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Health and Wellbeing

Beat distractions with these apps

By Adrian 20 Oct 2019

Sometimes you just need to focus to get some coursework done, and one of the biggest challenges can be coping with all the distractions in our environment. We know from research that a distracted mind is an unhappy mind, and that the quality of your work suffers when you're distracted. And our phones often get the blame for being a source of distraction. So what if you could turn your phone into a tool to increases your focus and reduce distractions?  Here are two ideas...

The Pomodoro technique

What is it?

You use a timer to manage your attention, working in ‘sprints’ that count down from 25 minutes to zero, followed by a five minute break, before starting another 25 minute sprint. The name "pomodoro" comes from the original description of the technique by Francesco Cirillo, which recommeded using a kitchen timer to keep on track - and there is a famous type of kichen timer that is shaped like a tomato.

How does it work?

The idea is that during each "pomodoro", you screen out procrastination and distractions by knowing that you have a five-minute break coming up, and that by stopping after 25 minutes you are able to maintain a more balanced flow of energy throughout the day. It’s a particularly great technique for people who easily fall prey to distractions.

You can find out more at

In detail

  • Think about a task you have coming up that’s going to take an hour or more.
  • Break the task down into 25-minute sprints (pomodoros). How many pomodoros do you think you’ll need to complete the activity?
  • When you're ready to start work, set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • After you've worked without distraction for 25 minutes, allow yourself a 5 minute break.
  • After 4 cycles like this (so every 2 hours), give yourself a longer break of 25 minutes.
  • Use this strategy to measure the activity as you go, too; it’s a great way to develop your awareness of how long things actually take and how you use your own time and attention.

Pomodoro technique apps

Here is a list of some of the best Pomodoro timer apps

Reward yourself for not using your phone


The Hold app was developed by three students who met at Copenhagen Business School and wanted to develop something to help with the issue of device distraction. It works on both Android and iOS devices and is free to download.

You can earn 10 points on the Hold app for every 20 minutes that you do not use your phone between 7am and 11pm.

Points can be exchanged for goods and services within the Hold marketplace, with brands such as Caffe Nero, Vue cinemas and Amazon signed up. 60 points will get you free popcorn at the cinema; for 300 points, you can get two free coffees. You can also exchange points for books and stationery which are donated to schools via Unicef.


If you need to concentrate on a task, open Forest and plant a seed. The longer you leave your phone, the larger the resulting tree will be. If you can’t resist the urge, the tree will wither and die. So the rewards in Forest are seeing your virtual "forest" develop and grow.

Adrian profile picture

Adrian is a medical doctor, the Student Health & Wellbeing Manager at the University of London and the Warden of Connaught Hall, where he has lived for almost 25 years.
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