How to Avoid Distractions When “Just Turn It Off” Doesn’t Work


It’s easy to say: “Just turn these notifications off”, or “Just put your phone away”, or “Just don’t open that tab”. In fact, one cannot simply quit workplace distractions: being distracted is a bad habit and should be handled as such. So how to avoid distractions at the workplace and start using your time wisely?
There are some old-school methods such as blocking distracting websites on the router. However, this alone won’t help you concentrate and be more productive: there are games and other time-wasting applications that can work offline, and you can easily get distracted by apps on the mobile devices, or by checking your email.
Special tools block out almost everything that can distract you from your immediate tasks and help you concentrate on your work. In a healthier work environment, it’s easier to focus on what matters and get things done.

Computer applications

  1. 1. Freedom (a.k.a. Anti-Social)

    The app is designed to help you free up some time for work by getting rid of all major distractions. It eliminates distractions on almost any device, thus helping you develop focusing habits and stop multitasking.

    As the authors of the app emphasize, your brain requires 23 minutes to re-focus each time you get distracted, so blocking out emails, social feed, and app notifications can free up significant work time. Another figure from the creators of Freedom: multitasking may decrease your productivity by 40% and your IQ by 10 points. That’s a motivation strong enough to quit constant distractions and start spending your work time thoughtfully.

  2. 2. Self-Control

    This app for MacOS is designed to block access to distracting websites, emails, or anything else in the Internet that prevents you from focusing. The app offers quite a simple functionality, but that seems to be an efficient way to handle distracting information when your self-control is not enough to stop checking social media or watching funny videos.

    After you set up a blocking period and start timer, there is no way to bypass it: even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you won’t be able to access the websites until the blocking time is over. This is how to avoid distractions and reclaim your time in an easy way.

  3. 3. Focus Me

    To handle distractions, the app allows you to create your own routines. Routine is a plan that includes scheduled blocks for specific websites, applications and activities, work and rest intervals, and productivity targets. Set up blocks for a specific period of time or forever, as you need. The developer warns that Focus Me is one of the most powerful tools to quit distractions and addictions: in the forced mode, it keeps blocking out your distractions even when you try to delete the app or stop the timer.

    The app suits both individuals and companies. For individuals, it helps improve productivity and protect children from too much gaming and visiting websites with inappropriate content. Employers would appreciate the possibility to block or limit access to specific web resources and to enforce company’s policies.

  4. 4. Focus Booster

    Those who consider the Pomodoro technique an efficient way to manage work time, would appreciate this app. It allows creating tasks and setting up estimates of how many Pomodoro sessions you need to accomplish them. Split your work day into sprints and breaks and improve your work / life balance. Maintain focus and overcome distractions throughout the workday – and achieve more.

    For detailed control and analysis, the app offers a progress dashboard. Here you can create reports and visualize your productivity improvement. A mini timer helps you monitor your current progress when you are working on a task.

  5. 5. Focus

    The app helps you create a productive work environment by eliminating Internet and offline distractions. In the app, you can set up focusing intervals when distracting websites and applications are blocked, or block any of them forever. When trying to access the blocked resource, a motivational quote is shown to get you back to work.

    For those who would think about bypassing blockers, the Hardcore mode is provided. Once the mode is turned on, you cannot turn timers and schedules off. Settings and certain actions in the app are locked too.

    A specific feature of this app is the possibility to work from the terminal: the app’s scripting options include BASH scripts and URL handlers that allow running custom commands.

Browser Extensions

Sometimes it is enough to block out time-wasting websites and remove ads and other clutter from the webpages you’re reading. Browser extensions are an easy and unobtrusive solution for that: they help you stay focused on the important information when blocking out the entire Internet is not an option.

  1. 1. StayFocusd

    This Chrome browser extension helps you stay focused by restricting time allowed to spend on time-wasting websites. Once the time limit is reached, the blocked site becomes inaccessible for the rest of the day.

    The app’s configuration options allow you to block out entire websites, subdomains, certain pages, or specific content types (videos, pictures, etc.).

  2. 2. Mercury Reader

    A Chrome browser extension that removes webpage clutter, leaving only important content. You can switch any article to Mercury Reader by one mouse click or using a keyboard shortcut. The extension also allows to adjust text size and typeface, select themes, and optimize pages for printing.

  3. 3. LeechBlock

    This Chrome add-on is also intended to block distracting websites. All you need to specify is what websites you want to be blocked and when to block them. You can add up to six sets of websites with different blocking times and days.

    You can set up a password or a random access code for LeechBlock’s settings. This way you’ll make it more difficult to bypass the block in the moments of weakness.

  4. 4. TimeOut

    This app for MacOS is not exactly a distraction blocker. It rather blocks overwork, gently reminding you to take a break when you work too long. When your workday is divided into focus and relax periods, it’s easier to concentrate on your tasks and resist social media, compulsive email check and other time-wasters.

Mobile Apps

Computer is not the only source of distractions when you are supposed to work or study. For those who don’t find it easy to put down the phone and stop wasting time on it, there are mobile apps that block distracting web content or everything that invites procrastination.

  1. 1. Off the Grid

    Android app for those who can’t stay off the phone. It blocks your phone for a length of time you determine. Should you get a need to use your phone after you’ve activated the app, it’s going to cost you. The app will charge your credit card $1 for each time you end your session early.

  2. 2. Moment

    Moment is an iOS app that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit.

  3. 3. Offtime

    Offtime blocks apps, calls, texts, notifications, and other distractions on your mobile device so that you can get involved in things that matter. Set up modes for work, family, or yourself, and enjoy your distraction-free time, choose what exactly needs to be blocked, and who or what can still get through. The creators of Offtime state that they’ve already saved over 750 years of undistracted time – and keep counting.

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