Do you have a love hate relationship with the Internet? You need it, you enjoy it, but it conspires to make sure you get nothing done. Just when you are about to get down to writing that paper you really need to write, a great video pops up on your newsfeed. You watch the video and then another video starts. Then you click a link. Then you read a blog. Then you find some funny memes. Before you know it, 5 hours have gone by and you still haven't touched your paper! Sure, you could do something drastic like turn off your router or disable the wireless on your laptop, but then how would you search for the articles that you need to write your paper? How would you check the website that has the details describing what you need to know in order to write the paper properly? You simultaneously need the Internet, but you also need it to leave you alone.
As with most things these days, you're not the only one to find yourself in this predicament. Because of that, someone has already gone ahead and created a solution. In fact, more than one someone has created multiple solutions for you to choose from. Here are two that I like to use.
RescueTime is a program that runs quietly in the background of your computer. While it sits there running quietly, it does a bunch of math to count up the hours and minutes that you spend doing various activities. It pays attention to how much time you spend in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. It also pays attention to how much time you spend on various websites or using different computer programs. At the end of the day, it gives you a nice little summary of where all of your time went.
The first step is admitting that you have a problem. :) Simply installing RescueTime and letting it tally up the number (actual number) of hours that you spend on Social Media might result in a shocking number that simply scares you into being more productive. [Did I really spend 7 hours yesterday watching cat videos? I don't even like cats!] The free version of RescueTime tracks your time, lets you designate which websites and programs are productive and which ones are distracting. It gives you the information you need to know what you're doing that you should do less of if you want to be more productive. For some, this might be enough. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. For others, you might need an extra boost.
The paid version of RescueTime allows you to set a "Focus Session" from 5 minutes to 60 minutes. Once you start a session, the program will lock you out of any programs or websites that you have designated as "distracting". You can alter the settings so that it only lets you into the 'very productive' apps and websites if you want to be very strict with yourself. Once the "focus session" has begun, that's it. You're stuck working (unless you switch devices).
You can also connect your RescueTime account to your IFTTT account, allowing you to automate your time. For example, you could automatically start a focus session every morning at 9am. Or, you could automatically schedule focus sessions whenever you have a specific event noted in your calendar (say, perhaps, a midterm!) You can get creative with your IFTTT recipes. For example, I have one that sets my Office Status Twitter Account (@DrBlairStFX) to send out a Tweet that says I am occupied at the moment if I begin a Focus Session on RescueTime.
What's that? You say that your time management problems are not so bad that you need to sink to the level of paying to block yourself from the distracting websites wasting your life away?
You are in luck.
WasteNoTime is a browser plugin that you can install. You can set it to block specific websites after you have spent a certain amount of time on them in any given day. The schedule is flexible enough so that you can allow yourself 1 hour of Facebook and Twitter on weekdays, but unlimited amounts of time on these sites on the weekend, or any other combination of days that works for you. Unlike RescueTime, it doesn't automatically cover off all of your browsers and computer applications. You'll need to install it on separate browsers, and right now, it is available for Safari and Chrome. [I apologize PC people, I just don't speak your language.] Once you hit your daily limit of distracting sites, you are locked out. The only way around it is to switch devices or browsers. Similar to the "Focus Session" offered by RescueTime, WasteNoTime also has a "lock down" setting that allows you to instantly block the sites you have classified as distracting for a set amount of time, even if you haven't yet reached your daily limit. Best of all, WasteNoTime is FREE! It can't be integrated with IFTTT, but it still might just do the trick if you just need to lock yourself out of distracting websites from time to time.
Use FireFox? Here is a similar solution, called LeechBlock. I haven't used it, but WasteNoTime was based on LeechBlock and it operates under the same goal of helping you to be more productive by serving as your missing will power.
What tricks have you found to help yourself avoid distracting websites and apps when you need to get down to work?