I’ve written before about my issues with concentration and productivity. One of my biggest problems is with the Internet. It’s a fabulous resource, but it’s also a huge time suck. If you’re a very disciplined person you may not find it to be a problem, but if you’re easily distracted it’s hard to “quickly” check your email or look up one fact. That quick look easily becomes a lost hour or two as you navigate around to other sites and “quickly” check just a couple of more things.
When I was working to improve my concentration (and even now) I found lots of resources that helped me deal with the Internet problem. There are many free or low-cost tools and ways to disable the Internet so you can actually get some work done. Here are my favorites.
Turn off the wireless on your computer
If you’re using a wireless network, either in your home or in a public place, it’s very easy to turn off the wireless access on your machine. On most operating systems there is an icon on your toolbar that you simply click to turn your wireless card on or off. This is easy to do, but it may be too easy to turn it back on for a quick email check. Which leads to number 2 on this list…
Turn off the router/unplug the cable
If you have a wireless router, you can turn the whole thing off. Because it takes a few minutes to boot back up and (if you’re smart and make the switch hard to reach) can be a pain to do, it makes you stop and think if it’s really worth it to turn it back on right now or if whatever it is can wait. If you’re using a wired connection, you can physically unplug your computer from the Internet. Again, make the cord hard to reach and you’re less likely to plug it back in for a while.
This software costs $10, but that’s nothing if it helps you regain control over your productivity. When you want to block the Internet, you open up Freedom and specify how long you want to be offline. If you want to get online before your time us up, you have to reboot the computer which is a pain. If you want to see how it works, there is a free trial available. Freedom works on Mac or Windows.
There are several free browser plug-ins that limit your access to certain websites. These are great if you have a problem with Facebook, for example, but you can otherwise control yourself. For Firefox, there is LeechBlock which allows you to choose which websites to block and for how long. For Chrome, you can try StayFocusd which limits the amount of time per day that you can spend on your “problem” websites. For example, you can specify that you can spend no more than 30 minutes on Facebook. When your time is up, StayFocused blocks the site for the rest of the day.
Free blocking software
These two packages function similarly to the browser plug-ins listed above. They don’t completely shut off the Internet, as Freedom does, but they will block your problem websites for specified periods of time. For Windows there is Cold Turkey and for Mac there is Self Control.
If you have the option and none of the above is working for you, you can haul your laptop to a place where there is no wi-fi access at all or where there is access but you aren’t permitted to use it. There are still some restaurants, parks, and coffee shops that are wi-fi free. One of my favorite places to go is the nearby university. The libraries there are open to anyone, but wi-fi access requires you to be a student or faculty member and know the password. I can go there and work in a quiet environment but I cannot get online because I’m not a student. It’s fabulous.
There are other options, I’m sure. These are just the ones I prefer. I’ve found that turning off the router is often enough to keep me focused, but when I’m on a deadline or working on something that I know I’ll procrastinate on, I’ll choose the option to run away entirely. It’s kind of a shame that I have to resort to these tactics but given the amount of plug-ins and software packages available to block the Internet, I take comfort in knowing I’m not the only one with a problem.
(Photo courtesy of TDOMMDAD)