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  • Karina M. Sokulski

Focus Apps & Environments for Your Writing Habits


It’s quarantine. This pandemic has relocated us all and we now find ourselves working from home. On the surface, this seems like a dream come true. A dream...that involves horrifying news delivered on a daily basis and all the stress that comes with it. Now that you are home there’s nothing but time to work. Then the laundry machine beeps, or you’re reminded that the kitchen pantry is only a few steps away. The temptation to leave your desk has never been stronger. Where did the time to write go? How much more difficult is it to write now that every household member is in quarantine?

I had the fortune of swapping to my from-home career before COVID-19 swept across the globe. Learning how to glue myself to my desk without the incentive of an open office space was key. Doing so with my husband stuck at home for quarantine was another matter. If you’re like me and didn’t have to move for the pandemic, you still had to adjust when the household came home. If you’re not like me and had to relocate to work, you’re still having a time of it. Regardless of the category you fall under, a crowded home isn’t ideal for productivity. A constant visitor to your workspace does not equate a focused environment. How does one maintain their focus from their now distractingly crowded home? How does one maintain their sanity from a year on this earth that has little positive news to offer? Well I don’t have a philosophical answer to either of those questions. What I do have are suggestions on how you can make your workspace a more focused environment.


1) Let Your Household Know

Here’s your first step. It’s a lot easier to turn visitors away from your workspace if you let them know you can’t afford distraction. Close your office door and go as far as to print (or purchase) a door sign indicating a welcome status. It’s important to protect your time and vocalizing your needs matter.




2) Internet Blockers

Next step is to stop obsessing over social media and the news. It’s understandable if this is a tough one to do. 2020 has been a year where we don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring. For the sake of both your mental health and productivity, this step is essential. Luckily, there are plenty of apps that make it easier to block out internet distractions. Below is a list of apps that can block out your internet notifications and keep you focused:

  • Focus Writer -- Focus Writer is a no cost, distraction-free writing software. Your document will be the only program visible on a screen with a customizable background. Benefits of this software include it being a free download, available across multiple platforms (Linux, Windows 64-bit to MacOS) and is very user friendly.

  • 1Focus -- Another user friendly, distraction-free software that I personally love to use. 1Focus allows you to schedule block times and specify which sites and applications to block. The drawbacks to this app are that it's exclusive to MacOS users and does require a subscription to use all of the features. That being said, the subscription is 99 cents a month.

  • StayFocused -- StayFocused is what I would call the "Windows version of 1Focus." This software functions the same way and is a Chrome extension. The drawback of this software, however, is that since it doesn't require a subscription it will be subject to the occasional advertisement.

3) Soundscapes

Here’s my go-to for focusing. Ambient mixers block out the noise beyond my closed door and sets the mood for focus. Whether you’re endlessly looping a Parisian café or rain pattering on a window, having a “focus soundtrack” will always get you in the mood to get your work done. On an especially noisy day, pairing your soundscapes with a pair of headphones will only improve your results. Below are sites I favor when searching for soundscapes. Each of these sites offer their own apps to download to your mobile devices.

  • Ambient-Mixer.com -- Easily the best site on this list. Ambient-Mixer is an endless resource for sound environments that also offers a log-in option to create your own. Whether you want to listen to a beach or listen to the waterfalls of Rivendell, there's no shortage of soundscapes to choose from. I also love that this website's blog offers seasonal posts on the home page that curates user-created sound environments. In addition, visitors can get in the mood for the season with activities to try from home. Sometimes those activities are recipes to cook in the fall or meditation advice to try in the spring. Their blog also offers advice on how to soundproof your office. Since we're on the topic, you can find that advice here: {X}.

  • ImmerseinNature.com -- Immerse in Nature is simpler than Ambient-Mixer but happens to uniquely offer a looping video function. This site offers you eight noises to choose from and how loud you want to make them. The looping video option offers you five looping videos of different kinds of weather that will play endlessly behind a literal window. If you right click to open the video in a new tab, you can have the video loop in the corner of your screen to enhance the experience.

  • ASoftMurmur.com -- The simplest but easiest to use on the list. A Soft Murmur is Similar to Immerse in Nature but with one additional layer of sophistication. A Soft Murmur offers more noises to choose from, includes a timer function and the ability to save the soundscapes you make. There is no looping video function to be found here.

4) Set the Mood

Whether I’m writing or working, nothing gets my productive brain going than a scented candle and a hot drink. In the mornings I won’t be caught dead without my mug of coffee and in the afternoon, I won’t dare return without a hot cup of tea. We all have our productivity quirks, and these are mine. Once my nostrils register the scent of honey pastries and my taste buds savor the flavor of Texas Turtle coffee (or milk Lavender tea with honey), it’s off to work. Sensory triggers are a real thing and I highly recommend you stock your pantry with these triggers post-haste. Now combine the items on this list with tending to your productivity quirks. Sip your coffee while rain pelts at the window, adjust your headphones until they’re comfortable and get that work done.

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