Whether you’re studying for the ACT/SAT, prepping for a final, writing an essay, or filling out scholarship applications, focus is important–but it’s so easy to get sidetracked. When you need to put your nose to the grindstone and really get work done, letting your mind wander or being distracted can really trip you up.
Luckily there are plenty of sites and apps to keep you on track! Though some of these have paid features or upgrades, each and every one has free options that can be helpful to students of all ages. Here are 5 FREE tools to help increase your productivity and focus.
Focus Booster utilizes the helpful Pomodoro technique–working for about 25 minutes and taking short 5 minute breaks after each session. The method increases attention and focus due to the short breaks that leave the users refreshed and ready to start again!
Focus Booster takes that technique and gives you a timer. On top of that, Focus Booster allows the user to track their activities, to really ensure that they’re on task. The free basic package comes with 20 sessions per month, but you can try out the 30 day free trial for the Professional package that comes with even more features.
If you’re scatter-brained it could be helpful to create a mental map. Mind42 is a great tool to digitally map out thoughts, organize plans, or even just brainstorm ideas! Its customization is limited only by the user’s imagination.
The mind-maps can be uploaded and shared, if the user so desires. This tool is great for mapping out stories, plotting out paper topics, creating to-do lists, showing how pieces of evidence relate to each other in a research paper, or even creating family trees!
Sometimes you have to really hunker down to write an essay–especially if it’s about a topic you’re not really thrilled with. Or maybe you have another writing project and you just get distracted easily. FocusWriter blocks out everything on the screen except the document you write in.
FocusWriter has built-in timers and alerts to keep you focused, increase your productivity, has customizable themes so you can create everything to your own liking, and even has features like: auto-save, live statistics, and everyone’s favorite–spell check.
Available as a Google Chrome extension, StayFocusd allows users to turn away from temptation by blocking distracting websites–or limit the time spent on them. The app is all about user preference.
The app comes with a list of default blocked sites, but you can add others as well. Or you can use StayFocusd to block all websites to really increase your productivity and get to work on a paper or other task. Maybe you could use this in tandem with the Pomodoro technique and take a five-minute break after your hard work to visit some of those distracting sites.
This unique site is all about productive background noise. Some people find it hard to work in total silence (myself included), and so Noisli is a perfect tool. Available for iOS, Android, a Google Chrome extension, or just a classic website.
Users can customize mixes by adding different sounds on top of each other–like thunder + rain, or nature sounds + water. There are various sounds from the natural world, human-centric sounds, and even white noise. Noisli also comes with a host of other useful, productive features like timers and a space to write text and save it for later (very useful if you need to write a paper). The background also changes color!