ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Any apps out there that’ll help me switch off and focus?”

by Rachel Smith
25 October 2017

Hi Rachel and Leo. I just purchased your 40 Tools for freelancers and love it, but wondered if you can suggest more apps for focusing. I struggle to stay away from the usual suspects – FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. It is seriously affecting my time management. I’d appreciate suggestions from you and other RL members! G

The struggle is real, G – for all of us. In fact, I shared a quote on Instagram last week from Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith that I found particularly insightful (and scary), and it was this: “Fifteen years ago, the internet was an escape from the real world. Now, the real world is an escape from the internet.”

How to break free is a great question, especially when you consider that many of the technologists who devised the ‘like’ button and a lot of the functions that create our psychological dependency on social media are actually stepping away from the technology they helped create! In this Guardian article, Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, even talks about how he has hacked his family’s router to cut off the internet at a set time every day. Radical? Maybe not so much.

If you’re not keen to go to that extent, there are a heap of apps out there dedicated to helping you focus, whether you want something that gently helps you change your addictive social media behaviours – or is just a mercenary, non-negotiable way to block the internet full-stop so you can get some work done, dammit. Here are our picks.

Forest Available for IOS and Android, Forest will definitely appeal to green thumbs. You open it, plant a tree and leave it open so you can’t access any other apps. The longer you keep the app open, the more the tree grows. If you crack and close the app to go watch a cat video on YouTube, your tree dies.

Freedom Need something that blocks specific apps or the entire internet for a time you specify? This handy little program (for IOS and Android) helps you schedule ‘freedom’ time to focus, either on the fly or in advance.

Cold Turkey This desktop app for Windows users ‘breaks the distraction cycle’, which it claims is the important key in us getting our social media ‘fix’. You can use it to block a specific webpage, the entire internet or even use it to block yourself out of your own computer. Brilliant for workaholics!

Self Control Although I’m not loving the malware-looking logo on this site, it comes recommended for Mac users as a way to up your productivity. You come up with a set amount of time to block yourself from the internet, add sites to your ‘blacklist’ and click start. It claims to still work even if you restart your computer OR delete the app. For hard-core online addicts, clearly!

Stay Focusd This productivity extension for Google Chrome enables you to allocate a block of time for browsing, using Facebook and so on, and once that time is used up, you’re locked out. You can block specific pages, sub-domains or even specific content such as videos or games – whatever drags you down the rabbit hole.

Kill News Feed If you’re constantly being distracted by the Facebook pop-up notifications (and don’t have time to figure out how to stop them altogether in Facebook itself), this will do it for you. Just install, enable and hey presto: no little alerts popping into your window every two seconds disturbing your flow!

Do you use any of these, or another ‘blocker’ app? How do you regulate your time on social media?

Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
Find us!
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