Blocking distracting programs to get work done
May 3, 2009 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Help me focus on my work!

I need to get some work done but I'm very easily distracted by things on the internet. I'd just go offline, but I need to stay connected for the particular work I'm doing.

Are there any programs out there that I can download to keep particular programs (firefox, chrome, steam, etc) from executing while it's running?
posted by flatluigi to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Temptation Blocker (blocks entire programs) and/or the Leechblock extension to Firefox (can block only certain websites).
posted by salvia at 9:31 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you were to use a "personal firewall" program, such as Windows Firewall that comes with XP and Vista (freebie, but there are many other good ones out there) it could be set up to do this (though not on a site-by-site basis like what salvia mentions.) A personal firewall is normally used to prevent things like computer viruses from getting into your computer from the network, or from talking to a remote server if they're already on your computer.

You would set up a "rule" in the firewall that would basically tell it that these programs are viruses and that way they wouldn't be able to get to the internet at all. Or, to be more sophisticated, you could have it block port 80, which would stop every web browser at the same time.
posted by XMLicious at 9:34 PM on May 3, 2009

Couple of things you could use, besides pure self-discipline.
Firstly, I dunno what you OS you use, but for XP and below, you could use Temptation blocker.

If you want to be on the internets but want to block certain websites off, *cough* metafilter, boing boing *cough* you could use, Lifehacker's very nifty invisibility cloak
Vista has parental controls that you could fiddle with in order to match your needs and block out those programs you don't want to have access to. Google would be your friend here.
No clue about Macs or Linux.
This list from lifehacker may be helpful.
posted by Lucubrator at 9:41 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

This comes up a lot, in one form or another.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:56 PM on May 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

Do you have a Mac? Freedom would be a great software for you. There was an even an article about it in recently. And it's free! (I know the guy who wrote the software, just for himself at first. Nice guy.)
posted by bluedaisy at 2:29 AM on May 4, 2009

A program is no substitute for a strong constitution.

Isolate 2-4 key things you want to accomplish each day. Make sure you're on track as the day passes. If you're dedicated to achieving them, you will put off or ration your browsing to make sure you're on track. Helps me, anyway.
posted by smoke at 4:14 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about not starting up the programs you don't use - works for me at work - the key tool I have to use requires internet connection but I don't start up anything like Lotus or IE to minimise distractions - note that they'd all be work distractions like answering emails but it still wastes a lot of time and reduces productivity.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:32 AM on May 4, 2009

Off the top of my head: write a couple batch scripts; the first one replaces the .exe files for chrome, firefox, steam, what have you, with a large window that says "Go back to work, you <expletive>". The second one reverses the changes.
Then, you hook the two scripts to Windows scheduled tasks.
posted by _dario at 6:31 AM on May 4, 2009

Get off IRC! I know it's a big problem with me getting work done. It's almost irresistible, though.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:37 AM on May 4, 2009

I periodically delete TF2 from my computer, or at least back it up to an external drive to make it less accessible. I got a lot done this weekend!

I also use leechblock at work. and i'm about at my timelimit for metafilter!
posted by freq at 7:18 AM on May 4, 2009

The problem with installing an application blocker is that if you do it yourself then you can probably bypass it. I would say to get someone else to put it on and don't tell you the password.
posted by jefeweiss at 9:30 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Answering a few questions:

I'm using Vista on my laptop and Windows 7 on my PC, so whatever program it would be would have to work for one/both OSes.

Temptation Blocker looks like it would work, but I don't want to pay for it without knowing exactly if it would; the lifehacker article on it I found said it was only for XP and below.

w/r/t willpower, constitution, and "just don't do it, idiot": I don't want to get into that, but there's a reason why I want a program that I can start up to force me to do work and only to do work -- it will keep me focused and stop me from just booting firefox up to "check my email quickly" during a lull in the assignment.
posted by flatluigi at 9:36 AM on May 4, 2009

Response by poster: jefeweiss: The problem with installing an application blocker is that if you do it yourself then you can probably bypass it. I would say to get someone else to put it on and don't tell you the password.

I think I have the willpower to not turn off the program I put on to do work until my work's done.
posted by flatluigi at 9:37 AM on May 4, 2009

For a while, I used Proxomitron to filter out time-sink websites. Basically, it's a personal proxy host. It can do a lot of stuff, but in this case you could feed it a list of websites to redirect to a local file that tells you to get back to work.

Alternately, you could add the sites to your hosts file, with entries like "" or whatnot, then delete those entries when work time is over.
posted by JDHarper at 10:06 AM on May 4, 2009

I find leechblock really useful for this. I use it at work and am about to install it at home to keep from staring at the green into the wee hours.
posted by canine epigram at 10:54 AM on May 4, 2009

Response by poster: Again, I'm looking for a program that's less "blocking websites" and more "blocking whole programs" -- though things like Leechblock will work for keeping me from some websites, I use Chrome as often as Firefox and that won't help.
posted by flatluigi at 11:37 AM on May 4, 2009

Just to reiterate, if you want to block whole programs from being usable, Windows Firewall which is already installed on your XP and Vista can do this. Here is an entire chapter of a book concerning Windows Firewall. From what it says it sounds like, if you aren't already using it, you might not even have to set up a rule; it may block port 80 by default and cut your computer off from the internet as soon as you turn it on.
posted by XMLicious at 5:07 PM on May 4, 2009

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