Focus Power! Tools for Managing Information Overload and Digital Distraction (or Timers, Tools and Self-Flagellators)

Perhaps you remember a quieter, less-connected era. Well, that’s gone.  As I wrote about in this month’s Poets & Writers, we will probably never go back to a period when solitude was something to be found in plenty like stones on the beach.  For better or worse, the Internet is here to stay.  Solitude must be cultivated and engineered into one’s life. As more people struggle with this, more solutions for dealing with it are being developed. I’ve used quite a few of these so-called productivity tools, which also might be called piece-of-mind tools.  If social media really is, as David Farley says, like cocaine then here’s your rehab:

For Internet Regulation:
Self Control (Mac)
Self-Restraint (PC)
By far and away the best. Cuts off your computer’s wireless signal. Impossible to reset.  Has other settings, which I have not experimented with.
Freedom
Does the same, but early versions could be reset by rebooting your computer. Not sure about the newer ones.
Leechblock (Firefox)
Great for focusing and blocking website you tend to check without thinking.
Stay focused (Chrome)
Same idea for Chrome.
Anti-Social
Blocks social media.
Rescue Time
Much ballyhooed program with a variety of features, most notably analytics about how you spend your time online. (Be afraid!)
About Me
Similar program as an add-on for Firefox.
Readability
Cleans up web pages so you can actually read them.
Evernote Clearly
Similar to Readability. Very nice.

For on screen distraction/focus
Isolator
Very nice program that lets you work on one program at a time, blacking out others.
Concentrate
A bit spendy, but this is a big suite of things, mostly along the Isolator lines, but also with some Internet control features.
FocusWriter
Similar to Isolator
Now Do This.
If you get the same bizarre, Internet-induced amnesia I do, this helps.
Get Back to Work
Along the same lines, but a little different.
Think
Nice program to clean up your desktop and keep you on task.
Temptation Blocker
To block programs of your choice.

For Tracking Your Time
Hourglassses
That’s what they are.  This is your life.  Get busy!
Pomodoro Technique
Nice, old-school system for use with a kitchen timer to stay on task.
Mindful Clock
For distracted Buddhists.
Countdown Timer
Nice simple online timer.

For the less tech-savvy:
Build Thoreau’s Cabin
Now all you need is a pond.
Hipster PDA
Funny. Useful.
Cat of Nine Tails
When you need that little extra motivation
Convenient Hands-Free Self-Flagellator
When you’re too lazy to do it yourself.

More links here:
Geek to Live: Ban time-wasting web sites
10 Online Tools for Better Attention & Focus
How To Focus Better
8 Must- Reads About Digital Distraction and Information Overload
Wasting Time: Top 10 Online Distractions
Twitter is harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol, study finds
Attention span “Freeing your mind of digital distraction and burnout”
Reading in a Digital Age

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