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

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

It is 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 special tools for blocking out all the websites and platforms 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. Freedom

Key features: Website and app blocking, Scheduling, Session history

The app is designed to help you free up some time for work by getting rid of all major distractions. 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 feeds 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 motivation strong enough to quit constant distractions and start spending your work time thoughtfully.

2. SelfControl

Key features: Website blocking, Blacklist management

This app for macOS is designed to block access to distracting sites or anything else on the Web 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.

After you set up a blocking period and start the 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. FocusMe

Key features: Routine planning, Distraction blocking, Partial website blocking

To handle distractions, the app allows you to create your own routines (aka plans that include scheduled blocks for specific websites, work and rest intervals, and productivity targets). Note 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 policies.

4. focus booster

Key features: Pomodoro timer, Productivity reports, Time tracking

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 workday into sprints and breaks and improve your work-life balance. Maintain focus, 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. Focus

Key features: Website and app blocking, Inspiring quotes, Scheduling

The app helps you create a productive work environment by eliminating online 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.

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. StayFocusd

Key features: Website blocking, Scheduling

This Chrome browser extension helps you stay focused by restricting the 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. Mercury Reader

Key features: Webpage noise management, Printing optimization, Webpage formatting

This browser extension removes webpage clutter, leaving only important content. You can switch any article to Mercury Reader with 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. LeechBlock

Key features: Website blocking, Blacklist management

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. Time Out

Key features: Overtime notifications, Worktime planning

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. Off the Grid

Key features: Phone blocking

This Android app is for those who can’t stay off the phone. It blocks your phone for the 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. Moment

Key features: Screen time tracking, Phone time planning, Notifications

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.


Key features: Internet and app blocking, Blacklist management

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.

Bonus Tool: actiTIME

Key features: Time tracking, Task planning, Reports

Would you like to stop being distracted that easily and wasting time in the long term? Then, you need to focus on improving your behaviors. actiTIME may assist you in this endeavor by allowing for effortless task planning, time tracking and productivity trends analysis.

Just make daily time entries in the timesheet and review your time-use statistics in various charts and reports. With these features, actiTIME will deepen your understanding of behavioral strengths and weaknesses, which will help you develop more informed solutions for a sustainable productivity boost.




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