How To StayFocusd On Writing: The Bane of Online Distractions

18 Oct

After a few completely distracted weeks, I was at the end of my rope today. I’m several articles behind schedule, I haven’t done the research I need for my NaNo-novel, and forget about reading for fun. It’s been Facebook, YouTube, BBC News, Nameberry, YouTube, NaNoWriMo site, YouTube for me.

Distractions are a hazard when working from home. Seems like it should be easy–no commute, no need to get ready for the day, so you have all the time in the world to get your work done, right? Well, never mind the cooking, cleaning, and laundry to be done. The computer has turned out to be my #1 enemy, and the thing I depend upon the most to actually get anything done.

It’s a conundrum, but turning off my WiFi doesn’t exactly do it for me. I need the internet for research–sometimes research takes up more of my time than actually writing the article. Unfortunately, the internet comes with all the above distractions and more. Self-control simply hasn’t been cutting it for me. Get all my research tabs open and then turn off WiFi? But I can just press a button to turn it on again, no problem. Reward system? But the chocolate’s right there, and no one’s stopping me from eating it. Negative reinforcement? But depriving myself of YouTube is already the problem…

Today I decided something had to give. I was supposed to have started writing at 9, and at 9:40 I had ten words written. Yuck. I started Googling and found a few programs that allowed you to block certain sites for a certain amount of time. Wrinkling my nose, I wondered if it was worth the $10 to try them out.

Luckily, I didn’t need to find out. I was directed to a Google Chrome extension called “StayFocusd” which is everything I needed and more. 

Basically, the extension allows you to add sites to “allowed” and “blocked” lists. Its main thing is that it only allows you a certain amount of time on the blocked sites per day–which is kind of the opposite of what I was hoping to achieve. However, it has a “Nuclear Option” which blocks the blocked sites for a set amount of time, to great effect:



Basically, I blocked all the usual culprits: Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Nameberry, and even Hotmail, among others. The best part is that you can block the extension page–which means there’s no going back to change any settings while you’re in Nuclear Mode. That means that your hands are well and truly tied, and you’ll simply see the above message if you try to procrastinate. No easy button to press to get out of it–just true productivity.

The extension places a button on the Chrome task bar. This button is blue if you’re on a site that isn’t blocked, red if you’re on a blocked site, and yellow and black when you’re in Nuclear Mode. When you press it, you’re given the option to block whatever site you’re currently on. So, for instance, if I was in Nuclear Mode and found myself wandering needlessly to WordPress a lot, all I would have to do is click “Block this entire site” and it would do it for me. More productivity!

More importantly, because I know I can’t get around the block (unless I use a different browser–but I don’t), I try to go to the sites less than I normally would. My mouse doesn’t hover over the Facebook icon half as much as it usually would, meaning I’m not wasting so much time looking at the “Shouldn’t you be working?” page either. 

“StayFocusd” has really worked wonders for me today. Knowing I can usually get articles done in two hours or so while completely on task, I set the Nuclear Mode timer for an hour and wrote, took a fifteen minute break, and set it for an hour again. The result? A finished article, two hours and fifteen minutes in. I did it again in the afternoon with the same result. That left me time in the evening to read for pleasure and research for my NaNo novel–perfect!

The extension comes with a few different options which you’ll have to explore for yourself. I’ve only fiddled with the Nuclear Option so far. The regular mode seems a bit strange to me, but good if, perhaps, you were attempting to cut down on your social media time (which I might do soon!).

Like I said, I believe it’s only available for Chrome, but other browsers might have other options. It’s worth a look, especially if you’re having a hard time focusing like me! StayFocusd on your work so you have more time to play later. Happy writing!


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