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Don’t let social media take over and dictate your life. You’re worth more than that.
At best, you might describe it as a compulsive distraction. At worst, it may be a full-blown addiction – a problem that can be symptomatic of deeper issues, such as Internet addiction, smartphone addiction, and more. When you find yourself lacking in digital willpower, sometimes the answer is to block the distractions altogether.
Fortunately, you are neither the first nor the only one to suffer from this ailment. Many tools have been developed to combat it and most of them are freely available. Here are some of the better ones that we’ve used.
LeechBlock [Firefox] [No Longer Available]
LeechBlock is my bread and butter addon for Firefox. Without it, my productivity would plummet and I would be rendered a mess. If you’re a regular Firefox user and you haven’t tried LeechBlock yet, do yourself a favor and go install it right away. The setup is easy enough and you’ll recover many hours per day that might’ve been wasted away.
With LeechBlock, you can designate up to 6 different sets of websites that are blocked according to various conditions. Which days of the week? During which hours? For how long? Should it repeat? How do you want the sites blocked?
Each set can be customized, allowing you to block social media during the day, block work sites at night, block porn at all times, etc. You can also block sets on demand rather than waiting for their scheduled times. Check out my LeechBlock review for a deeper look at this essential addon.
StayFocusd is reminiscent of LeechBlock except that it’s built for Chrome. I don’t know which one came first, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because they both excel at what they’re meant to do. Need to block pesky websites so you can stay focused on your work? This is the extension you want, pronto.
The concept is the same. You maintain a list of blocked sites and you set up conditionals for when those sites are blocked according to days of the week and times of the day. Unlike LeechBlock, you can only maintain one set of sites.
You can set a “Max Time Allowed” setting that lets you browse blocked sites for X minutes every day. For example, if you block YouTube but set this option to 30 minutes, you can browse 30 minutes of YouTube on days when YouTube is blocked. Check out Aaron’s review of StayFocusd for a deeper look at more features.
To quit something “cold turkey” means to give it up abruptly and all at once. As such, Cold Turkey is an aptly named program. Like LeechBlock and StayFocusd, it cuts off access to whatever sites you’ve blocked, but it’s a desktop program that’s far more powerful than either of those two browser plugins.
Cold Turkey blocks websites at the computer level rather than the browser level. This means that you won’t be able to access said sites with ANY browser, but furthermore, you won’t be able to access certain sites through other programs like video games (e.g. Steam). In addition to blocking sites, Cold Turkey can block entire programs from running.
Advanced computer gurus may be able to get around Cold Turkey’s restrictions, but it’s strong enough to deter most users. It can’t be stopped using the system tray or the task manager, nor can it be disabled by uninstalling it while active.
When your willpower is good, but not good enough, xMinutesAt is the website that’ll help you bridge the gap. Let’s say you have an itch to browse your favorite forums, but you know that you’ll get carried away for hours without realizing it. Sounds familiar, right?
With xMinutesAt, you can spend “X minutes at” a certain website before it will tell you that time’s up. That reminder might be all it takes for you to snap out of it, close the tab, and get back to work. Using the site is easy, too. All you have to do is enter how long you want your grace period to be followed by the site’s URL.
Or you can drag the bookmarklet onto your browser’s bookmark bar, allowing you to quickly set up a time limit for the current page you’re on. For directions on that, check the xMinutesAt site.
If these solutions aren’t enough, perhaps you’d fare better with a router-based website blocker?
Do you use any tools to help block distracting, time-wasting websites? If so, which ones? It would be helpful for all of us if you shared, especially if your favorite tools aren’t well-known by the public. Post a comment down below!