Top Apps to block internet distractions for writers
How many times do your mornings go like this?
You sit down to write just KNOWING it’s going to be a productive session. You crack your knuckles, stare at the screen, and think to yourself, I’ll just check my email first. After all, everyone needs a bit of a mental warm-up before diving in to the real work, and it’ll only take a minute.
So you check your email, tap out some overdue replies, watch the YouTube clip someone forwarded you, read the cool article on writing that’s landed in your RSS feed, follow the link at the bottom that leads you to another pertinent article, browse the comments section, and compose a quick tweet to share your findings. While you’re there you notice you have some new Twitter followers you need to follow-back. You work your way through the list, reading profiles and retweeting the best quotes you come across. Some of them are really good. Might as well update your Facebook status while you’re at it. The next thing you know you look up from browsing photos of your second-cousin’s friend’s daughter’s wedding on Facebook and realize three hours have passed.
Haven’t you ever wished you could download some self-control at the click of a button? The good news is… you can. In this age of technology and distraction, many of us struggle with limiting the hold of the internet over our time. But technology itself might just be our saving grace.
Here’s a roundup of the best free apps I’ve found to help writers manage their time online. Click on the links to explore further.
1. Self Control (Mac only)
This is one I’ve been using for a while. Its genius is in its simplicity. If you’re sitting down to write for a 2-hour block and wish to remain focussed and productive that entire time, simply set your self-control timer for 2 hours. For that length of time, you will not be able to access any sites you’ve blacklisted – Facebook, email, Twitter, or any other time-suckers individual to you. I also blacklist some of my favorite writing blogs. Meanwhile, you can still access the rest of the web for research purposes – brilliant! Once started, the block cannot be undone until the timer runs out, even if you restart your computer.
This app is based on the popular “Pomodoro” technique which argues that the greatest productivity occurs by tackling tasks in 25-minute intervals, followed by a 5-minute break.
Focus booster will run a timer at intervals set by you, with a buzzer sounding at the end of a completed session. The color of the bar changes as your time lapses, giving you a constant unobtrusive nudge to stay productive.
3. Rescue Time
Many of us spend the majority of our time on the things that are least important to us. You may think you don’t have time to write, but have you ever wondered how much time you waste on the internet? This free app will track and analyse how you spend your time on the web, including on mobile apps, and rank your productivity accordingly. Knowledge is power! Find out how much spare time you REALLY have.
4. Stay Focused (Requires Google Chrome)
The next step, once you’ve discovered how much time you really are wasting online, is to restrict the time you spend on non-productive tasks. Let’s say you want to spend no more than 15 minutes on Facebook each day. With this app you can set a time limit, and once you’ve used up your allotted time, the sites you’ve selected will be blocked for the rest of the day.
You can also set this app to block time-waster sites at a specific time each day. Say you decide you want to write from 9-11am each morning, or 8-10pm each night. You can preset this app to block sites at those exact times. Genius!
5. Concentrate (Mac only)
Okay, so this one’s not free. I think it’s worth a mention anyway.
Concentrate costs $29, but is more customizable than any other app I’ve encountered in my research, and comes highly recommended. This app allows you to tailor a series of actions to run every time you wish to concentrate on a task. You can set your writing document to open, distracting sites to be blocked, your Skype and iChat status to be set as away, even your desktop picture to change – and much more – all at the click of a button.
So that’s it from me. Have you tried any of these apps? Any others you’d add to the list? If you decide to try one of these for the first time, let us know how you go. Wishing you productive and distraction-free writing!
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalpPhotos.net
Karen Schravemade lives in Australia. When she's not chasing after two small boys or gazing at her brand-new baby girl, she spends her spare minutes daydreaming about the intricate lives of characters who don't actually exist. Find her on her website, on Twitter or getting creative over at her mummy blog.