop clutter on your Mac in true Marie Kondo fashion with a bit of digital magic. Following a certain period of no activity, tabs will disappear (or at least it will appear that way!). Simply set a time limit for the websites which distract you the most and there’ll be less of an incentive to switch tabs if there are no tabs in sight.

If you stray from a set page, a pop-up will appear, displaying the length of time you have allowed yourself to be distracted and gently reminding you of the need to get back to work – in the politest way possible of course! Motion tracks your productivity and seeing how inefficiently you manage your time may be just the motivation you need to re-evaluate your study routine. Another handy feature is the ability to hide addictive UI features such as Youtube video recommendations and your Facebook newsfeed. Beyond productivity management, Motion is a workflow tool which allows you to add events to your work schedule, schedule a Zoom call and more. This is not a free program, but a free trial is available. It is on the more expensive side, but for those willing to pay, its sleek interface and unique approach to encouraging focus, make it worth every penny.

Hard-block options for shameless cyber-slackers

Control your access to the portion of the internet fuelling your inefficient approach to studying, or nuke all websites outright at the click of a mouse. You determine when the internet black out starts and for how long. If you’re feeling generous, you can grant yourself access for a certain amount of time, but once that time has been used up, that’s it; the sites will be inaccessible for the remainder of the day. StayFocusd is only available for Google Chrome Users.

An app and desktop program, which works on iPhones, iPads, Android devices, PCs and in other major browsers. Control your access to certain webpages for a certain period of time, such as early in the morning, or for the first few hours after dinner. For the fearless and determined, you can select the nuclear function and prohibit access to the web. This will stop you from substituting blocked sites for less appealing, yet equally distracting sites. What makes Freedom particularly compelling is the fact that you can block distractions on all of your devices simultaneously. However, although Freedom gives you a few opportunities to use the tool at no cost, it isn’t free.

A Mac tool which allows you to block out any page deemed distracting. This isn’t a tool for the fainthearted; try as you might you cannot undo the block. Neither deleting the app, nor rebooting your Mac will disable blocking. The only way to get around it is through a factory reset of your Mac OS…and you wouldn’t want to do that just to see what your ex is up to in Santorini…would you?

Set a schedule for blocking selected websites and desktop apps, or make use of the manual block toggle. Select ‘Frozen Turkey’ mode for a complete digital detox and you’ll see nothing but a blank screen for as long as you chose to disconnect. As a downloadable programme, you can’t simply switch browsers to feed your terrible Twitter habit and you can choose settings that prevent uninstalling the app until the period of the block has elapsed.

A Google Chrome and Firefox extension which allows you to block specific sites for a set period of time. As with StayFocusd, the timer function gives you the ability to engage in moderate procrastination. However, a second beyond the allotted time and you’re out of luck; no more internet time for you. A rather funny anti-procrastination tool it offers is page redirection, which sends you to a set homepage when your mind wanders and you begin typing Reddit or Instagram out of habit.

Primarily a time-tracking app, RescueTime also includes ‘FocusTime’, an anti-procrastination device which allows you to block distractions using your time-tracking history. By tagging certain apps and websites on a scale of productive to very distracting, you can carefully block the biggest time leechers. You can block distractions automatically using RescueTime’s Zapier integrations, which allow you to do things like schedule a daily FocusTime session. Although not free, you can take advantage of the free 14-day trial.

Serene is a Mac application. Once you have compiled a list of distracting websites and apps, you can block them. However, what is unique about Serene is the ability to elaborate a to-do list and estimated completion time whilst blocking distractions. Your study session can be accompanied by optional concentration music will play and any attempt to open a site that you shouldn’t will be followed by a reminder that you should focus. Having your task list in full display can make it much easier to motivate yourself to work diligently. Serene isn’t free, but you can trial it and the fee is not high relative to some of the other paid productivity tools in this list.

I trust you know the saying I’m about to reference, but I’ll repeat it here for the benefit of those not in the know:

If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.

Jim Rohn

Instead of allowing yourself to become a puppet of the social media giants, create a clear plan, commit to following it and you’ll surprise yourself with how much you can achieve. Try one of these apps today and start cultivating a high-performing work ethic and mind in order to achieve your study objectives.

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