Use the LeechBlock NG extension for Firefox, Chrome to block distracting websites while you work
Have you ever found yourself browsing social networks or video streaming sites when you were supposed to do something else?
It happens to the best of us. I always find such websites distracting and avoid them for a good part of my day. If you have a hard time ignoring videos of cute cats or discussions on Twitter / Facebook, you may need a bit of help to get things done and avoid wasting time.
There are some measures that people take to become more productive. I've seen a couple of my friends going offline for days at a time from social platforms to concentrate on their projects. While I think it is a bit drastic, I can understand that they want to devote their efforts in something that's actually worth it. But just like when you're on a diet and are tempted to snack, the temptation to chat with your mates, or binge watch some shows is quite difficult to overcome. You need to have a bit of control.
Recently, I came across an add-on for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, which might help in such situations. It's called LeechBlock NG. Now don't mistake it for some internet filtering software that blocks inappropriate content. It's a productivity tool and works quite well.
Tip: take a look at Undistracted for Chrome as well as it offers similar functionality.
Its primary purpose is to block websites of your choice. Click on the shield icon of the extension, to open its menu. There are 4 buttons here: Options, Lockdown, Override and Statistics. What do these do?
There are six block sets here, each of which act as individual rule sets. So, you can block some websites in Block Set 1 with custom settings and use Block Set 2 with different websites and settings and so on.
You can optionally give each block set a name, like Social or Multimedia, or Gaming. The large text box is used for entering the domain names of the websites that you wish to block. I recommend blocking the top level domain of the website, e.g. Facebook.com or Twitter.com.
The timer boxes allow you to set the time when the sites should be blocked, for example 0900-1700 (9AM to 5PM). Optionally, you can set a time limit to block the sites, like once every few minutes for every hour/day.
LeechBlock NG also lets you customize the days when it should block the websites. The default setting is set to weekdays but you can modify these. If you need to get homework or a project done on the weekend, you may want to include the days in the blocking of sites.
The How to Block section basically lets you configure what should happen when a blocked website is accessed. The options are fairly simple:
So, what happens when you try to access a blocked URL? That depends on what you chose in the "How to Block" section. The default page shows you a warning that "The page you're trying to access has been blocked by LeechBlock." It also mentions the URL you tried to access, and displays the time when the page will be unblocked.
There are three optional color filters that you can use instead of the blocking page: grayscale, invert and sepia. There are a lot of other options that you can configure in the General Tab (including an override option).
This is similar to the regular blocking, but instead of waiting for the schedule to begin, it locks down the block set immediately. You can set how long to block the sites by specifying hours and minutes, e.g. you could input 2 hours if you want to block the sites for 120 minutes while you buckle down and work.
The extension lets you lockdown all block sets or just the ones you wish to. Hit activate Lockdown and you are good to go.
To use this, you have to first define the Temporary Override settings from the General tab under the Options screen.
This is just for your reference, and you can use it to view the start date and time, time spent since start, time spent per week/day, time left in limit period, and the lockdown end time. You can reset one or all block set statistics by hitting the restart button.
Sometimes I get carried away when I come across interesting devices, games, deals, etc, and end up spending more time than I should reading about those. Maybe this add-on will help me to become more efficient. I think it could be useful for students who're preparing for exams or office workers working on projects/meetings.
Remember this, don't blame the add-on if you end up bypassing the blocks that you set. It's more of a reminder for you to concentrate on the task that you wanted to focus on as you can easily bypass its protections, e.g. by using a different browser.
What people need to do is to take responsiblity for thier own actions.
You don’t need an “add-on”, you need to learn “self control”.
Own yourself or someone else will.
Yeah, look at him so proper.
I can bet you waste 40% of your time doing god knows what at work.
@Dave, interesting. But I happen to wonder if there are not situations for a given person where ‘control’ is wiser than ‘self-control’. Some people will lock their door and throw the key by the window in order to be sure they won’t make it to whatever temptation, some others rely on their ‘self-control’ and fail. I think it all depends of one’s knowledge of himself. Throwing the key is radical yet it does mean a lack of self-confidence though a full will of control whilst relying on ‘self-control’ may be more relevant of proving to ourselves that me wan make it rather than actually making it. Really : it depends of each one of us. From there on, personally, I’ve never been fond of radical beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and i’ll admit that I still prefer to try self-control even should it fail.
Back on topic’s trails. I do block some websites but system-wide and those sites have nothing of a temptation when they are all about privacy and security, social sites in particular, even if they were all clean, active only on their places, no tracking, because I have a true dislike of the very concept of dialoging within billions of people. Porn could be a temptation should it be less vulgar, erotic rather than butchery and a minimum of scenario. No true temptation on the Web : tempations, real ones, are in life, for sure :=)
I never check social media or watch videos at work. Reading and commenting on GHacks, however…
Are there any apps like this that allow you to whitelist certain URLs on a website? Like, one of the sites I’d like to block is Reddit, but when I’m coding, sometimes I need to access a certain subreddit to help find a solution to a problem I’m having. With these kinds of apps (or at least the ones I’ve tried), it’s always ‘all or nothing’.
Maybe “Freedom” would work for you.
Ashwin, I liked the tone of your write up, more like a caring big brother!
Leechblock is definitely a life saver :)