The internet is full of information that can help you work more effectively. Unfortunately, instant access to such an overwhelming amount of content can also backfire. What starts as a quick jaunt to your social media feed or favorite website ends with dozens of open tabs – and hours of wasted productivity.
We’ve all been there. Even with extraordinary discipline, it’s easy to fall prey to these distractions. It’s far too easy to open your laptop, pull up a project you need to work on, and then completely lose track of your responsibilities after seeing a notification from a friend. There’s so much content out there begging for your attention, and it’s tough not to give in.
The good news?
There are plenty of website blocker tools that can help you overcome the temptation of distracting and addictive tech. Instead of forcing you to rely on willpower alone, these tools cut off access to your biggest distraction sources.
A host of features and price ranges are available. Let’s break down some of the most popular website blockers so you can make an informed decision.
Freedom blocks distracting websites and apps, but it does so much more than that. It’s an all-in-one distraction blocker, whether your distractions are websites, desktop apps, or the entire internet, Freedom gives you back control over your attention. Freedom is the only website, app, and internet blocker that syncs blocks across all of your devices. With Freedom Premium you can add unlimited devices and custom blocklists and commit to focus by scheduling your block sessions in advance or by creating Recurring Sessions to make productivity a habit.
Pros: One of Freedom’s biggest advantages is the ability to block distractions across a wide variety of devices. Users can sync their blocks across their Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android devices, which means no more blocking your computer, then sneaking off to your phone for a Facebook fix!
Freedom also blocks desktop apps, so if you find that Outlook, Mail, Steam, Fortnite, or even Chrome or Safari are keeping you from your work, you can add them to your blocklists to stay distraction free during your Freedom sessions.
If you need a little extra help focusing/staying offline, Freedom offers features like Locked Mode, Block All, and Block All Except.
- Locked Mode helps you commit to your block sessions by making it impossible to quit an active block session.
- Block All allows you to block the entire internet when you really need to and Block All Except, Freedom’s whitelisting feature, lets you block the entire web, except for the sites you need access to.
Cons: The Freedom team is currently working on adding several new features to the app, including the ability to whitelist certain sites while the rest of the internet is blocked and stats reports to see where you’re spending most of your time online. Update: Whitelisting is now available!
Price: Freedom offers users three different payment plans. For a monthly charge of $6.99, you can enjoy unlimited access to Freedom on the Monthly subscription. The popular Freedom Yearly plan offers users unlimited access to Freedom for $2.42 per month—less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks! Not sure if Freedom is right for you? Good news—you can sign up for a seven-use free trial and see the benefits first-hand.
StayFocusd is an extension available on the Google Chrome web browser. This makes installation extremely straightforward – even if you aren’t tech-savvy.
Pros: Many website blockers have users enter a list of specific websites (often called a “blacklist”) to block for certain time periods. The StayFocusd approach is a bit different. Users enter the maximum amount of time they would like to spend on specific websites before being blocked. So you can allow yourself some time for idle browsing.
One of the biggest advantages of StayFocusd is its versatility. You can set time limits for as many websites as you like; all you have to do is type them into the extension. As long as you’re using Google Chrome, the extension will work on various platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux, etc.)
Cons: The downside, of course, is that StayFocusd is limited to the Chrome browser. And, unlike other website blockers, you can’t set multiple blocks of blocked time. Finally, you still might find yourself wasting too much time during peak work hours if you’re too generous with your time limits.
Price: Stayfocusd is free on Google Chrome
Limit is a Chrome browser extension that allows you to limit your time spent on distracting websites.
To use Limit, simply select the website you find most distracting and choose a daily time limit. For example, you could limit yourself to ten minutes a day on Facebook, or half an hour a day on Duolingo.
Cons: Like all browser extensions, Limit can be uninstalled. So if you find yourself needing something a little more strict, Freedom is a great choice for blocking distractions on all your devices.
Pros: Limit is a great way to maintain a simple limit on your browsing habits. You’ll be surprised how free you feel when you hit your limit – and know that you’ve turned off distractions for the day. It’s a simple behavioral nudge that goes a long way towards helping you be more productive.
Price: Limit is free on Google Chrome.
The Freedom iOS app will block apps and websites based on your custom blocklist, and can be used simultaneously in sessions with your Mac or Windows computer or any number of other devices.
Pros: Freedom is the only complete multi-platform website and app blocker solution. So even if you have every popular device on the market (iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet, Mac and Windows computers) – Freedom has you covered on all of them, at the same time if you’d like!
Price: Included in Freedom Premium (see Freedom for Mac and Windows above)
WasteNoTime is a browser extension available for both Safari and Chrome web browsers, so you can share your settings across multiple browsers and/or computers.
Pros: WasteNoTime is a browser extension designed not just to block distracting websites, but track your time online so you can manage it more efficiently. You can choose which sites you want to block. This can range from a complete block to defining a certain amount of time you’re allowed to spend on specific websites (time quotas). You can also set time ranges to apply the blocks, dividing your days into working and non-working hours. One notable feature is the time tracker, which reports which websites the user spends the most time on daily, weekly, and monthly. There’s also an Instant Lockdown feature to block the entire internet.
Cons: Unfortunately, it’s not too difficult for determined users to get around this website blocker. They could use Chrome’s Incognito mode to browse distracting sites because extensions don’t run there by default. Removing the extension entirely is also straightforward.
Price: WasteNoTime is a free download.
Forest is an ingenious little app that encourages you to plant virtual trees instead of visiting distracting websites on your mobile devices. One of the oldest apps in the space, we’ve always like Forest’s behavioral approach to making you use your phone less.
Pros: Forest doesn’t actually block anything – it simply encourages you to put your phone down. You might think of this as a con, but for many people, that simple nudge will work! And once you put your phone down, you’ll start growing virtual trees, which give you positive feedback on your time spent away from distractions.
Cons: Well, Forest doesn’t actually block anything – so its not for everyone. If you need a stricter blocker, you might want to choose something else on this list. But you might be surprised just how well a little virtual tree could work keeping you away from websites!
Price: Various prices for iOS, Android, and Chrome.
LeechBlock is Mozilla Firefox’s answer to StayFocusd. This browser add-on has been blocking distracting websites for over a decade.
Pros: One of the first things you’ll notice is the extensive versatility and customization options. Users create groups of websites LeechBlock will restrict. These websites can then be assigned across up to six different time blocks. For each time block, users decide which sites to block, when to block them, and how to block them. An interesting feature is the password option. Users can choose to enter complex passwords before visiting distracting websites. This is less restrictive than a complete block, but it slows users down enough to really think whether they want to visit the website.
Cons: LeechBlock’s advantages can also become its downsides if you aren’t tech-savvy. With so many options and configuration settings, the interface can be overwhelming. It’s also a browser add-on, which makes it easy to remove if you’re determined to visit distracting websites.
There’s also a Mozilla Firefox issue to think about. Starting with Firefox version 57 (released in November 2017), only extensions built with the WebExtensions framework are compatible. This led the LeechBlock developer to rewrite the extension from scratch, releasing a new version called LeechBlock NG. The software is still under development, so there could be bugs, and not all the features of the old extension are included.
Price: Free on Mozilla
Pause is a simple extension that challenges you to momentarily pause and reflect before visiting a distracting website. In doing so, Pause breaks the cycle of distraction and helps you be more focused, productive, and intentional with your technology use.
When you load a distracting website, Pause creates a gentle interruption by displaying a calming green screen. After pausing for five seconds, you can then choose to continue to the site. The interruption created by Pause gently nudges you to make informed, intentional decisions about how you are spending your time.
Pros: We think that Pause is an incredible tool for being more intentional with your web use. Pause comes pre-seeded with a list of 50 top distracting websites, and you can add or remove sites from your Pause list. You can also configure the amount of time you’d like to be Paused.
Cons: We are very partial to Pause – it is a simple extension, with a huge impact. Maybe the only con is that it is free!
Price: Free for Google Chrome
Do Your Best Work with a Website Blocker
You need to be focused and productive to do your best work. Willpower can get you started, but with all the distracting websites and apps out there, why not equip yourself with the best tools to help?
A website blocker will free up time and energy for you to focus on the truly important stuff. And there’s always time for those silly cat videos after work!