Great apps to help students with focus and motivation

student working in library

This blog has been updated! Originally published 08/08/17. Amended 02/02/22

AbilityNet DSA (Disabled Student Allowance) assessor Abbie Osborne works with disabled students and those with mental health issues across the country to advise on the best tech to support them in their studies and in managing their lives.

As university students gear up for a new term, we think her list of apps to help with focus and motivation is a must-read. All these apps got good reviews and a high star rating on either iTunes or Play Store. Happy studying!

1 Break work into chunks

Clockwork Tomatio logo from app storeApp: Clockwork Tomato 

A timer and activity logger which aims to boost productivity by breaking down work periods into 25-minute slices, separated by short breaks. The idea is to move away from your desk and do something completely different, perhaps fun, active or relaxing. After four Pomodoros, you get a longer break of 15-25 minutes but you can set work slots and breaks times in whatever way you want. has a good piece here on Clockwork Tomato and other similar apps using the Pomodoro Technique.

2 The morning motivation alarm


Billed as the app that will make your roommates hate you, Alarmy can be set up to not switch off until you take a photo of something specific - ie the front of your house - which ideally encourages you away from the duvet and into study mode.

Can technology help in higher and further education? 

Absolutely! Learn how assistive technologies can help students and professionals learn and teach more effectively in our how to use assistive technology in higher and further education training course.

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3 Work hard, get a kitten

App: Written? Kitten!

We bet the makers of this app have a few dollars in the kitty, after creating this genuis idea. Struggling to write that essay or novel? How about a cute kitten picture reward every time you write 100 words? Written? Kitten! offers just that.

4 Block distractions

App: Cold Turkey 

COld Turkey app logoSo obsessed we are with distracting ourselves with random web browsing that there are, of course, countless apps which now allow you to block websites that you find divert your work. You can look forward to receiving a joyful message of encouragement when you try to click on one of your banned sites. To feel super smug, you can tally up the time you would have wasted over the course of a day/ week/ month.

You can create various blocked website lists for different times / occasions/ situations or a white list just allowing yourself access to specific sites, such as your university research pages (not Bake Off). You can also completely freeze yourself out of your computer to ensure you take some time out.

Discover how technology can support those with cognitive differences

Learn more about our Don't Disable Me training course series that focuses on the lived experiences of people with disabilities including those who face neurodiversity barriers. In the course, you can learn first hand how technology can support neurodivergents at work, in study and day-to-day life.

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5 Habit hacker

App: Habitbull

Need to finish a text book or get fitter? Want to stop a bad habit? Set tiny goals - such as read two pages a day, do three sit ups a week and call an old friend once a month and chart your increments. It's inspiring and motivating to see your progress, no matter how tiny.

Call our free helpline on 0800 269 545 for more advice.