In 2011, Nielsen made a startling discovery — Americans spend almost 1 in every 5 minutes online on social media sites. In 2012, that number had climbed to 1 in every 4.3 minutes.
Often, the allure of social media is too great. Facebook and Twitter pull people away from their work, and YouTube burns away hours at a time. These issues have inspired programmers to create apps and programs specifically designed to make time in front of the computer a little more productive. Here are five of them.
Anti-Social is a $15 program designed to block social media sites (e.g., Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) as well as any other sites that the user specifies. Fred Stutzman, a software developer, created the program after finding his work was constantly sidetracked by interesting — but irrelevant — Wikipedia articles.
LeechBlock, a Firefox add-on, is a free alternative to Anti-Social.
ResueTime does not outright block time-wasting websites. Instead, this free program provides users with a read-out at the end of each day highlighting their web activities. This read-out is designed to inspire individuals to change their own Internet habits. Most people are surprised when they find out how much time they spend on social media each day.
Dark Room (and its Mac-based counterpart, WriteRoom) is a distraction-free writing program. This program fills the entire screen, obscuring any tempting windows and keeping users away from the Internet browser.
Individuals who aren’t looking for a new program can tinker with Microsoft Word to produce a similar effect.
Struggling with productivity on the Internet? Just get some SelfControl! SelfControl is a free application for the Mac that lets users block specific websites for up to 24 hours. What makes SelfControl particularly brilliant is its “cheat proof” software. Users can restart their computer or even delete the application from their hard drive — yet blocked sites will remain blocked.
Freedom goes one step further than the other apps on this list and blocks the Internet entirely. Fred Stutzman — the same developer who created Anti-Social — created this app after his favorite coffee shop started offering free Wi-Fi. He found himself newly distracted by social media and unable to concentrate on his work. For individuals who need the Internet to do their work, this program might be a little too extreme. For people who want to bury themselves in a Word document, however, Freedom is ideal.
Some people might wonder: If people really wanted to get work done, wouldn’t they just do it? Why do they need a computer to hold their hand?
Everyone gets distracted now and again. Regardless of what people might believe, these anti-distraction apps can make a real difference. Famous author Zadie Smith has nothing but praise for two of the apps on this list — Freedom and SelfControl — and credited them with allowing her to finish her latest novel.
Skeptics might want to give some of the free programs a try at the very least. They might be surprised to find out how often they get distracted — as well as how much they can accomplish when those distractions are gone.
Written by Courtney Lopresti, M.S. neuroscience, Sovereign Health Group writer