7 websites that make you happier and more productive at work

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By Blake Thorne


I’m going to let you in on a secret. A lot of people are trying to distract you at work.

A. Lot. Of. People.

OK, so it’s not exactly the world’s biggest secret. But it is a really unique and modern problem.

Office workers in the 1970s didn’t have people kicking in their door to show them a cat video (though it would be awesome if that actually happened. I’d watch that on YouTube). Farmers in the 1800s didn’t have carnival barkers showing up in their field, promising mind blowing facts (number 6 will SHOCK you!) if they would just put down their shovels and stop working for a while.

Such distractions would have seemed insane at the time. None of them would have believed this would be the environment their children and grandchild would face at the workplace.

Sadly, here we are. Distracting our days away. It makes sense that the workplace is where we’re most vulnerable. Work is where we’re most likely to feel stressed, overwhelmed and not in control. New research shows that viral content generates more activity on social media when it triggers emotions people feel in control of, like inspiration, rather than emotions people feel overwhelmed by, like fear.

In other words, quick bursts of inspiring and uplifting content are filling your social media feeds and counteracting the feelings of being overwhelmed with work. Cute animals, inspirational quotes, that whole thing. The downside: much of this content provides no value in the long term. It’s fluff, a sugar rush that spikes your mood and burns off quickly.

There are, however, alternatives. By thinking differently about the websites visited during work, you can seek more long-term happiness that makes you more productive and improves your mood for longer stretches.

Here are a few sites that do just that. For the sake of this post, we’ll limit it to actual tools accessible through a web browser. There is another whole world of apps and browser extensions that do great things, too, but that’s a post for another day.

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1. Calm.com

The benefits of meditation are well documented. From improving mood, to increased memory, and productivity and less stress. Calm.com fills your screen with a beautiful nature scene and prompts you to select a 2, 10, or 20 minute meditation session. Along with some relaxing nature sounds, a soothing voice guides you through the session, telling you to focus on your breathing, close your eyes, etc.

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2. Do Nothing For 2 Minutes

For a different kind of meditation tool, the people behind Calm also created Do Nothing For 2 Minutes. Users are greeted with a photo of the ocean and the text “Just relax and listen to the waves. Don’t touch your mouse or keyboard.” A timer begins counting down from 2 minutes. That’s all there is to it. If you touch your mouse or keyboard, the timer starts over. Get through the entire two minutes and you’re in for a surprise.

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3. Ted

Learning makes you happier. It’s as simple as that. A 5 to 15 minute break to take in a Ted Talk could improve your mood, inspire creativity and even change the way you look at the world. Some of the smartest thinkers and leaders in the world have given Ted Talks. It’s a hugely valuable resource. The site even has categories like happiness, creativity and art to help you find a great talk.

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4. Coffitivity

The hum and activity of a coffee shop or restaurant has been shown to improve creativity and productivity. Ernest Hemingway wrote in cafes. Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell does much of his writing in a SOHO restaurant. “You feel the traffic; you feel in the middle of things and paradoxically I find it very calming,” he wrote in “Blink.” Coffitivity brings a little bit of that energy into your cubicle. Or your headphones. The site plays the kind of background noise found in these places. Users can choose between three free locations and upgrade to a premium account for more options.

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5. SimplyNoise

So maybe the clattering of coffee cups isn’t for you. SimplyNoise is a free white noise generator that you can toggle to your liking. People have mixed results with white noise for concentration. For some, it helps concentration and creates a sense of calm and for others it’s a detriment. You can experiment with different tones and volumes with SimplyNoise and see if it’s right for you.

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6. Focus @ Will

Though it requires a paid subscription after a 15 day trail, Focus @ Will was designed alongside neuroscientists to play music optimized for productivity. All of the music is instrumental and users can track their productivity along with each session, providing further data to help understand what kind of music works for you.

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7. Tomato Timer

A super simple browser-based timer that starts at 25 minutes and gives you options for a 5 or 10 minute break. The timer is based around the popular Pomodoro Technique, a time management system that uses a timer to break work into 25-minute intervals of focus punctuated by short breaks.

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