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.
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
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
FocalFilter is a free app for Windows users. This simple app allows users to block selected websites for a set amount of time. If there are certain websites that you find yourself blocking on a regular basis, you can save all the URLs to a list and block them all at once whenever you need to focus.
Pros: This basic website blocker is a good choice if you’re not super tech-savvy: all you have to do is type the name of a website into the block list, set a timer, and get to work!
Cons: This app only functions as a website blocker—it does not provide any of the additional productivity tools that other apps include.
Price: Free for Windows
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.
SelfControl is a free app designed for Mac. This website blocker is easy to set up and use. Just decide on a period of time to block certain sites or email servers, add them to your block list, and get down to business.
Pros: Because this website blocker is totally free and user-friendly, it’s a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want to set up specific schedules and simply needs to spend less time on distracting sites. Plus, it can prevent you from refreshing your inbox over and over again.
Cons: Once the block timer starts going, there’s no way to stop it—even if you shut down your computer or delete the app! There is no way to change this setting, so if you use SelfControl to block websites, make sure you definitely won’t need to use them for any reason while the timer is going.
Price: Free for Mac
1Focus is another app for Mac users. 1Focus functions as both a website blocker and an app blocker, so if you want to avoid intrusive notifications from emails and games, you can eliminate those distractions.
Pros: You can use 1Focus to block specific websites, apps, and pages, or you can block everything except for selected sites that you need to use. Furthermore, you can adjust how “strict” you want the block to be, and you can schedule preset tasks for the future.
Cons: 1Focus is a bit expensive for what it offers—another website blocker could give you more value for your dollar.
Price: Downloading 1Focus will run you a one-time payment of $9.99.
Zero Willpower is an iOS app available for download in the iTunes app store. The concept is simple. Users install the app, configure a list of distracting websites (or just use the basic one that comes with the app), set a timer for up to 24 hours, and start the countdown.
Pros: One advantage is ease of use. Zero Willpower uses a simple, intuitive interface to guide users through step by step – even if they don’t know much about tech.
Cons: Unfortunately, this app doesn’t block apps, which can be just as distracting as websites with all their notifications. It also only works on Safari, so if you use Chrome, Firefox or another browser, you’re out of luck. Ditto if you’re using an Android device.
Price: $1.99 on the iOS App Store
Freedom blocks time-wasting websites, but it does so much more than that. It’s an all-in-one distraction blocker, whether it’s mobile or desktop apps, sites, or even the entire internet.
The website, app, and internet blocker Freedom runs on Mac, Windows, and iOS, and once the app is downloaded, you can install it on any of your devices. Freedom allows you to create unlimited block lists, block the entire Internet, and schedule recurring block sessions in advance. Freedom also gives users the option to go into “locked mode,” which prevents you from ending a block session earlier than planned!
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, and iOS devices, which means no more blocking your computer, then sneaking off to your phone for a Facebook fix!
Compared to other paid website blockers, Freedom has one of the most affordable monthly billing plans, and for only a couple dollars per month, you will have access to a variety of valuable productivity tools on all of your devices. Turning on blocks across devices keeps you from switching your focus and wasting valuable time—if Twitter is blocked on your laptop, you won’t be able to turn to your phone and start scrolling anyway!
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. These features are not available yet, but they’re on their way, and if you sign up now, you’ll be able to take advantage of these tools as soon as they launch.
Price: Freedom offers users three different payment plans. For $6.99, you can enjoy unlimited access to Freedom for one month. The popular Freedom Yearly plan offers users unlimited access to Freedom for $2.42 per month—less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks! For a one-time payment of $129, you can use Freedom for life. Both the Yearly and Forever plans come with a 60-day money back guarantee. Not sure if Freedom is right for you? Good news—you can sign up for a seven-day free trial and see the benefits first-hand.
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!