Blog Post

Road to Recovery: Tools for Web Working Self-Control and Productivity

Sometimes, working online from home seems like a never ending battle with procrastination and distraction. Like today, for instance. That Facebook tab is just taunting me. And don’t think I don’t know what that look means, YouTube tab. I don’t even know why I keep you open.

The point is that the internet is a distracting medium, by and large. As web workers, we need to either practise rigorous self-discipline, or arm ourselves against it with a clever cache of sophisticated weaponry. Since my self-control is sometimes lacking, I want to explore the second option with you today.

For The Compulsive Surfer

As in my example above, I’m sure many people have trouble avoiding a certain list of sites that are prone to constant refreshing throughout the day. If you’re very good, you can allocate time for these so that they don’t cut in to your work day. If you’re not so good, you might want to check out URL Blocker from

URL Blocker is a program that lets you block sites of your choosing during times that you specify. It’s like having one of those company wide keyword blockers, but controlled by you and for use at home. The only problem with this program is convincing yourself that you don’t have the power to just turn it off.

publicfoxIf you don’t feel like downloading a dedicated program, or if you’re not running Windows, you can achieve the same basic effect using the Public Fox add-on for Firefox. Again, you’re in complete control, but the bother of having to disable the add-on might be just enough to prevent you wandering.

For The Visually Distracted

Another problem I have with working on a computer is that there’s just too much going on. So many pictures, so many moving, pretty things! How to focus with that kind of thing going on? You could mentally block it out, or you can physically obscure it. I choose the latter, since, as we’ve already established, I’m weak.

writeroom1The solution? For me, fullscreen word processors do the trick. There’s a couple options for the Mac, with one very recent newcomer to the field. I was in the habit of using Bean or WriteRoom, the benefit of the latter being customizable color schemes, but with the release of iWork ’09, I’ve switched. The reason for the change is that despite the cost, is far too appealing.

For Windows, you can get the same effect with Q10 or Darkroom. And if you want to stick with a web-based solution, there’s always Writer.

For the Sound Minded

I realize that my neighbor is doing their renovation work during the day because that’s when most people are away at work, but when you work from home, that drilling is being done during my peak productive hours. I could just turn up my iTunes to drown it out, but I prefer a less-damaging-to-my-ears hardware solution.

boseAfter some very disappointing experiences with cheaper models, I’m currently sporting a pair of Sony MDR-NC60 noise cancelling (NC) headphones I picked up for a bargain in Japan. Where I to do it all over again, however, I would opt for the more expensive, but more effective Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones. Not that the Sony’s don’t work but they do produce a faint background hum that can get fairly annoying. With NC headphones, I find that it truly is a matter of getting what you pay for, so be prepared to shell out some cash for true piece of mind.

Once you’ve done away with all the distractions, they’ll be nothing stopping you from getting your work done, except for yourself. Which is actually a scary thought, so I never use all of these nuissance blocking strategies at the same time. Better to keep a scapegoat around than have to take full responsibility, right?

4 Responses to “Road to Recovery: Tools for Web Working Self-Control and Productivity”

  1. Interesting topic but I’ve always felt even with the distractions at home, I was more productive than at my open floor plan office where I could hear everyone’s conference calls.