Can’t Get Anything Done? Block Distractions With Focus For Mac

Justin Pot 06-03-2014

Force yourself to work instead of browsing. Focus is a Mac app that blocks distracting sites that shows you an inspirations quote when you try to visit a site you shouldn’t.


It’s so easy, when you’re supposed to be working, to open a Facebook or Reddit tab instead. “Just five minutes,” you tell yourself, but that five minutes will quickly becomes an hour or five. Apps like Focus aren’t going to stop this entirely – you can, after all, simply turn them off – but they can help your present-self give your future-self a prompt; a reminder to stay focused.

I’ve outlined a few ways to block time wasting websites How to Really Block Time-Wasting Websites: 3 Tips That Work Finding yourself unproductive because of distracting sites? Block time-wasting sites with the help of these tips and tools. Read More , and I think Focus is the simplest I’ve seen yet. It’s not the cruelest, however – keep reading to find an app that blocks time wasting sites for a set amount of time, even if you delete the app itself. But first, let’s take a look at Focus.

Blocking, Made Simple

Using this app couldn’t be simpler. If you’re feeling distracted, just click the Focus icon in the menubar.


Activate by clicking Focus. When you do, the menubar icon becomes colorful (there’s a grayscale option if you prefer).



Now get to work. If you should lapse, and attempt to open Reddit, you’ll be greeted instead by a motivational quote:

focus-blocked sites

Hopefully the combination of the quote, and the reminder of your intention, is enough to keep you focused. Of course, you could simply click the icon again to turn the filter off. This isn’t meant to be a hardcore lock that blocks such distractions entirely. But with a little bit of self control, this prompt should be enough to remind you to get back to work.


Easy To Configure

Configuring the app couldn’t be easier. There are a few options:


And then, of course, there’s the screen where you can choose which sites to unblock:



The default list includes more social networks and a number of news sites. You can remove the ones you actually need for work and add other sites that distract you. Sites are blocked, system-wide, using the Automatic Proxy Configuration. If you use a Twitter client, and block Twitter – and you need it for work – that will also stop working. Keep this in mind.

Brad Jasper, the creator of Focus, wrote an interesting case study of how he made the app. I’d recommend reading it if you want to learn a bit more about how it works.

Pomodoro Potential

I’ve been using Tomighty as my workflow timer lately. I work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. I think Focus is the perfect companion app for Tomighty.



Start your 25 minute work session, then block distractions. When it’s time for your break, unblock them.


Not sure about Focus, but still want to block distractions? Here are a few options.

I promised to share an absolutely sadistic distraction blocker with you, and here it is. SelfControl lets you set a list of sites to block, then pick an amount of time to block them. Once you do, there’s basically nothing you can do to get those distracting sites back: even deleting Self Control will do nothing. If you want a nuclear option, try this.
There are also browser-based options. Among my favorite is Productivity Owl for Chrome, which adds an Owl character to your browser who swoops in to save you from time wasting websites Productivity Owl Swoops In To Save You From Time Sinks [Chrome] Feeling distracted? Productivity Owl is an enchanted, judgmental creature who will swoop in to save you from yourself – just when you need it the most. He's not your friend – in fact, you will... Read More
productivity owl
It’s got a surprising amount of personality, so check it out. If you prefer Firefox, check out LeechBlock [No Longer Available], which blocks time wasting websites in Firefox Distracted By Time-Wasting Websites? LeechBlock For Firefox Will Take Care of That Read More
leech block
There are other apps for the job out there, of course. I hope you will share any favorites I’ve missed in the comments below.

Image Credits: Man standing Via Shutterstock

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  1. Kenson
    March 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Permanent website blocking option for Windows and maybe Android?

    • Justin P
      March 7, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      If you want permanent, I'd recommend using your router's settings instead of an app. How this works differs from device to device, but it's worth it for sites you want out of your life completely.

    • Mike B
      March 11, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Another option would be k9 web protection. You can blacklist certain sites and categories very easily. It is a difficult program to circumvent as well (unless you are the admin, so give your password to a loved one instead and have them manage it) and does a very good job at filtering and blocking those sites you desire.