Have you ever sat down at your computer to do something work related only to find yourself browsing photos on Facebook, pinning things on Pinterest, and buying things you may or may not need?
Not that I have any experience with that or anything. I’m not speaking from experience at all….OH LOOK! Shiny things on the internet?! NO WAY! I must see All Of The Things Now.
But if you happen to find yourself easily distracted by the vastness of the interwebs, it turns out that you don’t have to have your spouse change your Facebook password so that you can’t use the site (not that I’ve done that, either). There are a ton of tools out there that will help to keep you on track. Forget checklist apps with deadlines and a hundred reminders. I can pretty easily brush off a to-do list. These apps do the hard job of saying ‘no’ when you can’t bring yourself to do it.
Self Control is made for Mac users, and is aptly named, since you’ll be using it when you don’t have any of your own self control to use. I won’t even lie, I’m using this tool right now. It is free to use, all you do is install it, set your blacklisted (or whitelisted) sites, select the amount of time you want to be blocked from the sites, and go. Super simple to use, and you can’t fool it by restarting your computer or trying to uninstall the program while it is running. It may be the bad cop, but it certainly gets the job done – and for free.
And if you try to sneak and access one of your blacklisted sites while the timer is running, you get this:
Cold Turkey is basically a Windows version of Self Control. They have a stellar logo (a googley-eyed rather insane looking turkey with a scarf), an easy to use interface, and a pay-what-you-want fee scale. You can custom select the websites you want to block, or choose from a list of common productivity infringers like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, College Humor, and FailBlog. You can choose how much you want to pay (from $0 to $20) and you can select what percentage of that money goes to charity.
Productivity Owl is here to run interference on your time-wasting. It is a Chrome extension that follows your internet tracks, and when you’re not being productive, he swoops in and closes your procrastination tabs. You can name always-allowed websites, block other websites, and schedule ‘free’ time in your browser to do whatever you’d like. You can even save webpages for later. Unlike the other tools we’ve talked about, this one allows you a certain amount of time on sites before it closes the tab, so you’re forced to get the information you need quickly and stop futzing around. The extension is free to use, which is always a bonus.
Rescue Time tracks your computer usage to give you a more accurate picture of what you’re doing online to help you better manage your activities. It’s sort of like tracking your food intake to see what you’re *really* eating, because nobody counts the calories of the Nutella that you eat right out of the jar. If you’re the type of person who will be ashamed by seeing that you really did spend six hours on Facebook and three on YouTube yesterday, then this tool might be the one for you. Personally, I probably wouldn’t be shamed into not using the sites simply by knowing that the program was tracking me and would shame me later, but for many people, it is a great way to be more aware of what you’re spending your time doing. You can set goals and get summaries from the site. The premium version also offers the site blocking that many of the other tools we’ve mentioned offer, along with tracking your offline activities and offering notifications. The normal version is free, and the premium version is $9/month or $72/year as of this writing.