Policing Your Productivity: 7 Tools to Help You Focus
Being your own boss can also mean policing your productivity. For every hour the average American spends online, 16 minutes is spent on social media sites, nine minutes is spent on entertainment sites and five minutes is spent shopping, according to a 2013 survey by Experian Marketing Services.
"Facebook and Twitter are almost always more fun than working," says David Ryan Polgar, co-founder of overplugged.org, a website about technology's effect on life, and author of Wisdom in the Age of Twitter (Amazon Digital Services, 2012). He likens digital media consumption to dieting and says many of us are mentally obese, consuming an overwhelming amount of information every day.
“Will power isn't enough," he says. "Entrepreneurs should take advantage of the available tools that can help you resist temptation." Time-tracking and distraction-blocking software can help small-business owners boost efficiency and gain control of their day. Here are seven programs that will help you be more productive:
RescueTime is like a performance evaluation you give yourself. The software runs in the background of your computer, measuring which websites and applications you use most. The time you spend is grouped into categories – such as social networking, email and scheduling – so you can see how much time you spend doing different types of tasks. Each week, you get an email report of your activities. You can also log into the dashboard to get real-time statistics. RescueTime works on Mac and PC. The basic version is free, and a premium version is $6 per month and offers features such as website blocking and time reports for individual documents.
2. Manic Time
Another time-tracking tool is Manictime for PC, which also runs in the background of your computer, recording your activities while you work. The software generates a report of applications and websites you use, and provides a timeline of your day so you can pinpoint your best and worst productivity levels. Manictime offers a free basic version, and a premium version is $67 and offers additional features such as time sheet generation and an inactivity alert.
If you need to block distractions, LeechBlock is a free Firefox browser add-on that blocks or allows access to specified websites at designated times. For example, you can schedule a time each day to check email, network on social media sites, or catch up on industry news. The rest of the day these sites will be blocked. You can override your settings by entering a password. LeechBlock also keeps track of the total amount of time you spend browsing the sites in each block set.
4. Focus Me
Focus Me is a distraction-blocking software with two modes: Block Mode and Focus Mode. Block Mode will block only the websites and applications that you choose. Focus Mode will block all websites and applications except the ones you approve. Focus Me also includes a "take a break" feature that forces downtime by deactivating your mouse and keyboard for a five minute period of time. Focus Me works on Mac and PC and offers a single user license for $18.
If the Internet is too tempting, Freedom is program for Apple users that totally blocks your surfing capabilities so you can be productive. Choose how long you'd like to be Internet-free -- you can select up to eight hours. If you want to turn Freedom off, you have to reboot your computer. Freedom is available for a one-time fee of $10.
If your downfall is social media, Anti-Social might be the solution. Developed by the creators of Freedom, it's good for the entrepreneur who needs to be online for their business but is easily distracted. The $15 Mac application blocks more than 30 "time wasting" websites, such as Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Twitter and more. The only way to turn it off before the timer expires is to reboot your computer.
7. Self Control
Finally, those with little will power should download SelfControl, a free app for Mac that will force you to focus. The software blocks you from your mail servers, specific websites or the entire Internet for a period of time that you set. You are unable to access those sites until the timer expires -- even if you restart your computer or delete the application.
Related: Feeling Productive? 3 Ways to Get Even More Done
Stephanie Vozza is a freelance writer who has written about business, real estate and lifestyle for more than 20 years.