Tips to Eliminate Distractions from Your Day

The Distraction Loop

It happens to the best of us: You’re plugging along in your workday, finishing tasks left and right, when all of a sudden your email notification dings..then dings again. And then Slack alerts you that someone sent a message. Suddenly, you find yourself lost in a notification loop, and you can’t seem to get out of it in order to get back to work. As technology advances, so does the ability for someone (or something) to get in touch with you at all times of the day. This also creates the possibility of unlimited distractions in your work, which cuts down on your ability to be productive. Keep reading for some of the ways you can start to eliminate distractions from your day.

Cell Phone Distractions

Today, a lot of the distractions we encounter come from our cell phones. A majority of apps available come with push notifications, which send a direct alert to your phone when something happens in the app. Typically, these are automatically turned on too. As a way to keep these interruptions to a minimum, as soon as you install an app, turn off the push notifications. If you don’t want them off entirely (i.e., it’s nice to be notified outside of your working hours that someone re-Tweeted you), you can look around in the app’s settings to see if there is an option to control your notification hours. This will help decrease the number of times you pick up your phone to check what app just made that noise.

Another solution to your app-distraction issue is to remove all social media apps from your phone. This will help keep you from mindlessly scrolling through your feed to see what everyone you know (and many you don’t) is up to the moment your focus is pulled from your work. Though it may seem a bit extreme, you will eventually break the habit of aimlessly picking up your phone. 

phone distractions

Endless Emails

Now, about those emails. Often times, people have a tendency to reply to emails very soon after receiving them. This can lead to multiple interruptions throughout your day, depending on how many messages you receive. One way to help eliminate this distraction is to turn off your email notifications, and set aside a certain time or times in the day to check your email. 15-25 minutes could be enough, or maybe two separate 20-minute blocks to read, respond, and record any actions from the emails could significantly help you remove some of the distractions from your day.

Office Distractions

If you are in an open-office setting, accumulated noise from around the workplace could create distractions without anyone realizing it. If you are in a job that allows you to wear headphones (or some kind of ear covering), this could help you eliminate some of the background noise from your day. Alternately, if you are fortunate enough to have an office with a door, you could simply close your door for parts of the day. An important thing to remember here though is to inform your co-workers as to why you are working with your headphones on or your door closed. As with email, you could implement the times of the day when you leave your headphones off or your door open for people to drop by and discuss projects or ideas.

computer distractions

These tips are designed to be adjusted to best suit your work style and can be used individually or mixed together. The important thing is that you recognize when your distractions are happening, and what is causing them. Once you know that, you can decide which technique might be best for you and work on eliminating the distractions in your day.



Tips for Staying on Task and Focused in College

College Life

The semester is in full swing, but you’re still trying to find the perfect balance of work and play. As fall break (yay!) and midterms (boo!) near, it is time to look at the assignments you have due, the amount of effort each will take, and how you are really using your time. Keep reading for some tips on the best ways to stay focused and on task while navigating the freedoms of your collegiate life.

College books

Record Your Assignments

The first tip for staying on task is to record all of your major assignments as soon as you receive your class syllabi. Just choose your preferred method – calendar, bullet journal, app, etc. – and put them all in one place. This will help you have a better idea of how much time you will need to carve out for each assignment or how many days you will have to study for an exam. Recording everything in one place will also keep the panic level to a minimum when that first test pops up.

Eliminate Distractions

Another good tip, though difficult to follow at times, is to eliminate distractions (okay, your cell phone!). Conversations with friends, endless social media scrolls, and various games are in your hands at all times; however, there are several options to help keep the distractions from your phone to a minimum. One option is to set your phone to either “Do Not Disturb” or put it in Airplane mode, which will keep all your notifications from coming through (you could also just turn your phone on silent if you still want your alerts to pop up). Another option is to put your phone in a different room to remove the temptation when you start to lose focus. A third option is to go do your work someplace where using your phone would disturb other people (i.e., the library) so that you are accountable to other people as well as yourself.

college distractions

Practice Self-Care

Our third tip is to make sure to include some time in your schedule to give yourself breaks. Whether it’s to exercise, hang out with your friends, or just breathe, make the time for self-care. Burning out is easy to do in an atmosphere such as college where you are in charge of your entire schedule; the feeling like you’re falling behind is overwhelming and can come on quickly when you’re balancing 5 classes at one time. Keeping track of all of your assignments will help, but keeping track of your time in order to take a step back for a minute or two could help you even more.

College can be both an incredibly difficult and an incredibly fun time. Keeping yourself focused and on task will help you find not only that balance between the two, but also maintain it throughout your time in college. And who knows…maybe some of the habits you form to keep yourself on task will carry over into your professional life!

college building

Checklist Feature Focus

The Benefits of a Checklist

You planned a Halloween party and somehow forgot to buy ice and extra candy. You had it in your head the whole time to pick up both at the store, but every time you went, you somehow forgot. Next time, you’ll make a checklist of all of the things you need to remember for your party! Now, who can you call to bring the ice and candy…

Tailor Your Checklist

The Arena App: Daily Planner features both custom made and pre-built checklists for several tasks. All checklists in Arena are editable as well, so you can easily turn the Plan a Party checklist into your Plan a Halloween Party checklist, adding any holiday-specific tasks to the list, and deleting anything that you wouldn’t need for this type of party (i.e., thank you notes for gifts). The lists are available as you enter or edit a project, and can either be chosen from those provided or entered in according to your needs. Arena includes pre-built checklists for Home (Prepare for Houseguests), Work (Build a Presentation), and General (Review Weekly, based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done method).

Halloween Party Checklist


Create Your Own Checklists

Arena also gives you the option to create your own checklist, which can have as many or as few items as you need to stay on track to complete your task. For instance, if you were getting ready to put your house on the market, you could create your own checklist for the steps you would need to complete in order to make the process as easy as possible (minus the stress level). Alternately, if you are in the market to buy a house (and aren’t selling one), you can create a checklist for what that process will entail as well, ensuring some level of ease (again, minus the stress level). You could even create a checklist for the fall fundraiser you volunteered to put together at the first PTA meeting!

Fall Festival Checklist

As with any to-do list, the checklists found in The Arena App are available to help you move through your day as smoothly as possible, so that you know you did everything you could in the time you had available. With Arena, it’s not just a to-do list; it’s a way to find peace of mind.

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The Arena App: Daily Planner, Version 1.5

New Updates to the Best Productivity App

Your team Scrum call happens every day at 8:30 a.m. Your marketing meeting is every Thursday at 2:00 p.m.  Your financial projections are due on the 75th day of every quarter. Instead of entering in these tasks every time they occur, Arena now allows you to choose if a task is repeating, as well as the frequency they occur. These show up in your Arena Play screen with arrows denoting that they repeat, and can be edited at any time if the day of your task changes. This will help cut down on the amount of time you spend planning your day.

New Updates in the Checklists

Also included in the new version of The Arena App are two new pre-built checklists. Now that the new school year is upon us, there are so many different things to keep track of – afterschool activities, volunteering opportunities, paperwork, etc. – that it can be easy to miss a step. The new Arena checklists include Preparing for Back-to-School and Navigating the First Week of School. And as with any of the pre-built checklists, you can add, delete, and re-order any of the tasks on the list. Help keep the new school year – and yourself – organized and on top of the afterschool activities, volunteering opportunities, and paperwork to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Arena updates

With The Arena App Version 1.5, you can now check or uncheck and swipe to re-order the items in a checklist when editing a task. This allows you to take care of everything at once, rather than having to enter your task, and then go back in later to edit a checklist. Version 1.5 also adds the days of the week in the project due date picker. This function makes entering in your tasks more efficient.

Stay Updated

If you are new to The Arena App, take a look around these new features (as well as our other awesome ones), and let us know what you think! If you’ve been an Arena user for a while, let us know how you like the updates, and if there are others you would like to see. One thing that didn’t change? The Arena App will still help you have a better day, every day, and keep you on track to make sure you are doing what matters daily.

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Thrivner Book Club | Enlightenment Now

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
Steven Pinker

We chose Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker because we were curious about Pinker’s primary argument: Reason, science, and humanism – key themes of the Enlightenment now – lead to progress. Pinker’s case for progress rests primarily on descriptive and visual statistics organized by topic areas, each of which is well-worth reading.

However, we ended up being more interested in three side discussions in the book. The first involved media cynicism, where Borstein and Rosenberg theorize that the Vietnam and Watergate eras mark the media’s shift from “glorifying leaders to checking their power,” all of which now shows up as cynicism (Pinker 2018, 50). We discussed competing theories, as well as the implications for society if this theory holds. The second side discussion was on the topic of mitigating climate change, with Pinker’s suggestions including, inter alia, carbon pricing, nuclear energy, and mild geoengineering. We speculate what might be next when/if these solutions do not work. Our third discussion touched on society’s perceived hostility to science, and Pinker’s assertion that it may be because people view science as a cause for genocide and war, or because it may be a threat to the moral and spiritual health of our nation (Pinker 2018, 389). We discussed this topic on its merits and considered mitigating approaches.

The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress was interesting, but our bigger take-aways were: the frame for humanity’s progress has to be longer-term and larger-scale; a positive change over time is different than a fast-rate of change; and the need for systematic attention to the individual- and community-level impacts, effects, and progress.

We viewed these points from our team’s shared interest in futures, and how we can implement more of what we know about the past into shaping the potentialities for society’s future.

Pinker, Steven. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Viking, 2018.

Arena: Starting Fresh and Stress-Free Routines

Balancing the New

The beginning of a new school year can be a mix of emotions for everyone. Parents stress about everything that needs to be done, and if there is enough time to do it all. Children experience a mix of excitement and anxiety about starting a new grade (or a new school). Everyone feels ready to start over, with new routines and expectations for the year, as if we should be setting resolutions. So how do you keep up those routines and expectations past the first month? What does it take to keep everyone on track?

back to school routines


Establishing Routines

The first step should be to sit down as a family and decide what you all want from the school year. Need to make sure that homework, playtime, and bedtime routine all stay consistent? Set alarms on your phone (or home device), with the expectation that everyone understands what each alarm means, and the next action to take after the alarm sounds. Eventually, you can stop them, but at least for the first few months, it’s good to keep everything moving until the habit is formed.

If you find a routine that works well for your family, you can plug it into The Arena App and make it recurring. That way, ‘Daily Homework’ every afternoon or ‘Sunday Night School Prep’ happen in a consistent, predictable, happy way each time.

Managing Stress

Stress from work can also add to the chaos of a new school year. Projects tend to get pushed back in order to fit in doctor’s appointments, early pickups, soccer practice, and piano lessons. One solution is to work late at night or early in the morning, to avoid any conflict with the school routine. This can be taxing, however, as you lose time to relax and decompress. Self-care at the beginning of a new school year is also important, both for the parent and the child. Scheduling time for something as small as a walk around the neighborhood can help manage some of that stress and keep you on track for a successful school year.

If you find yourself behind on multiple tasks, take a few minutes and make a list of all of them. From that list, take a look and see if anything can be delegated. If you make your list in The Arena App, our users report that many of the smaller things often stand out for them as things that can be delegated. For whatever remains, take a closer look and see if any of those can be broken down further. Smaller, more specific tasks can be much easier to manage and being able to at least work on some part of a project is better than just putting it off until you have a larger chunk of time.

Keeping track of all of your child’s activities can be challenging as well, between practices, games, and various meetings. Use your calendar and enter all of these in as soon as you know about them. Added bonus: If you know ahead of time that you will have a conflict with one of the activities, you can to set up a carpool plan with another family and offer some alternating support for travel to and from events.

calendar for routine tasks

Maintain the Peace

Resolutions can be difficult to keep, no matter what time of year you make them. The new school year routines can be beneficial to more than just you and can help make the transitions much smoother. The most important thing to remember is to make choices that keep life peaceful. Setting yourself – and your family – up for a successful school year will make all the difference.

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Navigating the Back-to-School Madness

Navigating the New School Year with Arena

It’s chaos: You forgot the after-school snack and the hunger meltdown is looming. You make it home and avert the crisis…until the backpack opens. What seems like a year’s worth of forms for you to fill out is waiting in your child’s backpack, along with a note to have them filled out, signed, and returned by the end of the week. But, you can’t do that now because it’s almost time for scouts. And so begins the insanity of navigating the first week back to school.

Though the beginning of a new school year will always be chaotic, The Arena App allows you to keep a sense of calm throughout the first few weeks. Our pre-built checklist for Navigating the First Week of School will help you stay on top of all of the things that tend to overwhelm the beginning of school, such as making sure you have breakfast, lunch – and the aforementioned snacks – planned for the week, as a way to alleviate some of the stress right off the bat. This can even give you a little more time to wrangle your child for that always-adorable First Day of School photo!

Keeping up with the School Year

Those forms we mentioned earlier? Chances are you already have access to all the information they need, so just schedule some time in Arena to sit down and get them out of the way. You probably also have some schedules scattered about in email and hard copies for school meetings, soccer games, volunteer opportunities, early release days, etc. Create another project in Arena to get all of these into your overall calendar ahead of time, so that you aren’t completely surprised when the PTA sends a friendly reminder that you agreed to run the Box Tops Collecting program, and there are three containers of them waiting for you to organize.


Collecting Box Tops is just one of many volunteering opportunities that will pop up in the first week of school. The PTA- where you may also owe dues – probably already has several lined up for you to choose from. If you have already entered in all the relevant schedules and games, you’re a step ahead! You already know your commitments and can have peace of mind around committing to a volunteer opportunity, or not. If you say yes – to collecting Box Tops, coaching soccer, or being the room parent – The Arena App can help you navigate those commitments with ease because you’ll be able to see the work required and the time you have to complete it.

These are just a few of the ways that The Arena App can help you navigate the first few weeks of school as smoothly as possible. There will always be some bumps and unexpected twists and turns, but if you are prepared for what you know is coming, then the things that sneak up on you won’t seem quite as monumental.

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A Smooth Start to the New School Year with Arena

The Arena App and the New School Year

The beginning of the new school year is nearly here! Do you love it? As children, we reveled in newly-sharpened pencils, blank notebooks, and dividers ready to be labeled. As parents of school-age children, we still revel in the newness. And, this time of year feels intense. Do you feel it, too? We’re not crazy; there are a lot of tasks that require our time and attention. And, there’s the added pressure that any failure on our part will ultimately be visited on our children in the form of missing supplies, incomplete permission slips, and too-small cleats for soccer season.

school supplies

One of the biggest hurdles during the back-to-school season is the shopping. School supplies (classroom-specific and extras to keep at home), new clothes, new shoes, equipment for activities (sports, girl/boy scouts, piano lessons), breakfast/lunch/snack options – the list could go on, based on your family’s needs. The pre-built checklist in the newest version of The Arena App can help you keep track of all of these items or you can tailor the list for your family-specific needs. The checklist can also help you organize what to buy from certain stores so that you aren’t trekking back and forth to the same store three times because you can’t seem to remember to pick up colored pencils.

Back-to-School Success

Arena’s Planning for Back-to-School checklist also includes reminders to sign up for those after-school activities (sports, girl/boy scouts, piano lessons) before the beginning of the year, since they tend to run concurrently with the school year. Another task that is often needed (and occasionally forgotten) is the annual checkup with your pediatrician.

Other items on Arena’s checklist are good reminders, but may not be needed for your preparation: Getting a haircut is a big thing for most parents, but isn’t necessarily a must-do before school starts. Additionally, you may not need to wash your child’s backpack or lunchbox; buying a new one may be just as easy (bonus: just edit your checklist to say “Buy” instead of “Wash”). You can easily add items to the checklist as well, such as “Clean out the closet,” as a reminder to go through your child’s clothes to see what no longer fits before adding in the new outfits for the school year.

A Fresh Start for the New School Year

It is a good practice to view the start of a new school year in the same way you would a new year: A chance to start fresh, with new routines, a new chore chart, a new calendar page, and a new grade. Establish new habits for your family, and as your children get older, you can even encourage them to suggest a few things they would like to see for their new school year. Because you can save checklists, the Arena App can help you keep track of all of the different projects for the school year, as well as create checklists within each project to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.

The start of a new school year is chaotic, but the Arena App can help you manage some of the stressors so that you can focus more on the things that matter, like helping your child manage their own stress about starting a new grade (or a new school). Stay tuned for our next blog in this series, which focuses on navigating the first few weeks of school.

school supplies

The Arena App and the Four Tendencies

How to Use The Arena App with Internal and External Expectations

Author Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies explores how people react to both internal and external expectations, and the best way to interact with each tendency. The four main tendencies are Upholders, Obligers, Questioners, and Rebels. Rubin asserts that identification of a person’s tendency will enable that person to live a more successful life, as s/he will be able to tailor approaches to work and relationships to the characteristics of the tendency.

Rubin’s theory has played an integral role in our company, as we are all able to recognize the best way we work based on our own tendency. Additionally, knowing the tendencies of those around us makes understanding why people act the way they do easier and lays a path for how best to interact with them. The Four Tendencies also played a role in designing The Arena App, as we were able to figure out how each tendency could use the app to best suit their responses to expectations. Keep reading to find out how The Arena App can work with your tendency!


Upholders tend to meet both inner and outer expectations, which means they don’t want to let themselves or others down. This makes it easier to form habits but can lead to over-commitment (Rubin, 2017). Arena’s combination of admitting to the effort/impact of the task and placing it in your actual calendar makes it so much easier to keep your commitments to yourself and others. Arena’s best approach to meeting internal accountability is that it ensures you’re doing what really mattered.


Obligers tend to meet outer expectations, which means they need some form of external accountability (Rubin, 2017). External accountability can be met by sharing your accomplishments bar or your insights statistic. Arena’s best approach to meeting external accountability is that it ensures you’re doing what really mattered.


Questioners tend to meet only inner expectations while questioning others’ expectations. Things that are arbitrary, including rules, are resisted (Rubin, 2017). Question everything as you add it to Arena, then question it daily when you’re planning the next day. Arena’s best approach to meeting internal accountability is that it ensures you’re doing what really matters.


Rebels tend to resist both inner and outer expectations and instead value authenticity (Rubin, 2017). Authenticity in Arena is about listing only the projects that matter, and only assigning them to a particular day when you know you’re going to do them. Arena allows you to complete the work that matters, to know that it’s complete, and to leave you free to do whatever you want next!

The main focus of The Arena App is to help you through your day in a way that will allow you to focus on what really matters. Regardless of your tendency, the important thing is that you are in control of your tasks. Finish your day with the peace of mind that you accomplished everything you could, in the time you had available, and in the way that works best for you.

four tendencies

Rubin, Gretchen. The Four Tendencies. Harmony, 2017.

Organized or Chaos: How The Arena App Can Help You Win the Day

How The Arena App Can Help You Win the Day

If you’ve been following our blog, you may feel like we are a little harsh when it comes to Post-It® notes. While they have their benefits (quick notes, reminders, etc.), they are not great at keeping track of your schedule or your to-do list. The Arena App can help you fill in the gaps left by that Post-It® you lost with the details of your meeting. Keep reading for some tips on how Arena can help you win the day.

Enter Your Projects for the Day

The Arena App is designed with the day-to-day in mind: users enter in their tasks, projects, meetings, etc., every day, which allows you to know what needs to be done today to ensure the most impactful outcome. Arena also offers a calendar view, which lays your projects for the day over your calendar. This helps you visualize the time you have available for your tasks, which leads to a better sense of what needs to be completed first.

Assign Your Project Impacts

When entering your tasks for the day, The Arena App lets you decide if you Must, Should, or Could work on it today. Projects default to the Should distinction so that users don’t feel like they must do everything today. The focus is on what you know needs to be completed versus what you would like to complete today. Once you choose this, you are also able to decide what level of importance a project has, in terms of effort and impact. You can decide these based on what you know you need to do, though some users assign a higher value to projects they don’t want to do as a way to motivate themselves.

prioritize and win

Additional Features

The Arena App also includes several features that can help you when you are stuck on a project. The timer feature is built in for when you need to focus on a project, but find yourself struggling to do so. It is designed so that the user can choose however much – or little – time is needed, and just get to work. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you remove your outside distractions!

Another feature included in Arena is multiple project checklists, which are both pre-built and self-curated. You can easily add them to a task when entering it in, and the list will appear when you open the task bubble. Arena even tracks your progress on the outside of your bubbles as you check off the boxes, which helps with the overall feeling of getting things done.

simplify and win

Let Arena Help You

The Arena App is designed to help your day run as smoothly as possible. And while that might not always be in your control, you can easily get back on track with Arena. The appeal of this app is that it doesn’t tell you what to do; it helps you focus more on what you know you need to do, which allows you to be in control of your day. Let The Arena App help you win the day, and gain the peace of mind that you did everything you could in the time you had.

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