Review: Concentrate – The App that Focuses on Action

Being productive as an online writer isn’t always easy. In fact, in can be incredibly challenging when you’re trying to steel yourself to write, say…a review of an app while the Internet is a-buzz with activity about the latest iDevice, your Skype icon bounces every once in a while in the Dock and your email program audibly reminds you that you’ve received yet another email. With all of those distractions, it can be very tough to focus on the task at hand. It takes all of your energy to concentrate – and that energy really needs to be directed towards the work you’ve got to do.

Enter Concentrate.

Concentrate, the brainchild of Rocket, is an application that allows you to set criteria as to what you want to have access to on your Mac while you’re working on a particular task. The criteria can be set as follows, and I’m using my ‘Write StackSocial Article’ workflow as the benchmark below:

  1. Quit applications: I tend to quit everything when I’m writing other than Byword.
  2. Run applications: Such as the one(s) you need for your task. Again, in this case it’s Byword.
  3. Open websites: I tend to allow general sites to stay open for research purposes, but I also…
  4. Block websites: The ones that I eliminate access to are social networks and other sites I tend to visit when I’m surfing for fun.

You can also set alerts, like system sound effects to jar you back into productivity at predetermined times or as a way to get you started. The same goes for voice messages, using your Mac’s pre-installed voices. While I don’t use any sounds in Concentrate, I can see the benefits of having a sound or two prod you when the going gets tough. It’s a nice feature to have at the ready should your activity on the activity slow to a crawl.

Concentrate allows for plenty of customization in these settings that can serve your needs no matter what you’ve got on your plate. Once you’ve mapped out what you need to work on at a set time, you click on the ‘Concentrate’ button. Once you’ve done that, a timer window appears and all of the actions you’ve requested for that activity are set into motion. When I fired up the ‘Write StackSocial Article’ activity, it first asked me to authenticate administrator privileges so that domains could be blocked, closed down my open apps (which were Acorn, Safari and Sparrow) and the timer began ticking away. Upon clicking ‘Done’, I was greeted with a vocal message thanking me for using Concentrate – which is one of the actions included in the sample activity that comes with the app. And that was it…simple and effective.

In addition to the timer window, the menu bar also bears the Concentrate icon. It allows you to start activities from it, shows the timer once an activity is underway and allows for other actions such as changing the app’s preferences, creating a new activity or quitting Concentrate altogether.

I’ve tried similar apps like Spirited Away and even employed The Pomodoro Technique via the Stay Focused add-on in the Google Chrome browser, but none of them have the versatility and simplicity that Concentrate does. It’s a great app that can help you do exactly what the app is named: concentrate.

Concentrate is available at the Rocket Store for $29 and there’s a free 60 hour trial available for download at the developer’s website so you can give it a test run before buying. I put the trial through its paces…and then I bought the full meal deal. Why?

My focus on doing great work is worth every bit of concentration that I have to offer, and Concentrate gives me every bit of that commodity.

4.5/5 Stacks

This review was written by contributing StackSocial editor Mike Vardy. Vardy has served as editor for prominent productivity and tech sites Work Awesome and The Next Web, and is currently an editor at Stepcase Lifehack. In his spare time, he can eventually be found playing with his kids and watching pro wrestling. You can follow him on Twitter – he’s @mikevardy.

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