If you’re anything like me, you love to check out everything there is about productivity. And of course, productivity tools are my virtual playground.
One reason is because I am truly looking at ways to improve the time that I spend online. The other reason is I have a fascination for all things technology and am trying to improve my relationship with it, while not getting sucked into the whirlpool of addiction.
What a dichotomy! But I’ve finally managed to make it work.
In no specific order, this post will list the variety of productivity Google Chrome extensions that I’ve personally tested to improve my focus, write more effectively and read with greater concentration.
Before we dive in though, there are a few important things to remember about productivity itself.
Evaluate your Productivity Problem
Determine if your productivity problem is at a device level or a basic level; meaning, do you find yourself distracted no matter what you are doing or is it specific devices that cause the issue?
Personally, my latest Android phone has the Digital Wellbeing app built into the interface and I find that sufficient to keep a log of my time spent on the hand held device.
If it’s on the desktop, all of these tools in today’s list can be enabled inside Google Chrome.
On that note, if you are a business owner or solopreneur, my list of preferred digital tools for entrepreneurs will be perfect for you. (They’re all free, by the way)
Downsides of Chrome Extensions
As much as I’d like to say that these are all foolproof and always work, the truth is that the human brain is smarter than a productivity extension.
If you really want to be distracted, then honestly, you’d find a way to get around the tool.
A) You could just remove the extension from Chrome and that kills it right there
B) You can open the Chrome browser in incognito mode. No Chrome extension works in that mode
C) You could just never enter your distraction sites into any of the tools and the extension would be none the wiser.
So what’s the solution?
Set an Intention to be Productive
Before any tool comes into play, the first thing you must do is to set a very clear and genuine intention to be productive.
For that, it helps to answer the question, ‘Why’ when it comes to any task.
Before you start working on a task, any task, ask yourself why you want to do it.
For instance, you could say that completing a project ahead of time will give you the much-needed breathing time you desire, at the end of the day.
Or writing that blog post you’ve been putting off will help your content get indexed faster by Google and put you that much closer to your income goals (say, getting into an ad network).
Perhaps that book you’ve been meaning to write will finally see the light of day after 3 years of procrastination.
The intention is the most powerful thing when it comes to being productive. Set that first and then watch as these tools help you along on that goal.
Types of Productivity Tools
The next thing I want to clarify in this post is the specific nature of these productivity tools.
The list here is exclusively dedicated to ensuring that you are able to concentrate better on the task at hand.
That means, the tools that I recommend will help eliminate distractions and bring you back on track.
As a blogger, I have created a list of must-have apps when it comes to managing your time more effectively, schedule your social media tasks and streamline your work, but that is a separate post.
Why then, am I writing this post?
Because when I searched for productivity tools to help me focus while working on my laptop, I got everything from distraction eliminators to social media schedulers, note taking tools and invoicing apps- the latter three were not really what I was looking for.
I just wanted to get rid of distraction and focus on deep work or deep reading. These tools all helped me do just that.
So, here are the best apps or tools to help you focus and avoid distractions.
As I test out more productivity Chrome extensions, I will keep updating this post with my findings.
This was one of the earliest extensions I tested out and found it very useful when it came to handling distractions from specific websites.
- Has a ‘Block sites’ option where you key in specific sites that distract you. Stay focusd will then show you a very perplexed reminder screen, if you click on that site’s URL that you ought to be working!
- The Nuclear option is perfect for getting in Deep Focus tasks done in a set period of time, like writing a blog post in 2 hours. Just set the list of sites to be blocked for that period and get back your focus to work on the task at hand.
- Allows you to set specific time blocks and maximum time you are allowed to spend on sites each day.
Marinara Pomodoro Assistant
The Marinara Pomodoro assistant does exactly what it says.
The Pomodoro method is where you learn to focus on one task continuously for 25 minutes and then take a well-deserved 5-minute break where you can get up, stretch, grab a glass of water etc.
Set your timer, click on the extension and get working.
The timer displays in a tiny corner of your browser, so if you get restless about taking a break, just glance at the timer to see how many minutes you have left.
The reason this works? It’s simple, effective and there’s no major set up involved.
FocusMe: A Pomodoro Timer & Website Blocker
If you want a tool that does the job of both the tools above, try FocusMe.
There are a variety of Chrome extensions with the ‘Focus Me’ in the extensions store. Ensure you pick the one which shows the logo given.
If you click on the right arrow to the side of the timer, you’d see an option to block distracting sites while you are on deep work mode.
Personally, I add the Big three to this list whenever I need to get my focus mode on: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Try it.
Focus To Do: Pomodoro Timer and To Do List
Here’s another combo extension tool for those of you who want to focus as well as keep a running list of important tasks.
In their own words, they combine the Pomodoro Timer with Task Management.
It’s a bit more elaborate than the apps we’ve seen so far, but it’s useful for those who would like a single point of reference for all their tasks.
Set a large task first.
Then, break it up into smaller tasks that can be completed in 25-minute slots.
Start the timer when you’re ready to work.
Once completed, the task gets marked and filed away as done. I’ve shared a sample task of mine for you to get an idea on how it works.
Forest: Stay focused, be present
By far, the cutest app when it comes to productivity and focus must be the Forest App.
The very soothing green tree that greets you when it appears on the screen is usually enough motivation to keep you working hard on your task of choice.
The tool again combines the Pomodoro method of 25 minutes of focused work with a block list of sites that must be ignored during deep work.
While this is similar to the FocusMe app, the bonus is you get the tree to live if you manage to keep working without distraction. Nobody wants to be a tree killer, so you stay determined and focused for 25 minutes.
Innovative technique, for sure!
*Forest also has an Android and iOS version for your devices.
Okay, so this one is as cute as Forest, only because it has an Owl!
But it can be a bit unnerving the first couple of times, if you don’t understand what’s going on.
Once you install this extension, a tiny owl appears at the bottom right of every web page that you are on. After about 30 seconds, the owl takes flight in a diagonal trajectory across your screen and causes the tab to close instantly. 😀
You can of course tweak the settings to ensure that you get longer than 30 seconds on a page, especially when you’re doing research on a topic.
But, as far as mindless opening of tabs is concerned, your friendly productivity owl is here to save the day and your focus.
Are you the kind who can actually focus better if there is some sort of ambient background noise instead of total silence? Noisli is for you.
As per the developer, Noisli is supposed to help you block out annoying noises, get you into the zone, boost your productivity and reduce stress all at once. Sounds like a Magic 8 ball, right?
But hey, it’s worth giving it a shot.
From sounds of a train on tracks to the buzz of a busy coffee shop, there’s a decent range of sounds to choose from. I personally loved the babbling brook and the forest sounds the most and found that it helped me get into work mode rather easily.
Here’s a short video to show you how it works.
They also have an in-built distraction-free editor if you want to just give the writing a whirl without different tabs competing for your attention.
All of this for free.
They do have a paid upgrade with more options if you’re interested.
*Aside: My teen daughter loved this one the most and installed it on her laptop as soon as she saw this post.
This extension is great for reading on your desktop without being distracted by that ever-present ‘new tab’ button on your browser.
Just install it, and hit the button on the browser any time you want to read a long article with full concentration.
It instantly eliminates all the tabs, advertisements and add-ons and converts it into a single screen with the distraction-free reading option enabled.
Interestingly, it also has the highlighter feature and is meant to be helpful for those with dyslexia. Anything that aids in inclusivity and diversity is a big plus in my book.
Calm for Chrome
Try saying ‘calm for Chrome’ five times fast!
Okay, jokes aside, the reason this extension works is that it literally reminds you to breathe when you open a new tab.
It’s from the makers of the Calm meditation app and it has a very fascinating way of working.
You know that impulse you have to just take a quick peek at Facebook or maybe that all-important e-mail you’ve been waiting for all day?
Well, Calm stands firmly and gently in the way of these impulses.
When you open any tab, Calm replaces it with a few long, deep breaths. While you’re taking the breath, you are forced to ask yourself if that temporary distraction is really necessary or if it can wait until you’re done with your work.
Remember what I mentioned about setting an intention earlier? Calm helps with that precise idea.
The simplicity of this extension always impresses me.
It’s such an easy thing to set up and enable that you’ll fall in love with it right away.
Momentum effectively replaces your browser’s Home tab with a picture of a gorgeous landscape or Nature shot with a gentle greeting and your core focus for the day.
It’s like that light nudge from a meditation master who brings your focus back where it needs to be, after you’ve been distracted.
Here’s what mine looks like.
This is a very simple and effective tool.
Any time you want to do some deep work, manually enter the websites that you’d like to block when you’re working and click on ‘Start Focusing’.
When done, click on ‘Stop Focusing’. That’s it.
Sometimes, though, it’s all you really need to get working.
Rescue Time for Chrome
Rescue Time is one of the earliest apps I tried, primarily because it worked very well across both my devices: the phone and the laptop.
It syncs your total time spent on various platforms and shows you a productivity percentage through the day.
It’s really what you need to take stock of how much time you tend to fritter away on sites that don’t really help you in any way.
Instead, use that time to work on your content, read up on useful material and do some deep, incisive work.
See the difference it makes to your day.
Facebook News Feed Eradicator
The one tool that changed my approach to Facebook completely and utterly was the News Feed Eradicator.
It was incredible how much time I’d spend scrolling through the news feed, consuming updates, photos and news.
Plus most of these were from people I’d met once or twice and in some cases had barely interacted with, ever since I’d befriended them on the platform.
Once I installed the news feed eradicator, I could use Facebook exactly for what I needed: my Facebook blogging groups and manually checking the feeds of those whom I was friends with.
Nothing else has saved me time on this platform the way this extension has.
All that time saved is now being put to better use creating content for this blog and studying courses that I have purchased.
A gentle reminder that productivity tools and apps can only go so far in helping you take back control of your time.
Willpower and motivation are equally useless, so don’t try that either.
Instead, set time blocks for work and fun and follow it like a rhythmic routine.
Learn more about how I use time blocking to streamline my working day.
You’d learn to use your laptop mindfully and be better equipped to handle any deep work, without the fear of distraction.