Going App$#!t: focus@will
If you work at a PR agency like I do, productivity is key. Striving to beat key metrics for a myriad of clients means not only must you be great at multitasking in a fast-paced environment, but your ability to focus is crucial. In order to ensure I was maximizing every minute of my workday, I set out to find an app that would help sharpen my focus even further. During my search, I came across focus@will, a neuroscience-based web tool that uses specially sequenced instrumental music to increase attention span.
You see if I sit in silence for too long, my mind wanders and I look for a distraction rather than focusing on the task at hand. I love to work while listening to music, but mainstream music tends to lower my comprehension since I'd much rather bust out the lyrics to the song than digest the words on the page in front of me. I've tried listening to classical music, but that just puts me to sleep. Finally, while studying for finals one semester in college, I found a Pandora station that removes the lyrics from hip-hop music and provides the listener with only the instrumentals. This worked really well for me.
Fast-forward a few years to my discovery of focus@will. According to the makers of the app, the music channels are "scientifically designed to engage with your brain's limbic system." For those of us who weren't psychology majors, this concept works by introducing specific background noise that helps listeners focus by minimizing distractions.
When starting the app, the user is given a short questionnaire to fill out that measures tolerance for distraction, reactions to caffeine and typical energy levels. Based on this information, it generates suggestions for music channels. After taking the survey and browsing the thirteen different music stations, I found that my personal recommendations based on the survey were spot on. My favorite station to work to is called Alpha Chill, which has a cool jazz feel. I found that this station worked best to keep me focused compared to other stations such as Café, which replicates sounds from your local coffee shop.
Each of the thirteen stations is equipped with three different intensity settings: low, medium and high. The intensity can be adjusted based on the energy level of the listener. During my trial, I choose to set the Alpha Chill station to high intensity each morning until I had consumed my first cup of coffee, at which time I felt focused enough to transition to the low intensity setting.
Overall, the user interface is clean and simple to navigate. focus@will retails for $3.00 per month, but a free 30-day trial is available for first-time users. It can integrate with your desktop or be used from a mobile device. One thing that I found the app lacks is a comprehensive analytics tool. Though the app allows you to input how productive your focus@will session was, I found that this feature was hard to keep up. It was very unrealistic to rate my productivity when the ebb and flow of a typical workday has, well, much less ebb. I wish the analytics didn't rely on self-reporting because it would be nice to see the metrics to validate the $3 monthly subscription. Although I wasn't able to measure my productivity in the end, I can guarantee that I was much more focused on tasks while using the app. However, I'm not sure I will end up purchasing focus@will once my 30-day trial runs out; after all, Pandora's instrumental hip-hop station is free!