These internet-blocking apps keep me from getting distracted on the job — and they’ve become essential tools in my work arsenal

Don't fall down an internet rabbit hole on the job.

caption
Don’t fall down an internet rabbit hole on the job.
source
Tech Hub/Flickr

  • I use internet-blocking apps to keep me from getting distracted while I’m working.
  • Research has shown that little distractions can have big consequences when it comes to getting work done.
  • Apps such as Cold Turkey and Freedom block me from accessing certain websites – or the internet itself – until I’m done with my work.

We live in a world of noise. Twitter. Instagram. Text messages.

Check notifications. Check email. Check messages.

Refresh Google News. Fall down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.

If you’re even a mildly distractible person – as I am – the internet is a virtual Candyland offering an endless cornucopia of options to users afflicted with a perpetual sweet tooth.

That’s why, in addition to other productivity tools I use, internet-blocking apps have become a life-saver.

Little distractions can have big consequences to your workflow

I’m clearly not the only one with the bad habit of browsing the internet when I should be working. At least one study, from business management company Scoro, found that people only spend about 60% of their workday actually working, with more than a fifth of their time spent browsing online.

Of course, little distractions can often have big consequences. It’s not just that the small moments of distraction add up to a lot of lost time in aggregate; it’s that each distraction actually sets you back in terms of the time it takes to refocus your mind.

That’s what researchers at George Mason University found in a 2016 study that tested a group of students by having them write three essays – two of which included interruptions during the planning and writing phases of the essay, Psychological Science reported. The researchers found the students who were interrupted scored significantly lower marks on their essays than those who worked uninterrupted.

Sometimes you just need to shut out the outside world. Or at least the parts of it that stop you from getting stuff done.

I’ve used two different internet-blocking apps to help my bad habit of getting distracted

For good and for ill, I’ve never been particularly adept at forming habits. Instead, I’ve gotten good at getting back on the proverbial horse when my habits break down.

That’s where internet-blocking apps come in. These apps allow you to block certain websites or apps – or the entire internet, if you dare – for customized increments of time, allowing you to get your work done free from distraction.

My current favorite is Cold Turkey because it’s free to use and even the non-premium feature set is robust.

It includes elements such as multiple programmable “sets” of blocked websites, basic statistics on top apps used and top websites visited during the course of your workday, and extensions for every major web browser and several obscure ones.

The premium upgrade includes features like daily schedule-setting based around your various lists, set “breaks” and daily allowances for particular domains (handy if you just can’t stop checking certain sites throughout the day), and a feature called “Frozen Turkey” that locks you out of your computer altogether.

At only $25 for the premium upgrade, I might end up checking it out sooner rather than later.

For now, it already increases my productivity daily by forcing me to get down to brass tacks.

The only drawback to Cold Turkey is it doesn’t lock you out of those tiny distraction machines: your phone and tablet. For that, you need a different app.

Internet-blocking apps can be a godsend when you need to get work done.

caption
Internet-blocking apps can be a godsend when you need to get work done.
source
Omar Havana/Getty

Freedom, which was the first of the internet-blocking apps I tried years ago, has gone from the simple blocker it was in 2010 to a full-featured app that can block apps as well as websites and syncs across multiple devices.

Like Cold Turkey’s premium features, you can schedule your block times as well as see a full history of all your blocked sessions.

The only drawback to Freedom is the price. Premium will set you back $6.99 per month, or you can pay a $129 lifetime fee.

Still, depending on your work habits, that could be a small price to pay.

There’s no cure for procrastination, of course

Make no mistake, there has yet to be an app built that can cure procrastination.

If you’re determined to stray from the tasks in front of you, you will find a way to do it, and an internet blocker will remove only one array of options.

But for removing the little serotonin tug – the pull of your reward impulses to check notifications or read the latest titillations – these blockers are a godsend.

When I need to focus, it’s a great relief to fire up a blocker, quiet the noise, and just get to work.