How to Really Block Time-Wasting Websites: 3 Tips That Work

Akshata Shanbhag Updated 11-02-2019

When you’re trying to get some work done online, you might find the web too big and too fascinating a distraction to ignore. But you can sideline it with the help of tips and tools that block time-wasting digital content for you. Let’s explore them below.


1. Install a Blocker App or Extension

Before you can block your sources of distraction online, you need to pinpoint them. That’s where time management apps like FocusMe or RescueTime come in handy. They give you a detailed breakdown of your digital habits.

Each day, you learn how much time you have spent on which apps, websites, and activities. This data, in turn, helps you redirect your time and effort towards online activities that matter.

What about the activities that aren’t as important, but you have trouble giving up? How do you deal with them? Blocking trivial activities is the next step. Here, you’ll find quite a few browser-based solutions: services that block specific sites for as long as you need.

There’s StayFocusd, which lets you block websites in Chrome and even barricade specific in-page content such as videos.

If you’re a Firefox user, try the Leechblock extension instead. If you use Safari, install the Leechblock-inspired extension WasteNoTime. FocusMe and RescueTime also have a website-blocking feature.


The problem with solutions like these is that they’re too easy to bypass. All you need to do is open another browser or fire up a private browsing window and you’ve got full access to all your distracting sites again.

If you need to go further with the browsing restrictions, the apps we’ll look at next can take you there. They can block websites and apps across your computer. That means no access to incoming email via your system’s mail app or to Slack chats via the Slack desktop app.

App number one on our list here is Freedom. It’s one of the most popular cross-platform apps that let you block distracting websites and apps system-wide.

Cold Turkey is another great option. It also has a sister app called Cold Turkey Writer—a text editor you can’t escape until you have met your writing goal for a session.


Mac users can also go with SelfControl or 1Focus for system-wide site blocking.

Blacklist settings in Self Control app on macOS

If you’re a Linux user, you can edit the hosts file to block websites. Does that seem too extreme? Then it’s best to stick with a reliable and evergreen solution like RescueTime. If nothing else, you can repurpose the parental controls that you use to limit web access for your kids to clock a few serious work hours.

Again, system-wide solutions aren’t perfect. You could simply walk away from your computer and pick up your tablet, bypassing the block again. If that sounds like you, you need a more stringent solution. Router tweaks can help here, and we’ll explore them next.


By the way, would you rather get a gentle reminder than a wall when you’re about to visit a distracting website? In that case, install the Mindful Browsing extension for Chrome instead of the apps we have mentioned above. As an alternative, you can also use a timer app on your phone to indulge in a tiny bit of distraction at a specific time of the day.

2. Set Up Router Restrictions

Still distracted? Then it’s time to block addictive sites using your router. Here are two simple methods you can use to make this happen.

Method 1: Switch to OpenDNS

If you use a custom DNS to enable network-wide parental controls 5 Nifty Ways to Use DNS to Your Advantage One of the most underappreciated parts of the internet is the Domain Name System. DNS is often referred to as the phonebook of the internet, but it is far more than just a lookup service. Read More , why not use it to restrict your own usage of time-wasting websites? The free OpenDNS Home service is perfect for that.

With this service, you can configure which websites are and aren’t accessible on your home network. To use it, you’ll need to sign up for a user account first. After you do, change the DNS settings on your router to reflect the OpenDNS nameservers. If you’re unsure how to do this, check out the official step-by-step instructions for any router.


Once you’ve set everything up, log into OpenDNS and head to the settings page to block individual domains. Going forward, no one using your network—that includes you—can access these sites.

Method 2: Configure Your Router

Like the idea of blocking sites network-wide, but don’t want to sign up for an account or use OpenDNS? With most routers, you can block specific sites yourself, without the need for OpenDNS or any service like it.

Check your router’s documentation to see if this is possible; in most cases the instructions will be under a section called “Access Restrictions”. This will vary depending on who makes your router. If you can’t find the instructions in your router’s manual, google the device’s model number to find them online.

If you’ve installed the open source firmware DD-WRT on your router, you can block specific sites via the Access Restrictions menu. You’ll find the instructions to add select websites to a blacklist on the official Access Restrictions wiki page. Scroll down to the Filtering Services/URLs/Keywords section to spot them.

Sites you add to the blacklist will get blocked instantly for every device on your network. You can also configure the settings to block sites on specific days or for certain time periods.

3. Unplug Your Router

Are all the restrictions above not enough to tame your monkey mind? There’s always the nuclear option you can consider—total disconnection.

Unplug your router from the web to ramp up your productivity. It’s a crude method, sure, but it works. Unless you cave and plug your router back in or simply pick up your smartphone to access Facebook and co again.

You don’t have to lose access to work-related data and services when you disconnect. You’ll find plenty of productivity apps that work offline 10 Killer Productivity Apps That Work Offline Connectivity issues can strike at any time. These offline apps will help you stay productive when you're cut off from the web. Read More .

More Tips for Improving Your Focus

Of course, the ultimate way to avoid expected distractions is self-control. But, since we have limited amounts of it to spend on any given day, it seems best to save it for the most important decisions.

For dodging the distraction bullet when you’re working, you can outsource the task to one of the tools/methods we have discussed above.

These barriers are not one hundred percent foolproof, because you could always find a workaround to any system you set up yourself. But having them in place gives you just enough time to remind yourself why you installed these barriers to begin with—to keep your focus on your work.

Speaking of focus, did you know that you can boost it by controlling the noise around you How to Stay Focused by Controlling the Noise Around You Do you have trouble staying focused? Learn about how to use noise colors to improve your focus and productivity. Read More ?

Related topics: Browser Extensions, Productivity Tricks, Time Management.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. dragonmouth
    February 11, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    "But you can sideline it with the help of tips and tools that block time-wasting digital content for you. "
    Let's not kid ourselves. There are other ways to waste time besides playing on the computer. If and when we feel like not working, we WILL find a way. Whether it is going on Facebook or Twitter, or reading a book, or taking the scenic route to the bathroom or water cooler. If we don't want to work, we won't.

    • davea0511
      February 12, 2019 at 4:37 am

      Works for me.

  2. Rishi
    March 6, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Nice post. I like hosts file method because it can block many sites and ad servers at once.

  3. Charlene
    February 7, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    wonderful page we have at this point what is everybodys thoughts on here web
    page about mahjong treasure quest cheat

  4. k
    March 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Opendns is good but smart users are to get around even Opendns...all they have to do is change the dns settings on their machines. Set up an old machine with Ipcop or Ipfire, then inside in the iptables section and block all port 53 requests to other than Opendns. The side effect of this kind of fire wall is that it "can" be more secure. Security is also suggestive by who you talk to!!!

  5. Douglas Mutay
    March 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I usually use the last option: Unpluging the router! easy as 1+1

  6. Clive Richards
    March 18, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    It is of course relatively easy to do this if you have a job which doesn't require you to be constantly using the internet - often now companies relay information to clients through twitter feeds and if not that though email or RSS feeds. Email is for me a preferred means of communication over almost any other - in that it doesn't take 3 days for written correspondence and (b)provides a record and an accountability for the conversations which might otherwise be later forgotten or denied. The internet is also the medium that keeps me in touch with work at weekends and in the evening often making it that I can respond to people in more timely and expedient way. I think the biggest concern is the way it eats into family time - though I must admit I am better informed about my families activity by going online than I was before the internet arrived. Life has changed and to argue just in terms of wasting time is to not recognise that change - people are now better informed, participate in issues more and in many cases save time as well. Before if I wanted to buy something I would traipse around shops all day looking for the best deal - 20 minutes on the web.
    I travelled more, drove more an used public transport more than ever I did before. If I have a cold I stay home to avoid sharing it and yet put in a full days work - not all the changes are bad

  7. Stephen
    March 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm works miracles. No discipline required. Eg. Many more 'blocked.'


  8. Zhong Jiang
    March 17, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Here what I would recommend, go outside and do your assignments there. NO COMPUTERS!

    • justinpot
      March 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      I don't understand what you're can you do work without computers...


      • Zhong Jiang
        March 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm

        I'm sure you could just use your smartphones or tablet as a replacement for those gigantic machines you have to carry it with a bag. My own preference is instead of staying at home working, outside is a more comfortable enivronment. But on the other hand, if you work doesn't involve using a digital device, don't bring it.

        • Anonymous
          October 23, 2015 at 2:02 pm

          Are you kidding me?
          Phones are even more of a distraction. Opening FaceBook on a phone is much more easier than on a PC.

  9. Arnab Pari
    March 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Use a slow network connection.

    • justinpot
      March 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Don't say that; ISPs will start calling it a feature and charging extra for it...

  10. Himanshu Singla
    March 17, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Open DNS is a nice way to block the websites but it is very much vulnerable for phishing attacks.

    • justinpot
      March 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      How is using OpenDNS more vulnerable than any other DNS server? I've never heard this before...

      • techguyknows
        March 19, 2013 at 2:29 pm

        try to get started. It is actually less vulnerable as they have better security modules that might help block sites that might be inappropriate!