by Anna Thomson

We all have our favourite tools to help get the words right. Sometimes, though, getting down to business in the first place is the challenge. I’m unlikely to be alone in feeling that the past year has been a hard one, with many conflicting demands and emotions making it difficult to concentrate. 

I’d like to tell you about three tools that have helped me settle in and get the job done. I do pay for these apps as they’ve become worth it to me, but they all offer free trials so you can see whether they work for you.


When I’m having trouble concentrating, background music can be helpful. This app has a range of music specifically to aid concentration. Of course, Google will quickly find you a host of other free options, but I particularly like the app because it allows you to choose the energy level of the music and how long to play for. I combine it with what I call work sprints, and what others know as the pomodoro technique. www.focusatwill.com


When you least feel like working, distractions seem to come at you thick and fast. My own Achilles’ heel is Facebook. Freedom is a website blocker that allows you to choose which websites to block and for how long. Two clicks and, voilà, you’re free to turn on your focus music and concentrate. https://freedom.to


This is a personalised meditation app that is perfect for beginners. It starts you off by simply focusing on your breath for five minutes and increases your ability slowly. As you move through the lessons, it asks questions about how easy you found today’s lesson or how stressed you are, and adjusts the lessons accordingly. It has a huge library of meditations for everything from rescue breathing for panic attacks to meditations to increase motivation or energy. https://www.balanceapp.com

Often, simply walking into my office is enough to give my brain the clue that it’s time to start work. Other days, I need to summon my willpower to do a 10-minute breathing exercise, lock Facebook away, turn on the music, and tell myself that if I concentrate hard for 30 minutes, I can treat myself to a pie for lunch. We all have days like that, and I’m hoping one of these tools could help you too.

Anna Thomson is an IPEd member and editor.