Merge's Blog

Use technology to block distractions (that come from using technology!)

It’s been three weeks since my last post in our video series on Productivity Tools for Leaders.  In How to manage distractions (aka the “Squirrel syndrome”), I put forward what turned out to be a controversial idea.  The idea of designating Internet-free times each day or week to block distractions got a lot of responses from all of you, but interestingly, from both ends of the spectrum.  Some of you told me that the idea was Draconian, but just as many thought it was brilliant!  And it was suggestions from the latter group that lead me to today’s strategy.  Today’s tip to focus and block distractions is to use an app!

To focus and block distractions, use an app!

Yes, I get the irony.  I am proposing that you use technology to block distractions that come from technology!  But if you think about it, it’s actually poetic.  If you are willing to admit that the “squirrel syndrome” is a huge drain on your productivity, then there are apps out there that can help you block distractions … like the Internet.  I’m going to share five of the apps that were brought to my attention.  Please keep in mind that I am not endorsing any of them as I haven’t had a chance to really use them myself – I only just heard about them recently.  But I did look them up, and it seems like they could be valuable.  Here’s what I learned:

  1. Despite its name, Cold Turkey Blocker works on the premise that moderation is the answer. It helps you by temporarily blocking sites and distracting applications so that you can focus or get offline when you need to. The basic version is free, and if you want to upgrade, you can for a reasonable one-time fee.
  2. Freedom lets you block specific websites and apps, or the entire internet if that’s what you need. And when you block distractions, it helps you break the habit of checking whatever digital source is beckoning.  They offer a free trial before purchase.
  3. According to their website, LeechBlock is a simple productivity tool designed to block time-wasting sites that can suck the life out of your working day. All you need to do is specify which sites to block and when to block them.  And the best part, it’s free!
  4. Mindful Browsing is much gentler and kind of cool. You specify what sites you’d like to visit less, and it gently reminds you when you fall off the wagon.  Also free.
  5. If you’re a logical step-by-step type of person, then you’ll appreciate RescueTime. This product puts you through a four-week training plan in which automatic time tracking software gives you data and reports on where you’re spending you time, and then helps you implement distraction blocking software to change your habits.  Memberships run for a year for under $100.

So here they are – five possible technology solutions to blocking distractions that come from technology.  Now whether you use technology to help you, or you manage distractions through sheer willpower, the end goal is the same – greater productivity.  Get more done in less time!

I’d love to hear how you are using technology to block distractions that come from technology?  Share your experiences and your favourites.  And tell us why.  Please add your comments below.

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