There is a very important difference between being busy and being productive. Just because you are “at work” at your desk doesn’t mean that you are actually “working” on something that matters. Far too often, we get pulled down the rabbit hole of YouTube or we become engulfed in Facebook status updates, forgetting that we actually have work to do. We need to block distractions and improve our focus.
As ironic as it may sound, one of the solutions for minimizing or even eliminating the infinite distractions that the Internet and technology provide us is by using technology tools that are largely powered and provided by the Internet itself. Self-monitoring with the Pomodoro technique can be helpful, but you might need to self-exclude yourself from distractions too.
Available as a Chrome extension, StayFocusd effectively blocks or limits the amount of time that you allow yourself to spend on time-wasting websites. If you actually do use YouTube for work, you don’t have to block that. Maybe you get distracted by Reddit or Twitter. With StayFocusd, you can block entire websites or particular subdomains. You can even block specific pages or even in-page content, like videos or games. The best way to eliminate temptation is to make it not possible for you to get at that forbidden fruit of social media or online gaming in the first place.
As you’ve likely noticed in your own life, we need to block distractions not only on our computers, but also on our mobile devices. Found in the Google Play Store as an app for Android devices, FocusON is a productivity tool that will block out all sorts of different distractions. You can block out websites, for instance, but you can also make it so you can’t play certain games or launch certain apps. FocusON can also mute notifications so you don’t get pulled away from something that you’re working on for a period of time. The blocking can be put on an automatic schedule too, ensuring you’re not roaming around on Tinder or Snapchat during office hours.
Browser extensions like StayFocusd can be very effective in ensuring that you don’t visit time-wasting websites while you should be working, but they have little control over what you do outside of a browser. For a more complete solution, you might consider Cold Turkey for PC. It’ll block websites across all browsers, preventing you from hopping over to IE to update your Facebook, but the pro version can also be used to block entire applications too. No more Minesweeper or Solitaire for you! The websites can be put together in groups, like “social media,” so you can block them all out at once while allowing for other groups of sites. The alternative program for Mac OS X users is called SelfControl and it’s a free application with very similar functionality.
Boasting that it will help you reclaim your productivity, Focus is a descriptively named Mac OS X app that integrates right into your menu bar. From there, you can choose to “focus” for a pre-determined length of time in just a couple of clicks. While in your “optimal work environment,” you can set it to block distractions of all sorts. Make it so you can’t chat with your friends through an instant messenger or surf through funny pictures on Imgur, for instance. Like Cold Turkey, website blocking is effective on all browsers. To further improve focus and boost your morale, motivational quotes are displayed when a distracting website is blocked.
If you’re not a Chrome user and you prefer to surf the web through Mozilla Firefox, then the LeechBlock extension could be the productivity-boosting, distraction-killing solution for you. They’ve kept it simple; all you have to do is define the websites that you want to block and when you want to deny access to them. The timing can be based on the time of day, for a length of time, or a combination thereof where you’re only allowed to watch YouTube for 10 minutes every two hours. The websites can be grouped together into six different sets, plus you can use wildcards and exceptions for the domains.
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