Unless you've got willpower made of steel, you've experienced this situation: You sit down at your computer to write a report, finish a presentation, or compose an important email for tomorrow. You open your browser for a little fact-checking, and before you know it, you've wasted an hour looking at sports recaps, cute pictures of cats and your favourite blogs. Meanwhile, you've gotten nothing done.Your willpower is limited, so rather using it up in an effort to avoid online time-sinks when you need to get things done, off-load your willpower to a tool made specifically to help you avoid web distractions when you really need to work. Specifically, we're going to use the StayFocusd Chrome extension to firewall your web-browsing attention.
Note: Firefox users, take a look at our previous guide to saving yourself from online time sinks with Leechblock.
Install and Configure StayFocusd
Using the Chrome web browser, download and install the StayFocusd extension.
To get started using it, you need to determine which sites you burn the most unproductive time on. When you have even just one offending site in mind — we'll use Twitter and Facebook in our examples — you're ready to go. To set up which sites to block with StayFocusd, simply navigate to an offending site, then click the StayFocusd button in your Chrome toolbar. A drop-down dialog appears with a link to Block this entire site.
By default, StayFocusd allows you 10 minutes to browse the sites you add to your blocked list (in total — you can adjust this number in the extension settings), so you can still indulge a little before you're blocked for good. You'll notice that when you visit a site you've added to your blocked list, the StayFocusd button turns red. If you click it, you'll see a timer counting down your allotted browsing time.
You won't always want StayFocusd to play the disapproving watchdog — after all, you're not always working, are you? So next, set the time periods during which StayFocusd should stand between you and these sites. The morning is a good time to slog through the bulk of the day's work, so let's say you want to allow yourself recreational browsing only after 3pm on weekdays. Right-click the StayFocusd button and select Options.
Click the Active Days link in the sidebar to set the days of the week you want StayFocusd to actively monitor and-if necessary-block you from accessing the sites on your block list. Tick the checkboxes next to Monday through Friday.
Now click the Active Hours link to adjust the hours during which StayFocusd will restrict your browsing. Set it to the hours you want—in our example, let's say 8am to 3pm — and click the Set button.
Visiting a Blocked Site
After you've saved your settings in StayFocusd, whenever you mindlessly hit that time-wasting bookmark after your maximum time allowed per day has run out, you'll see a simple message in your browser asking, "Shouldn't you be working?" That's your cue to get back to work and try again later in your allotted time.
Make It Difficult to Disable StayFocusd
Now, a particularly determined procrastinator might say: "If it's a block I can disable, I'll do it." If you find yourself blocked from a time-wasting site that you insist on visiting (and to hell with your deadline), you might think you could go into StayFocusd options and undo the block. However, StayFocusd won't allow you to remove a site from your block list once your time for the day has expired, nor will it allow you to change your allotted time for the day once it's already expired. You also can't turn the extension off for the current day of the week.
It even comes with a clever challenge feature that, when enabled (under Options > Require Challenge), requires you to perform perfectly on a typing test before you can adjust any settings.
And that's all it takes. Clearly you can get around StayFocusd if you really want to—hell, you can simply open a different browser, and it's powerless to stop you. But we're talking about giving a little extra boost to your willpower, and anything that stands in the way of you and one more time-wasting click of your mouse is a good thing.
Even if you don't plan on using StayFocusd for setting up strict limits for everyday browsing, you might still enjoy its Nuclear Option, located in the extension's Options. The Nuclear Option will block every site on the web except for specifically allowed sites (or all sites without exception) for a specified period of time — one hour by default. This allows you to very specifically set up a distraction-free timeslot when you really need it rather than assuming that you need help every day.