In my constant search for more productivity at work, I stumbled upon a brilliant Google Chrome plugin called StayFocusd. I realized through my previous work with RescueTime that I spent far too much time on certain websites, mainly Facebook and NPR.com. I needed some way of blocking these from my browser that would not be trivial to get around during moments of weakness.
StayFocusd looks to fill this role by allowing users to specify certain preferences, picking sites to block, and then locking them down through an ingenious locking mechanism. To test this out, I installed the plugin (which is nothing more than clicking one button), set it up with the default settings, and set it to block Facebook. The default settings allows users to "goof off" ten minutes a day, which I quickly ate up before 10:00 a.m. After the ten-minute free-pass, I was all of the sudden redirected to see this:
Well played, plugin, well played.
What I Like
I really like the simplicity of this solution. Blocking a site, and setting up the app is beyond trivial.
I also like how difficult it is to undo, which is by far its most powerful feature. There are no passwords, no keys required. Only a pretty difficult task that is far more annoying than it is worth to check my friends' news feeds.
The challenge itself requires a user to input a fairly lengthy paragraph, character by character, with no errors. One single keystroke error results in a full reset. It is extremely tedious and frankly not worth it.
What I Realized About Myself
I realized that my time on Facebook is nothing more than a fast-twitch muscle reflex. I tap contrl-T for a new tab and skip right to Facebook, all within half a second. I realized that it is my default "I'm sick of what I am doing, so I'll do this instead" reaction, so let me kill time doing something else. This app completely blocks my mental breakdown from succeeding.
What I Don't Like
There is a simple workaround that is a bit of an issue. I have multiple web browsers on my computer, and this app blocks only Google Chrome. It does prevent my fast-twitch-reflex boredom search, so I have to be much more deliberate in booting up Firefox and logging in, which I found myself doing once yesterday when I needed to check on evening plans being made . . . but honestly, other than that one situation, I didn't feel like spending the extra effort to get around the block.
Overall, I highly recommend this plugin for nothing more than to make you aware of just how much you mindlessly jump to certain websites to kill a moment or two that could be better spent doing something else.