Anti-Distraction Tools

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With reading week here, the urge to procrastinate is strong. Here are a couple tools that might keep you off Facebook and on the books.

  • Nicholas Murray Butler may not have had lolcats back in his day, but he still managed to distract himself

    Both StayFocusd for Chrome and LeechBlock for Firefox allow users to block or limit access to specific, time-wasting websites. Users must manually enter every website they wish to block for both of the sites, but StayFocusd comes with a suggested list. Lifehacker offers this guide for getting LeechBlock set up.

  • While those two work in some browsers, Concentrate is a Mac program that allows you to prevent your computer from establishing connections with entire websites, and it stops you from launching certain applications. It also lets you create a to-do list, set it to a timer, and set that timer to loom in the upper corner of your computer screen to mock your inactivity. Concentrate normally costs $29 but there a 60-hour free trial is available on the website. Enough to hammer out a paper.
  • SelfControl is like a bare-bones version of Concentrate, but with a twist: Once you start blocking certain websites, you can’t unblock them—even if you uninstall the application. You’ll just have to wait.
  • Write or Die is definitely the most sadistic tool in Bwog’s chest. After setting your wordcount goals, the program tracks your productivity. If your mind starts wandering and you fingers stop typing, the program punishes you. In the most extreme mode, it will begin deleting what you’ve already written. The site offers a free browser-based version and a desktop copy for $10.
  • RescueTime, which is compatible with almost all browsers, tracks the amount of time you spend online on different sites, calculates the percentage of that time spent “distracted browsing,” and compares that number to other users to come up with a “you’re more productive than __% of people” statistic. While the site automatically marks procrastination favorites like YouTube and Facebook, it’s up to you to tweak the settings to catch more obscure sites. It also assumes time spent on Gmail is time spent productively. Tsk, tsk RescueTime.

All of this software is highly customizable, which creates the risk of  metaprocrastinating by experimenting with these porgrams’ many bells and whistles. Ultimately, the power is yours; you can turn off all of these programs just as easily as you can install them. Good luck and remember––no app can substitute for the caustic pressuring glare of an angry stranger.

Old-fangled distraction via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Self Control  

    has enabled me to write papers in half the time and get a WHOLE lot more studying done. There's something neat in knowing that no matter how hard you try, you won't be able to access what you've blocked until time is up. GET IT

  2. Columbia  

    where we don't just procrastinate, we metaprocrastinate.

  3. Anonymous  

    Sorry to say it, Bwog, but you're getting blocked too.

  4. I  

    used to use Write or Die in the past, and I've got to say: It's pretty wonderful. However, I've got something like 5k words to write in the next 24 hours, and that Self Control program is looking mighty fine.

  5. Anonymous  

    awesome! I'm gonna spend the next 3 hours trying to find which program I should use.

  6. Anonymous  

    i actually love you, bwog. a real kind of love.

  7. Anonymous

    Umm how about you guys get something akin to the real self control? You know that feeling where you do your work when you need to?

    Taking breaks isnt bad, and breaks don't have to last for an hour!

    • Oh hush, you.  

      I think there's a kind of self control in realizing that certain activities will be obstacles to your success and removing those obstacles. Sure, maybe we may not have the willpower at a given time to just plow through work - but we've recognized that and taken action against it. Wouldn't you say that's a step in the right direction?

  8. CC  

    Self Control is amazing and has saved my life multiple times... but there's actually a really obvious way to break through the block.

  9. Hacker-Pro  

    If you aren't blocking with the hosts files you ain't blocking.

    • Charlie Stigler

      For the record, SelfControl uses this blocking technique combined with a firewall-based technique and other tricks to make the ultimate block! Of course, SelfControl works only on Mac while the hosts file blocking technique works on Windows and Linux as well.

  10. Charlie Stigler

    Heyo, I'm the author of SelfControl, glad you guys like it. Give it to all your friends!

    Why am I reading this? I'm joining the COLUMBIA CLASS OF 2015! W00t w00t! See you guys around next year, hopefully using SelfControl.

  11. Charlie Stigler

    No troll! I think it would be against the spirit of the program for me to waste anybody's time. =)

  12. Anonymous  

    You guy's failed to mention the most useful feature of Stayfocused--the nuclear option, which allows you to nuke your internet, every site. So you don't have to manually enter every site you want to block, but before nuking you can select sites that you want to allow.

  13. Like Youtube

    Hay buddy, Thank you composing this sort of excellent post, really will help my home out in some ways

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