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Consider this familiar scenario: you have an important document to write (a presentation, memo, budget report, grant application, annual report, fill in the blank…), but you can’t seem to focus. Instead of immersing yourself in the task at hand, you become sidetracked by any number of distractions on your computer. There’s the email you have to send right this second and the company social media updates you’ve been meaning to do and the spreadsheet that’s been on your to-do list all week… and suddenly, your writing is forgotten.

If this has ever happened to you, you are not alone. A recent post on Lifehacker , a productivity blog, addressed this common problem and asked readers to submit their favorite writing tool that helps with ignoring distractions and increasing personal effectiveness. Here were the criteria:

The application in question can be on any platform, portable or not, even web-based, so long as it meets one principle requirement: it serves to block out visual and/or audio distractions and help you focus just on writing

The results  highlight several different applications that shut out visual and audio noise and allow you to focus solely on the words you are typing. These tools have great potential for increasing personal effectiveness for busy (and often distracted) working people. And the top three winners are…

• Q10  was the first place winner with 33 percent of the vote. Q10 is a free, full-screen text editor that runs on Windows-based computers. It has a simple interface but also offers a host of useful features:
o Word, page and character counts that are updated as you type
o Formatting options, including font colors, line spacing and paragraph formatting
o Spell check and autocorrect
o Plain text format that can be opened by any text editor or word processor
o Fun typewriter sounds (taken from French movie “Amélie”)

• Ommwriter  took second place with 23 percent of the vote. It was designed to be “an internal tool to help transport us away from the humdrum noise; allowing us to be at one with ourselves and our ideas” and it offers a purposely simple, almost meditative writing experience for Mac users. Some of its features include:
o Font formatting (with a larger text option for visually challenged users)
o Screen colors and soothing ambient and keyboard sounds
o File formats to save documents as .pdf or .rtf

• FocusWriter  held third place with 15 percent of the vote. It is a full-screen word processor that is compatible with Windows, Mac and open source systems. FocusWriter offers:
o Counts for words, paragraphs, pages and characters (updated as you type)
o Customizable fonts, colors and background images
o Daily goals based on word count or time spent typing
o Spell checking

Do you use an application or have any useful tips for distraction-free writing? Share your suggestions for personal effectiveness in the comments below.

Learn more about EDSI’s Increasing Personal Effectiveness  course.

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