10 Apps That Block Distractions

Image via stocksnap.io/Jamie Hamel-Smith

It’s way too easy to get online to look up one particular thing and find yourself still surfing three hours later. This is especially troublesome when you’re writing a huge paper for school, or doing a work project on a major deadline. If you have the willpower to just not get online, more power to you, but those people are few and far between. For everyone else, there are apps that can block distractions so you get your work done without wasting time.

1. SelfControl

One of the most popular apps is SelfControl, though it’s only available for Macs. This app lets you set your own restrictions, so you can block certain time-suck websites, email, or the whole internet. You set a time limit (24 hours max), enter all the blocks you want in place, and forget about it. Do what you need to do and the alarm will go off when the time is up. Bonus: Even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you won’t be able to access what you blocked until the time is up! This app will definitely make sure you get your work done.

2. Freedom

Freedom is a great app that blocks the entire internet for up to eight hours at a time. This program is best for when you need your computer to write a paper, but don’t need internet access to research anything. When you activate Freedom, it asks if you still want your computer to be connected to any local printers or other computers. This app is available for Mac, Windows, and Android, and there is a way to disable it by rebooting, unlike SelfControl.

3. Anti-Social

From the makers of Freedom, Anti-Social is a program that blocks all your social media networks but still allows internet access for research you may need to do. You can block sites for any period of time from 15 minutes up to 8 hours. You can also add in a list of other non-social sites, like Wikipedia, that might demand your attention when you’re trying to get work done. The coolest part is, Anti-Social only counts “active” minutes, so if you set it for an hour, work for thirty minutes, then put your computer to sleep for an hour, you still have thirty minutes without disruption before Anti-Social turns off. This makes it easy for you to keep up with the time you actually spend working, and makes it harder for you to slip underneath your own productivity radar. At only $15, this program is great for freelancers or people who work from home and absolutely need to stay focused.

4. FocusWriter

This app is great for writing the Great American Novel. It blocks out everything on your screen except what you’re writing. You can access text formatting and spellcheck, but it’s not always present on the screen the way it is in Word. You can also set goals so the app will alert you when you reach a certain word count or when you write for a certain amount of time. This app works with Mac, PC, and Linux.

5. WriteRoom

Another app to help you write without distraction! This app makes your word processing program go into text-only mode. You can’t insert graphs or tables, you can’t format your page. All you can do is write and check your word count. Guaranteed to help you get your paper done or your story written! Note: WriteRoom is for Macs, but there is an alternative for Windows called Dark Room.

6. StayFocusd

StayFocusd is a Google Chrome extension that restricts time spent on time-wasting websites instead of blocking them for a certain time. You can set time limits to spend on each site, like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc. Once you use up that allotted time, the site is blocked for the rest of the day! This is a great app to use if you want to know how much time you really waste on certain sites. It’s also a good way to step down to not using any blocking software, because you’re still letting yourself access certain sites, but you’re limiting yourself.

7. LeechBlock

LeechBlock is a Firefox add-on that limits access to certain sites over a period of time. For example, you can block Twitter from 9 to 5 on weekdays, but set Facebook to be accessible ten minutes every hour on weekdays. You can also combine those two settings, making Instagram accessible for ten minutes every hour from 9 to 5! Like StayFocusd, this is a great app to limit your web surfing while keeping yourself accountable.

8. FocusON

This app for Android phones blocks out apps and websites where you waste the most time. You can schedule a timer to block things for a certain period of time, or set a certain time that recurs on certain days. You can block an unlimited number of apps, sites, and notifications on your phone, and set a schedule if you want it to start without having to manually set each block.

9. Focus

Focus is a Mac app that blocks social networks and IMs for a set period of time. The app shows up right in your menu bar, next to the clock, so you can access it easily to set and change times. Since the app is on your computer, not in a specific browser, it blocks the same distracting websites on all browsers you have. It also can block any other application on your Mac, like IMs, mail, and Skype. If you want to get really serious, Focus has an option like SelfControl, where once you set your timer, you can’t access anything you’ve blocked, even if you quit the app.

10. Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey is a program that blocks an unlimited number of websites so you can focus on your work. It blocks the sites you specify on your entire computer, so you can’t sneak over to a different browser to waste time. It also blocks apps, so if you’re working on your phone or tablet, you won’t be able to play a game. You can set a variety of schedules, including what sites you want blocked at certain times, and breaks when you’re free to roam the web as you see fit. The basic program is free, but the extra features are really worth the one-time $14.99. Cold Turkey is currently only compatible with Windows, but they are releasing a program for Macs soon.