Stop the Internet from taking over your life: install the LeechBlock addon.
Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to achieve what you really want. The Internet has completely altered the face of socialization and global culture, and in many ways it has been a Good Thing™, but we’ve paid the price for it in other ways.
The distractions of the Internet are all around us. Social networking and social media have become so prevalent that we’ve diluted the meaning of the word “social”. Websites like Reddit can become an addiction in and of themselves. As a result, our real lives can suffer. Our productivity plummets. Our motivations can dwindle away.
As awesome as it might be, sometimes it’s a good idea to just take a break from the Internet. Some require the web for work, however, meaning cutting off altogether isn’t an option. This is where LeechBlock steps in, blocking the sites that suck your time away while leaving you with access to the rest.
According to its creator, LeechBlock is “a simple productivity tool designed to block those time-wasting sites that can suck the life out of your working day.” Humorously, the creator adds on, “You know: the ones that rhyme with ‘Blue Cube’, ‘Space Hook’, ‘Sticky Media’, ‘Quitter’, and the like.” Humor aside, these sites truly can make you lose hours every day.
At first glance, LeechBlock is incredibly easy to use. You install the addon and it runs in the background. It’ll require a bit of setup first, but that shouldn’t take you longer than a few minutes – after all, as much as we don’t like to admit it, we all know which sites tend to drain our productivity the most. Once you set it, you can forget it.
LeechBlock is maintained and updated regularly to this day, which means you can expect to see, in the future, even more features than the ones listed in this post. At the time of writing this article, LeechBlock has an average 5-star rating from 350 reviews. Trust me: it’s worth your time.
So how does LeechBlock work? There are other website-blocking addons out there and you’ll find some overlap with LeechBlock, but this one has a few unique tweaks to the way it approaches the concept.
- Block sites in sets. Instead of managing a single list of blocked/allowed websites, LeechBlock grants you six different sets. This feature may not seem like it’d be ground-breaking, but it really comes in handy because you can enable blocks on different sets under varying circumstances.
- Block sites at specific times. Let’s say you work from home and your office hours are between noon and 6pm. Well, LeechBlock makes it easy to block sites during that set time period, and you can even specify particular days of the week. Plus, each of the six different sets can have their own time periods assigned to them for maximum flexibility.
- Block sites for specific lengths. If you need to block sites for the next X hours instead of blocking at particular times of the day, LeechBlock supports it. And yes, you can block a particular set of sites for the next X hours if necessary. This is called Lockdown Mode.
- Password protection. For those times when your willpower dips low and you feel the temptation to bypass the website blocks, LeechBlock allows you to set up password protection. It’s not a guaranteed deterrent but it does put up one more obstacle between you and your distractions.
- Wildcards and exceptions. LeechBlock’s block lists are somewhat advanced in what they can catch. You can input specific webpages or specific domains, but you can also set up wildcards to catch a broad range of potential websites. You can also exempt certain websites, which is basically the same as whitelisting.
There’s little more than this in LeechBlock, but I consider that to be a plus rather than a minus. You won’t find any bloat here. LeechBlock is fast and straight to the point. It does exactly what it sets out to do without any extraneous bells or whistles.
How LeechBlock Can Help You
There are some obvious ways in which LeechBlock can help you out. Then again, there are also a few uses that aren’t so clear cut. As if you needed any more convincing to use this wonderful addon, LeechBlock can improve your life by:
- Boosting productivity. If you lose 3 hours per day to time-wasting websites, that’s 15 hours every week (excluding weekends) that could be spent in a more productive manner. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with relaxing, but if you’re using these websites as a means of procrastination, imagine how much you could accomplish in those 15 extra hours every week.
- Eliminating distractions. Sometimes, you want to focus but find your attention stolen away by notifications and links and sneaky bookmarks. Well, block those sites to eliminate any chance of distractions! LeechBlock is a great way to keep yourself accountable when you don’t have someone else to keep you on track.
- Blocking unwanted sites. For example: pornographic content. Pornography addiction is a real problem and perhaps you’re itrying to quit. Set up one of LeechBlock’s sets as an all-day porn filter. Whenever you feel temptation stirring, you can even block ALL websites for the next X hours to give yourself time to cool down.
- Parental controls. Dedicate one of the site sets as a child-safe list of websites. Whenever your child hops on the computer, you can enable LeechBlock to block all websites except for those in the whitelist. The password protection feature will prevent them from circumnavigating the filters.
- Track site viewing statistics. One cool feature of LeechBlock is that it will track the total amount of time you spend browsing the sites in each of the block sets. Analyzing this data can be good for identifying bad browsing habits so you know where your productivity is being drained.
The LeechBlock website has example sets that you can browse to figure out ways to set up your block lists in the ways that you want.
I really appreciate LeechBlock for its combination of power, ease of use, and minimal design. It offers one promise – blocking websites – and it fulfills it perfectly. Unfortunately, LeechBlock is only available for Firefox and browsers forked from Firefox (such as Pale Moon). Chrome users can try StayFocusd (our review) and Productivity Owl (our review), and the rest of you can try these other solutions to block time-wasting websites.
If you find LeechBlock useful, consider donating to the creator. I rarely donate to addon developers (mostly because I don’t use many addons to begin with), but this is one that I feel is worth it. What do you think?
Image Credits: Man at his computer Via Flickr