Staying on task while every distraction the Web has to offer is just a mouse click away might not be difficult for some of you, but for me it's a challenge. It's especially bad if you're a student or a knowledge worker whose office isn't shared with others who are also getting things done, so I set out to find a way to keep myself from tasting temptation and avoiding the work I had to do. The answer is the aptly named SelfControl.
SelfControl's Main Window
SelfControl is a free app for your Mac that essentially allows you to block yourself from parts of the Internet for a set period of time. It does this in a way that is nearly impossible to disable before the time is up, which is 100 percent the point. If you could easily disable it, it wouldn't work. It also operates in two distinct modes, using a blacklist or a whitelist.
Blacklist mode, which is most common, allows you to specify certain sites which you want to block. When you're satisfied with the list, you simply set the timer and hit "Start." You'll be asked for your admin password due to the low-level way in which it blocks sites from you. This is totally normal and I've never had an issue with the sites being unblocked once the timer is up.
Once you start the timer, there's no turning back. However, if you forgot to block a site or you decide you're spending too much time checking MacObserver.com (heaven forbid) while the timer is going, SelfControl will let you add sites to the blacklist while the timer is still running. This has helped me several times.
What if you only want to be able to access a certain few sites and block all the rest? In this case, you would want to use a whitelist. A whitelist lets you specify only the sites you want to see and blocks all the rest. It's great if you need to write a term paper and only need access to your school's website.
If you plan to use this mode, be warned! You will very literally be blocking all Web communication except for what you specify. This includes Dropbox, Apple services... everything. So be prepared to be cut off for the time specified. I would recommend testing it at the lowest time setting before committing yourself to a whole day of no Internet.
SelfControl is totally free and available at SelfControlApp.com. It totally rocks and definitely helps me improve my productivity throughout the day, and it can also be customized and activated via AppleScript. Enjoy!