18 Essential Apps That Help Remote Workers to Stay Focused

In Travel While Working by Phoebe Nicolas

Whether you are working from the office or from home, it can be struggling to stay focused. The Internet, your workmates, family, and your mobile phone are constant distractions that can easily get you off track.

Continuous notifications from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Gmail, text messages, phonecalls, and mobile games tend to divert our attention away from doing important work.

How can one start getting things done with these distractions?

Utilizing apps that help you organize your work and to stay focused more is one way to begin with. It can be difficult to avoid all sorts of distractions, but luckily, we have apps that will boost our focus and willpower. These apps work in different ways: some block you from visiting certain websites; some actively monitor your time spent working, while some will encourage you to focus on work.

Before we discuss the apps that can help with your focus and productivity, we first discuss the general ideas on how to keep your focus.

The list of focus apps is pretty lengthy and choosing what app to make use of is entirely yours. In this article, we have handpicked some of the best apps that work for people like us. Read on to the rest of the article to know what they are and the features of each one.

How to stay focused

These things will help you maximize your focus and productivity when working.

Set the scene for quality work

Your workplace is a big determinant to the amount and quality of work you produce. Obviously, it can be difficult to stay focused in a crowded, noisy, and busy environment. People who are in an unconducive workplaces are often easily distracted and produce poorly done work.

Identify your time wasters

Distractions come in several forms and we each have our own “favorite” one – be it watching videos on YouTube, browsing Facebook, or looking at your favorite celebrity’s Instagram. We need to identify what these distractions are that prevent us from being 100 percent focused on our work. Once you have identified what those are, you can try to slowly reduce your time spent on those distractions and allow yourself to focus more on your work at hand. Practicing self-control little by little can give you amazing results.

Track where you are spending your time

We mentioned above that you should identify distractions, and you should identify your bad habits as well. We’ll double down here and mention that you should figure out how exactly you’re using your time. This will help you identify your most productive times and where you’re losing hours.

Try using the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique works like magic on boosting productivity. The method of this principle is to break work into short intervals with short breaks in between. Basically, you break down a task, use a timer to time work for short intervals, say 20 to 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, go for a short break of 5 minutes, such as a quick stretch or grab a cup of coffee, and repeat the cycle. You repeat this as many times as you like and you can take a longer break after several cycles. The principle is that you accomplish mini goals to finish the larger task and stay focused, while recharging in between accomplishments.

Now that you know the basic rules of how to keep your focus, here’s a list of the apps that can help you stay focused. With tons of apps and extensions out there, we have narrowed the list down to our favorite ones.

To help and guide you in making choices, the price, platforms, pros and cons of each app has already been laid out for you.

1. Forest

Plenty of people around the world find it difficult to keep their phones away when they are working or studying. This is often associated with phone addiction, which can affect a person’s productivity. Forest is a popular favorite among remote workers who utilize apps for focus and concentration. This works perfectly for procrastinators and workers who are easily distracted with their mobile phones. Through a unique self-affirmation scheme, this app helps you focus and minimize your phone addiction. The principle is you set a timer, plant a tree, watch it grow, however it dies when you stop working before the timer runs out. This app helps you to put down the phone and focus on what’s important. With this interesting mechanism, the sense of achievement and responsibility will drive our users to stay away from their phone and stay focused on work with no pain.

Price: $1.99
Works on: iOS, Android, Windows

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Based on the Pomodoro technique
  • A variety of trees and shrubs to choose from
  • Turn your focused time into a lush forest
  • Use the app often and you will be able to plant real trees on Earth
  • View detailed statistics about how you designate your time
  • Compete with co-workers, friends, and people all over the world who use the app
  • Powerful affirmation method
  • Multi-language support available

Cons:

  • The app is not free
  • Currently not available for Mac, but there are other alternatives
2. Freedom

Do you easily get distracted when working? It’s easy to foolishly scroll through your social media accounts, watch something popular on YouTube, or read something funny on the Internet. This can cause quite a problem when working – time that should have been spent doing something productive is instead used on mindless things.

If this continually causes you to lose focus and productivity in work, then you might want to try out the app Freedom. This app allows you to stay focused at your tasks by minimizing your distractions. Freedom is an app that allows you to block certain websites or apps for specific period of time on almost any device. It prevents you from opening extraneous apps and accessing websites that you find distracting, no matter if you’re using a computer, iPad, or iPhone. You can even go drastic on yourself by blocking the entire internet!

Price: $6.99/month, $29.04/year, or $129 for life (with free trial for seven sessions).
Works on: Mac, Windows, IOS

Pros:

  • Works on almost any device
  • Allows you to customize which websites to block and for how long
  • Allows you to block major social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Set a timer for the length of time you want to block your social media accounts or frequently visited websites
  • Create recurring sessions such as blocking certain websites daily at a fixed time
  •  Can be used in combination with a Pomodoro app to allow for short breaks in between
  • Features a locked mode that can be switched on whenever you feel highly distracted – this prevents you from altering your website block settings
  • Can be synchronized across devices – what settings you configure on your mobile phone can be applied on your desktop or laptop – maximizing your focus.

Cons:

  • It only offers 7 free trial sessions, after which you have to pay for a subscription fee to continue enjoying the app.
3. Tide

Studies have shown that listening to certain types of music can induce a calming state for a person. This can lead to increased efficiency and better focus.

Tide is an app with a built-in timer that plays you soothing music, allowing you to fall into a focused state. It was built to help people stay focused and be more efficient in work or in studies. Utilizing the Pomodoro technique, the app breaks down tasks into 25 minute intervals with short breaks of 5 minutes in between long tasks. As stated, the app provides a music function with a limited variety of sounds to choose from.  It features an elegant design and is very easy to use. This app works best for students or beginner workers who are still trying to explore the available apps.

Price: FREE
Works on: iOs, Android

Pros:

  • Also based on the Pomodoro technique
  • Work and break times are completely adjustable to your choice or preference
  • Listen to soothing sounds of the rain, serene sound of the forest, or bustling sound of a café
  • Increases your mindfulness, concentration, and productivity
  • Features a daily motivational quote to remind you to keep going
  • Features a focus history that the user can view and track how many sessions have been completed
  • Absolutely free of charge

Cons:

  • Limited number and kinds of sounds to listen
  • The featured sounds may not be pleasing to all users
  • Aside from its music and timer function, does not have unique or special features that make it stand out
4. Focus Keeper

The Focus Keeper is an app that simply tracks how you allocate your time and resources. Based on the Pomodoro technique, it maintains your productivity at a high level by allowing you to work in bursts with short breaks in between.

With Focus Keeper, you can set how many rounds you want to complete each day in order to reach your goal. It also provides visual graphics of how you have spent your time and how you have realigned your focus on your goals. The app allows customization and provides reliable statistics and app overviews. This way, you can easily manage and monitor your progress and down times. Lastly, it has notification center access that allows you to track outside of the application.

Price: $1.99
Works on: iOs

Pros:

  • Also based on the Pomodoro technique
  • Works best for students and beginners to the Pomodoro technique
  • App is customizable to allow you to set your desired time and number of rounds you want to achieve each day
  • Has a built-in notification panel that tracks your work time outside of the application
  • App is simple and very easy to use, no complicated buttons or techniques

Cons:

  • Unfortunately, this great app works on iOs only as of the moment.
  • In-app purchases for more functionality and higher customization (more app colors, various time intervals, alarm sounds) is required
5. Productivity Challenge Timer

The Productivity Challenge Timer is an interesting way for you to boost your focus and get more work done. This app leaves no room for excuses to not accomplish tasks. The Productivity Challenge Timer challenges you to work harder and tracks your work habits.

Not only does it boosts confidence, but does so in an interactive and fun way. As the days go by and your level of productivity increases, you also climb up the ranks of a character. You initially start out as the Unrepentant Slacker with potential to climb up the ranks as you stay focused more using this app, as well as earn achievements. This app has a silly way of motivating you: it insults you to shape. Prepare to be challenged by this app to increase your focus.

Price: Free
Works on: iOs

Pros:

  • Also has a built-in timer based on the Pomodoro technique in addition to its interesting way of leveling up
  • Will not let you pause or finish sessions early, so your work time is fixed and forced.
  • Tracks your productivity throughout the day, so you can determine what hours you are most productive.
  • View your stats on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis by viewing minutes worked in a day, average hours worked per day of the week etc.
  • Has a back up feature to keep and restore your data and stats if needed

Cons:

  • The free version only allows a maximum of 4 projects to be set up and after which, you have to pay for the full version
  • The app does not validate the goals you need to accomplish daily, but only motivates you to work harder.
6. Brain.fm

Brain.fm is a website and mobile app that provides users with hour-long soundtracks aimed to help you stay focused and relax on your work. If you are constantly annoyed by gossiping workmates or chatty passers-by, then try out Brain.fm.

The principle behind this app’s creation is that certain types of music have been proven to enhance rain activity, subsequently enhancing productivity. It has been said that even a few minutes of listening to music on this app improves focus and concentration immediately.

Price: Free for five free sessions and limited options; from $6.95/month for unlimited
Works on: iOs, Android, Microsoft and Mac

Pros:

  • This app works best for focus-boosting soundtracks
  • The type of audio you hear is highly customizable: available tracks include chimes and bowls, electronic music, rain, atmospheric noise, and many others. You will not get bored!
  • Can be used for different purposes – improve focus, for relaxation, even for sleep
  • Allows you to track long term progress by analyzing time spent working
  • Users report immediate results within minutes of using the app
  • The app is aesthetic and easy to use on any device
  • Affordable pricing given its range of music
  • The sound library is constantly being upgraded with the addition of new music

Cons:

  • It is not free, but definitely worth the price
7. Cold Turkey Blocker

Cold Turkey is a great app if you want to lock yourself out from the computer for a set period. This is an app used on Windows and Mac that lets you block specific websites and apps when you need to stay focused on work and catch up on work deadlines.

It gives users a unique feature, the Frozen Turkey, a setting that completely locks you out of your computer for a specified time. This setting is useful in instances when you need to spend time elsewhere or when you have a hard time swaying away from facing your computer, even if you are doing non work related things.

This app has a great user interface that makes it fast, easy, and convenient to schedule focused work sessions.

Cold Turkey has an amazing interface which makes it easy to schedule focus sessions. It may be aimed at young adults and college students primarily, but it could be useful to anyone trying to restrict their computer time.

Price: Free with certain limitations and restrictions, $25 one-time fee for Cold Turkey Pro, usable and accessible on all computers.
Works on: Android, Microsoft and Mac, on all web browsers

Pros:

  • Easy to use, cross-browser  website blocker that does not allow you to visit a blocked website even using another browser
  • It is difficult to circumvent the block – forcing you to become productive for the specified time
  • Allows you to make multiple lists, to block different websites, depending on your mood or need
  • Has a statistics feature that provides a clue on your biggest time-wasters, be it an application or a game
  • On Android, it simply blocks everything on your phone – locking it for the time being

Cons:

  • You will need to go Pro if you want more advanced features and block
8. Focus@Will

Focus@Will is a platform that offers lyric-free music in addition to tracking and monitoring your activity. Similar to the previous app Brain.fm, Focus@Will provides soothing music designed to help you stay focused on work.  The music available on this app is specifically written, designed, and composed to help increase one’s focus and concentration when studying, working, or writing.

Using Focus@Will is simple. Just like Brain.fm, you set a timer for how long you wish to work, choose your music, and you can even choose how fast your music goes. At the end of the session, you will be asked how productive you were for that session, and this keeps track of your productivity over days and weeks.

This app starts out with a simple quiz to determine what kind of thinker and worker you are, helping the app tailor specific music for you. Your opinion and feedback matters in Focus@Will, this app allows you to make a note on how productive you felt while listening to its sound tracks.

Price: $9.95/month, $99.95/year, or $299.95 for lifetime membership
Works on: iOS, Android, Web browsers

Pros:

  • Provides users with thousands of music to choose from, specifically created for this app
  • The app includes productivity tracking tools, so you can relax and focus while keeping track of your productivity
  • An online session timer is also available, for when you want to be reminded of your work time
  • Allows you to change the music pacing depending on your preference, whether fast or slow paced
  • Offers a 2 week trial for new users

Cons:

  • After the trial period has expired, you will have to pay a subscription fee to continue listening on the app
  • Productivity is measured subjectively, so it may be hard to track actual improvement
  • There are free alternatives to this application
9. LeechBlock

LeechBlock in my opinion, is one of the best free productivity apps out there. This web extension allows you to specify which websites to block, when, and for how long. It features a timer that monitors the time you spend on certain websites.

You can set a specific time per website daily, and after that specified time, you will be blocked from visiting that website or be redirected to a different webpage, helping you to stay focused. For example, you can set 20 minutes daily for browsing through Facebook, and once you have consumed the said time, you will no longer be able to view or visit the website. Just like freezing credit cards to keep you from splurging, LeechBlock has a password or access code option, which you will need to unlock your websites. This reinforces its blocking capacity, forcing you to focus on your work instead.

Price: Free
Works on: Chrome, Firefox

Pros:

  • Has built-in timers to block websites
  • Allows you to block any website, whenever, and for how long you want
  • Allows you to create and use multiple block lists
  • Fool-proof way to block websites
  • Minimizes unnecessary online reading and website surfing
  • Redirects you to pages if you keep visiting blocked and unwanted websites
  • Has a password or access code feature, which is needed for you to change your settings

Cons:

  • Currently only available on Chrome and Firefox browsers, using another browsers easily goes around the block
  • No statistics provided on how you spend your time or your level of productivity
10. RescueTime

RescueTime is a versatile productivity app that works as a distraction blocker, cutting off your access to distracting websites when needed, while also recording how much time you spend on different apps and websites.

This runs in the background, monitoring the websites you visit and the computer applications that you use and for how long. From this, it creates detailed reports showing time spent working on work-related websites, on social media sites, and using other software such as Microsoft Office or other organizer apps. And since RescueTime will be monitoring your activity, it is important to classify websites, applications, and software accordingly so that you do not get judged by RescueTime.

Price: Free Lite version; Premium for $9/month or $72/year
Works on: Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows

Pros:

  • It is a simple platform and fast to set up
  • Provides detailed reports on how you allocate your time, as well as your biggest timewasters
  • Gives an insight on the way you work in relation to time spent and quality of output
  • Can be synced across devices for ease of access
  • Tracks time spent in non-work-related websites and apps too

Cons:

  • This app is one of those on the expensive side at $9 monthly
11. Self-Control

Self-Control is a simple, free, app that helps you stay focused by blocking websites or other internet features so that you can concentrate on your work. You can also set a timer and make this your dedicated time for a distraction-free work time.

Alternatively, you can create a list of websites and set the app to let you access only the websites on this allowed list. Just like other apps, Self-Control does not let you pause or stop a session. This makes one more determined and motivated to work within the specified time because you cannot access the sites you have blocked until the time elapses.

Price: Free
Works on: Mac

Pros:

  • Features a very simple and minimalistic design making it easy to use
  • Provides a system-level block ensures that the block will work with all browsers

Cons:

  • Unfortunately, it only works on Mac currently
  • No other features or functionality, mainly acts as a website blocker
  • You can easily go around the block by changing the time or restarting your computer
12. StayFocusd

StayFocusd is a free Chrome extension allowing you to choose how you want to block distractions. One way is to permit yourself to spend a specific amount of time each day on certain websites, like 30 minutes on Facebook and Twitter. Once past the set time, StayFocusd kicks you out of the website with no option for extension.

Alternatively, you can block certain websites at specified times, like not permitting surfing of Facebook or Instagram between 8 am and 5 pm, to make way for work. Not only can you block websites, you can also block subdomains, specific pages on certain sites, distracting in-page content like videos and images or the entire Internet itself.

StayFocusd has a special feature, called the Nuclear Option. With this, you can block any of the following: 1) all websites, 2) all websites except those you’ve protected, or 3) all those you’ve blacklisted. Once enabled, this cannot be undone or deactivated – pretty drastic, but keeps your productivity high. This can be overcome by using another web browser. Stayfocusd has several features and options to help you stay focused and concentrated on work.

Price: Free
Works on: Chrome

Pros:

  • You can freely schedule blocks throughout the day and add a specified daily time limit
  • Wild cards are available for emergency unblocking, or when you simply are in a desperate need for a break

Cons:

  • Since it is only available on specific browsers, you can circumvent the block easily by opening another browser that does not support the extension
  • Statistics are not provided to show how much time you spend on browsing websites
13. Anti-Social

Social media ranks as one of the biggest timewasters for any worker or employee. People often quickly respond to the buzzes and pings of notifications from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. This is where the Anti-Social comes in.

Anti-Social is a browser plugin for Mac or Windows. It is exactly its name – it keeps you away from social media sites that otherwise will take your time. Anti-Social eliminates the temptation to post a photo, tweet something, or update your status by blocking certain social media sites, helping you to stay focused.

The app has timed blocks in 15 minutes intervals ranging from 15 minutes up to 8 hours. What’s even better with this app is there is no way to cheat around the time block. You can’t use another browser or log in to a different account. The only way to escape the time block is to reboot your computer. Now we don’t want to lose our precious work and time rebooting the computer, right?

Anti-Social is made to block over 30 social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Hulu and Reddit. You can also add any other sites that you feel pull you away from focus and productivity at work.

Price: $15 (with 90-day money back guarantee)
Works on: Chrome, Firefox, Mac and Windows

Pros:

  • Almost fool-proof way to block social media websites
  • Allows you to add additional websites to their current list of blocked websites
  • Customizable time blocks for each website
  • Keeps you from checking social media updates and opening each notification
  • Allows you to focus on your work or project

Cons:

  • A little bit on the pricey side, especially for students and new workers
14. Focus Booster

Battling daily distractions at work can be difficult, but there’s always an app that can help you stay focused. Focus booster is an app based on the Pomodoro technique. With this app, you are guided onto breaking large tasks into small achievable goals separated by short breaks.

This app breaks your tasks down into 25-minute blocks or sessions, followed by 5-minute breaks. The goal is to keep your mind refreshed and agile as you work. If you work for extended hours daily, you can easily get burnt out and exhausted. This app helps you prevent work exhaustion while keeping your productivity.

Focus Booster also includes a Timesheet feature that records all your sessions coupled with a detailed dashboard.

Price: free
Works on: iOS/Android/Mac/Windows/Web

Pros:

  • This app has no pause button, so you are forced to work and be productive for 25 minutes straight.
  • This app is very easy to install and use
  • It features a clean, sleek, well-designed user interface
  • Absolutely free of charge
  • Provides users with adequate tracking and reporting of time worked
  • App shows a notification on your lock screen so you will know how much longer you need to work for

Cons:

  • No pause button, so you can’t stop even for an emergency break
15. Time Out

Working for long periods of time can easily exhaust a person and lead to decreased productivity. Exhaustion also causes workers to not stay focused. Workaholics who work for too much long also need breaks, and there are useful apps to remind them to take a break once in a while. One of these apps is Time Out.

Time Out reminds a person to take a break by gently dimming the screen and flashing a message. You can set the time for length of work to be done and length of break to follow. For example, you can work for 50 minutes at a time and take 10 minute breaks in between.

The app slowly dims your screen after 50 minutes, and slowly fades it back in after the break time so you can get back to work. This way, you are ensured that no screen work is done when it is your appointed break time.

Price: Free
Works on: Mac

Pros:

  • Customizable breaks – from a span of a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on workload and stress
  • You can choose a theme – or how your screen dims or locks in preparation for the break
  • Tracks breaks and app usage using its easy to use dashboard
  • Absolutely free
  • Easy to use and visually appealing

Cons:

  • This app is available only on Mac
16. Todoist

Work requires some degree of organization to get yourself together, prioritize tasks, stay focused and get going with them.  If you’re disorganized or even just very busy, you can quickly get off track and lose focus. Todoist is an app that helps you with these problems.

Todoist lets you build lists and set your priorities, so you know which ones you should be focusing on immediately, and which ones can wait.

This app is available on the web and on other platforms. No matter where you are, you’ll be able to view, edit, and cross tasks off your list.

Price: Free
Works on: Mac, Windows, iOS, Chrome, and Android

Pros:

  • The app uses different levels of priorities to mark tasks
  • Able to quickly organize tasks into labels, projects or due dates
  • Allows for sharing and collaboration of tasks as needed
  • Monitors and rewards productivity by rewarding the worker with points
  • Has a great home screen and editable widgets
  • Mobile app is also very easy to use and understand

Cons:

  • An annual subscription is required to enjoy the app’s premium and more advanced features
  • The free version has limited functions
17. Mindful Browsing

Mindful Browsing belongs to those kinds of apps that alert you whenever you spend time in unnecessary websites. It gently nudges you away from your usual distractions, providing you with a tool to help you stay focused on important stuff.

This is a free and open-source extension for Chrome that works by getting your attention whenever you attempt to access sites that are timewasters, such as social media sites and video streaming sites. Upon installing and setting up Mindful Browsing, you will be asked to list websites that you would like to avoid or limit. Be honest – cheating on this will not boost your focus or productivity. You will also be asked to write what you should be doing instead of browsing these sites.

Price: Free
Works on: Chrome, Firefox

Pros:

  • Allows you to block certain websites to minimize your distractions
  • Customizable and editable settings depending on your preference
  • Absolutely free
  • This extension is easy to set up
  • Easy to understand interface

Cons:

  • Not available on all web browsers
 18. Calm

After a long and stressful day or work hours, it is often nice to spend some time relaxing and meditating, and the app Calm helps you just do that. If you are in need of a break or pause from work and other responsibilities, Calm can provide you guided meditation sessions. Each session lasts anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes, recharging you and clearing your head so can stay focused on your next task.

Price: free
Works on: iOS/Android/Mac/Windows/Web

Pros:

  • Helps you meditate in order to focus on work
  • Customizable settings such as background and choice of music
  • Gives you insight and guidance regarding focus
  • Each meditation program is self-explanatory

Cons:

  • Free version has limited features

Check out our top recommendations page to see if any of the products can be beneficial for your future trip.

Phoebe Nicolas