Improve Your Focus: Outsourcing Self Control

Image by Ruby Rose
A few months ago I came across this picture that several friends had shared on Facebook (courtesy of Ruby Rose). Many people identified with this image making comments along the lines of –

“So sad but TRUE!”

Sites like Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr are incredibly addictive.

Deep down we all know we should be working towards our long term goals. But the pull towards instant gratification and pleasure is often too strong and triumphs over good reasoning and common sense.

Perhaps you’ve had the experience where you said to yourself –

“I’ll just go on Facebook for 5 minutes and then I’ll start working on that report…”

However a few hours later you were still exploring videos, peoples’ holiday photos and links to various meaningless articles.

It’s so easy to get screen sucked and lose sight of your goals. At some point we need to ask ourselves the question –

“Is going on Facebook [Tumblr, Twitter, etc] worth not achieving my goals?”

Most of us would say no, but in the next breath we may find ourselves logging into Facebook.

But what if you weren’t able to log into addictive sites? What if every hour that you wasted on Facebook meant you had to donate your hard earned money to charity? What if you were able to see how much time you spent on social media?

Thanks to modern technology, there are now a number of innovative ways you can monitor time wasting behaviour, outsource your self control and stay off addictive sites. Below I outline a number of applications and websites that have been designed to do just that.

The Quantified self:
The Quantified self is a website that presents information on tracking a number of behaviours including how you spend your time online. The simple act of tracking any behaviour can be a great wake up call and impetus for personal change. Check out the forum discussion on free Time Tracker programs here.

Anti-social: Anti-Social blocks you out of over 50 social sites (e.g. Facebook, Tumblr, Skype) for the time period that you specify. It’s only available for Macs and costs $15 to purchase. A free trial program is available.

Procrasdonate: You specify the sites that you procrastinate on and pledge to donate a certain amount to a charity for every hour you waste on these sites. Having something at stake may be all it takes to keep you off particular sites.

Freedom: Freedom blocks you out of the internet for a period of time that you specify. Costs $10 (US dollars) and is available for both MAC and Windows.

Self control:
This free app requires you to specify the websites that you want to lock yourself out of. I have heard some students say it has bugs and can freeze their computers occasionally. Perhaps these problems have now been fixed, so it’s probably still worth checking out. Only available for MACs.

If you want to maximise your chances of achieving your goals and establishing new habits check out sites such as, and the

All of the above websites and apps are brilliant tools for self improvement and productivity. But you need to remember none of them are a quick fix. Simply downloading them won’t miraculously turn you into a productivity god/goddess. They are just clever tools that you need to be disciplined enough to use in the first place to experience any benefits.

But if you are serious about working in a more focused way, I highly recommend using one or two of them.

2 thoughts on “Improve Your Focus: Outsourcing Self Control

  1. I can attest to the effectiveness of the SelfControl app. I know a thing or two about computers, but still it is the one web blocking app that I have not figured out how to circumvent in any reasonable or convenient way. It doesn’t have much at all in the way of customization and features, but it sure works. I haven’t had any issues with freezing.

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