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Block or remove distractions

Block or remove distractions

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Block distracting websites or apps

Choose websites or apps you don’t want to access for a period of time.

Digital Wellbeing

Android

Why: Made by Google, so it’s well-designed and possibly pre-installed on your Android device

What it can do:

  • limit how much time you spend in an app or on a website each day
  • block distracting apps on session-basis, or set up a schedule so that distractions are automatically blocked during specific hours

Cons: May only work on Android version 10 and up

Price: Free

Try it:

Screen Time

iPhone / iPad
Mac

Why: Made by Apple, so it’s built-in on iOS and Mac. Only option for blocking functionality on iPhones and iPads.

What it can do:

  • set time limits for a category of apps (e.g., Games or Social Networking) or for individual apps or websites
  • block apps and notifications during scheduled periods (‘Downtime’)

Cons: Limited scheduling functionality - you cannot set e.g. multiple block times on the same day. On Mac, it requires Mac OS Catalina or higher

Price: Free

Try it:

Cold Turkey Blocker

Mac
PC

Why: Works on Windows + Mac, and all major browsers on your computer. Very powerful and flexible blocking and scheduling. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • create lists of websites or applications to block, then initiate blocking manually (Free) or set a weekly schedule (Pro)
  • show a motivational quote when you try to access a blocked website
  • has a mode that prevents you from using your computer entirely
  • has many settings to stop future versions of yourself from overriding the blocking
  • you can add pomodoro-style breaks to blocking sessions

Cons: Blocking applications and creating a weekly block schedule require the paid version.

Price: Free: block websites on session basis. Pro ($39, one-time): block applications and schedule blocks.

Try it:

1Focus: Website & App Blocker

Mac

Why: Highest ratings & largest number of reviews among blockers on the Apple App Store. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • block websites, the internet altogether, or applications
  • block on session-basis or set up an automatic blocking schedule

Cons: Only works on Mac. The most useful features require the paid version.

Price: Free: block websites and apps on session basis.
Pro ($1.99/month, or $9.99/year): lets you schedule blocks, and also block on whitelisting mode (block all websites/apps except those you specify).

Try it:

AppBlock

Android

Why: Highest ratings & largest number of reviews among blockers on Google Play. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • block websites & apps
  • can be scheduled based on time, or even on location (a specific wifi connection)
  • Strict Mode disallows changes or removing the app

Cons: The most useful features may require in-app purchases.

Price: Free (in-app purchases)

Try it:

LeechBlock

Chrome
Firefox

Why: Highest rated free blocker on Chrome Web Store & Firefox add-ons store. Does not collect user data. Open-source.

What it can do:

  • block websites on session-basis or set up an automatic blocking schedule
  • alternatively, set a countdown timer that delay your access to websites instead of completely blocking them
  • set a password or random access code for its options page, to slow you down in moments of weakness where you want to override it

Cons: Only blocks websites.

Price: Free

Try it:

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Reduce your device to the tools you need

Choose applications or websites you need - your device has only those for a period of time

Micromanager

Mac
PC

Why: Works on Windows + Mac. Well-engineered, simple way to lock yourself into specific apps. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • simple program that lets you choose applications on your computer that you want to restrict yourself to for some length of time

Cons: Only lock yourself into applications - cannot block websites. (you may instead want to use Cold Turkey Blocker from the same developer)

Price: Free version lets you lock yourself into 1 application for a duration of time.

Pro version ($19, one-time) lets you lock yourself into an unlimited number of applications (and also set up a break schedule).

Try it:

Cold Turkey Blocker

Mac
PC

Why: Works on Windows + Mac, and all major browsers on your computer. Very powerful and flexible blocking and scheduling. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • create lists of websites or applications to block, then initiate blocking manually or set a weekly schedule
  • you can use it to reduce your computer’s functionality to exactly what you need at different times
  • for example, you can create a blocking profile that reduces your computer to Wikipedia + Microsoft Word + your note-taking program during specific hours, or whenever you manually turn it on

Cons: Locking yourself into applications (as opposed to just websites) require the paid version.

Price: Free version lets you block websites on session basis.

Pro version ($39, one-time) lets you block apps and schedule blocks.

Try it:

1Focus: Website & App Blocker

Mac

Why: Highest ratings & largest number of reviews among blockers on the Apple App Store. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • block websites, the internet altogether, or applications
  • block on session-basis or set up an automatic blocking schedule
  • you can use its whitelisting mode to reduce your laptop to just the websites and apps you need

Cons: Whitelisting mode requires the paid version. Only works on Mac.

Price: Free: block websites and apps on session basis.
Pro ($1.99/month, or $9.99/year): lets you schedule blocks, and also block on whitelisting mode (block all websites/apps except those you specify).

Try it:

Cold Turkey Writer

Mac
PC

Why: Simplest way to lock yourself into a full-screen writing program when you need to focus - like transforming your computer to a typewriter. Does not collect any user data.

What it can do:

  • a full-screen, minimalistic writing program that you cannot leave until (a) you have typed a specific number of words, (b) a specific length of time has passed
  • you can read a text file into the program, so that you can use it to, e.g., do focused work on an essay draft for 30 minutes

Cons: Only useful when you don’t need anything else than a writing program. No formatting options in free version.

Price: Free. Pro version ($9) adds themes, font formatting, productive soundtracks, etc.

Try it:

Screen Time

iPhone / iPad
Mac

Why: Made by Apple, so it’s built-in on iOS and Mac. Only option for blocking functionality on iPhones and iPads.

What it can do:

  • you may have considered downgrading to a ‘dumbphone’, but never been able to do so because you need to use specific apps only available on a smartphone, like WhatsApp
  • on iPhone, Screen Time lets you remove specific functionality altogether (such as Safari or email), or at scheduled times of the day (‘Downtime’)
  • on Mac, you can similarly use Screen Time’s ‘Downtime’ feature to make specific apps unavailable at specific times of the day

Cons: Limited scheduling functionality - you can set start and end times on specific days for automatic ‘Downtime’ blocking, but you cannot schedule e.g. several sessions at the same day.

Price: Free

Try it:

  • turn your iPhone into a ‘dumbphone + WhatsApp’ by going to Settings -> Screen Time -> Content & Privacy Restrictions -> Allowed Apps, then deactivating Safari and other ‘smart’ functionality
  • you can also schedule ‘dumbphone’ intervals: Go to Settings -> Screen Time -> Downtime, and set up a schedule. Then go to Screen Time -> Always Allowed, and select what functionality you want available during those times
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Hide distracting features on websites

Use a browser extension to change things that make you lose control on a website

News Feed Eradicator

Chrome

Why: 200,000+ users and stellar ratings on the Chrome Web Store. Open source

What it can do:

  • hide Facebook’s newsfeed and/or YouTube’s recommended videos and/or feeds on Twitter, Reddit, and Hacker News
  • replace the feeds with an (optional and customisable) motivational quote

Cons: Depending on how you use the sites, hiding feeds altogether could be too invasive.

Price: Free

Try it:

#blockit

Safari

Why: Highly rated on the Apple App Store. Allows you to choose what elements to remove. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • in the Safari browser, decide which distracting elements to hide on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit
  • for example, on the Facebook home page you can toggle on or off the News Feed, Stories, Marketplace, Watch, and Groups

Cons: Some elements you might want to hide (e.g. Sponsored) cannot be hidden.

Price: Free for Facebook. £0.99 (one-time) to unlock each of YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit

Try it:

“No Distractions” for Facebook

Safari

Why: Provides the most minimalistic Facebook layout of the options currently available. Does not collect user data. Open source. Developed by the ReDD project team (Ulrik Lyngs)

What it can do:

  • makes the layout of Facebook’s home screen radically minimalistic: hides the newsfeed, stores, side bar, sponsored posts, as well as the ‘Gaming’ link in the menu

Cons: Not customisable. Depending on how you use Facebook, it might be too invasive.

Price: £0.99 (one-time)

Try it:

Facebook Demetricator

Chrome

Why: Intervenes specifically at metrics that may be bad for our mental health. Very well reviewed on the Chrome Web and Firefox Add-ons stores. Open source

What it can do:

  • hide numerical metrics on Facebook
  • for example, ‘16 people like this’ becomes ‘people like this’
  • the purpose is to move the focus from how many friends you have or how much they like your status, to who they are and what they say
  • created by artist Ben Grosser

Cons: You may find that the information the metrics provide is too useful to remove.

Price: Free

Try it:

Twitter Demetricator

Chrome
Firefox

Why: Intervenes specifically at metrics that may be bad for our mental health. Very well reviewed on the Chrome Web and Firefox Add-ons stores. Open source

What it can do:

  • hide follower, like, and notification counts
  • for example, “29.2K Tweets” under a trending hashtag becomes, simply, “Tweets”
  • purpose is to experience what happens when you can no longer judge yourself or others in terms of these metrics

Cons: You may find that the information the metrics provide is too useful to remove.

Price: Free

Try it:

Remove YouTube Recommended Videos

Chrome
Firefox

Why: Very highly rated on the Chrome Web Store. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • hide recommended videos on YouTube

Cons: Few obvious downsides - it’s still easy to find what you need on YouTube by searching.

Price: Free

Try it:

“No Distractions” for YouTube

Safari

Why: Very highly rated on the Apple App Store. Does not collect user data. Open source and developed by the ReDD project team (Ulrik Lyngs).

What it can do:

  • on YouTube, hides video recommendations on the front page, as well as the ‘up next’ videos that usually appear on the right while you watch a video
  • also adds a button for hiding or showing video comments

Cons: Few obvious downsides - it’s still easy to find what you need on YouTube by searching.

Price: £0.99 (one-time)

Try it:

Inbox When Ready

Chrome

Why: Very highly rated on the Chrome Web Store.

What it can do:

  • hides your Gmail inbox by default - you can still search and compose emails, but need to click “Show Inbox” to see your email inbox
  • can also lock you out of your inbox at scheduled time intervals

Cons: You may find that you still need to check your inbox before you write an email reply, to check if relevant new information has come in. The app collects some information about how you use it (but you can opt out)

Price: Free

Try it:

Click to Remove Element

Chrome

Why: Simple way to remove distractions yourself as you go along on the web. Very positive reviews on the Chrome Web Store. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • allows you to hide any elements on a website, by clicking on them

Cons: Manually having to click away distractions may be too tedious.

Price: Free

Try it:

Remove HTML Elements

Firefox

Why: Simple way to remove distractions yourself as you go along on the web. Very positive reviews on the Firefox Add-ons store.

What it can do:

  • allows you to hide any elements on a website, by clicking on them

Cons: Manually having to click away distractions may be too tedious. Unclear privacy practices.

Price: Free

Try it:

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Use focus mode

Use your laptop’s and apps’ distraction-free modes to reduce visual distraction

Distraction Free Mode — Google Docs & Slides

Chrome
Firefox

Why: Very highly rated on the Chrome Web and Firefox Add-ons stores. Very few downsides, simply adds an extra functionality. Does not collect user data.

What it can do:

  • adds ‘distraction-free mode’ button to Google Docs and Google Slides - when you click this button, it removes all visual distractions

Cons: None.

Price: Free

Try it:

MS Word Focus mode

Mac
PC

Why: Nothing to install, simply a functionality to be familiar with

What it can do:

  • if you use Microsoft Word, be aware that it has a ‘focus mode’ built in, which hides visual distractions

Cons: No immediate downsides.

Price: Free

Try it:

  • go to ‘View’ in the ribbon and click ‘Focus’, or click the ‘focus’ button at the bottom of an open document
Typora

Mac
PC

Why: Rave reviews in the tech community

What it can do:

  • if you sometimes write using the ‘markdown’ syntax, one of the best distraction-free writing tools out there is Typora
  • it automatically displays rendered markdown, so you can concentrate fully on your content

Cons: Only useful if you write in markdown

Price: Free (during the beta)

Try it:

JotterPad

Android

Why: Very highly rated on the Google Play store

What it can do:

  • a simple, distraction-free writing app for Android

Cons: Only useful if you write in markdown

Price: Free (in-app purchases)

Try it:

Full screen mode

Mac
PC
Safari

Why: Nothing to install, simply a functionality to be familiar with

What it can do:

  • a basic trick for minimising visual distraction when working on laptop is to place apps you need in full screen mode

Cons: No immediate downsides.

Try it:

  • on Mac, click the green full-screen button to make an app run in full-screen - or click and hold the button to place two app windows side by side
  • in the Safari browser on laptop, make a window full-screen, then click ‘View’ and untoggle ‘Always Show Toolbar in Full Screen’ (to make the toolbar appear again, bring your cursor to the top of the screen)
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Limit notifications

Allow only those notifications you really need, at the times you need them

Notifications settings

Mac
PC
iPhone / iPad
Android

Why: Nothing to install, simply a systems setting to be familiar with

What it can do:

  • go over your notifications settings and carefully consider which apps you will allow to notify you - toggle off any notifications you do not need

Cons: No immediate downsides.

Try it:

  • on iOS, go to Settings -> Notifications
  • on Android, go to Settings -> Apps & notifications -> Notifications
Schedule or toggle Do Not Disturb

Mac
iPhone / iPad
Android

Why: Nothing to install, simply a systems setting to be familiar with

What it can do:

  • schedule Do Not Disturb, so that during certain hours (e.g. 9pm to 8am) only calls from your favorite contacts go through directly:
  • alternatively, manually toggle on Do Not Disturb when you need to focus

Cons: If you easily worry about missing something important, it requires a little care in setting it up, so that the things you do want to let through always are in fact let through.

Try it:

  • set up schedule: on iOS go to Settings > Do Not Disturb ; on Android, swipe down from the top of your screen to open the notification shade, press and hold the Do Not Disturb icon, then open up ‘more settings’
  • manual toggle: on iOS, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open up control center, then select the moon-shaped Do Not Disturb icon ; on Android, swipe down from the top of your screen to open the notification shade, and select the Do Not Disturb icon

Track yourself

Track yourself

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Understand how you use your devices

Use a tracking tool to see how much time you spend in which apps at what times

Digital Wellbeing

Android

Why: Made by Google, so it’s well-designed and possibly pre-installed on your Android device

What it can do:

Get a daily view of your digital habits:

  • How frequently do you use different apps?
  • How many notifications do you receive?
  • How often do you check your phone or unlock your device?

Cons: Limited ability to analyse your data

Price: Free

Try it:

  • go to Settings > Digital Wellbeing
Screen Time

Mac
iPhone / iPad

Why: Made by Apple, so it’s built-in on iOS and Mac. Only option for blocking functionality on iPhones and iPads.

What it can do:

  • allows you to inspect your use on iOS and Mac
  • if you have multiple Apple devices, you can see your combined usage

Cons: Limited ability to analyse your data

Price: Free

Try it:

  • to inspect your use: on iOS go to Settings -> Screen Time; on Mac go to System Preferences -> Screen Time
  • to combine use across devices, on your iOS devices go to Settings -> Screen Time, then toggle on Share Across Devices
RescueTime

Mac
PC

Why: Very well reviewed in tech magazines and blogs. User-friendly. You can download your data. Does not sell or share your data.

What it can do:

  • tracks time spent on your laptop and automatically categorises in ‘productive’ and ‘not productive’ time
  • receive weekly & annual summaries, and see how your patterns of use have changed over time
  • can also block websites

Cons: Few, apart from the general limitation that understanding your behaviour normally isn’t sufficient to change it.

Price: $6.50/month

Try it:

StayFree

Android

Why: Very highHighest ratings & most reviews among time tracking apps on Google Play

What it can do:

  • view charts and statistics of your usage history
  • notify you when you are spending more time in an app than a set limit
  • export your usage history to CSV or Microsoft Excel file

Cons: Does not tell you which exact websites you spend time on within a web browsing app.

Price: Free (in-app purchases & ads)

Try it:

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Focus in bursts with a timer

Use a countdown timer to help you focus – decide what you’ll do and for how long

Be Focused

Mac
iPhone / iPad

Why: Very highly rated on the Apple App Store.

What it can do:

  • on iOS, provides a simple countdown interface, along with a todo-list and usage history
  • on Mac, adds a simple icon to your menu bar that you can click to set yourself a task you’ll do and start a countdown timer

Cons: None.

Price: Free. Pro version: $0.99 (removes banners and ads).

Try it:

FocusMe

Chrome

Why: Very highly rated on the Chrome Web Store

What it can do:

  • adds a toolbar icon, which can be clicked to start a timer
  • you can see the countdown, second-for-second, on the toolbar icon

Cons: Timer only appears on your web browser.

Price: Free

Try it:

Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant

Chrome

Why: Very highly rated on the Chrome Web Store

What it can do:

  • super minimalistic pomodoro timer: adds a little toolbar icon with a red countdown timer
  • click this icon to start or stop a countdown timer; right click it to see your history or configure the timer durations

Cons: Timer only appears on your web browser. May be too minimalistic.

Price: Free

Try it:

Pomodoro clock extension

Firefox

Why: Very highly rated on the Firefox Add-ons Store

What it can do:

  • adds a toolbar icon, which can be clicked to start a timer
  • you can see the number of minutes remaining on the countdown on the toolbar icon

Cons: Timer only appears on your web browser.

Price: Free

Try it:

Minimalist Pomodoro Timer

Android

Why: Very highly rated on the Google Play store

What it can do:

  • minimalistic pomodoro timer with immersive full-screen mode
  • customisable in most ways you might want (focus & break length, timer styles, daily reminders, notification sounds)

Cons: None.

Price: Free

Try it:

Keep your goals in mind

Keep your goals in mind

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Put motivational quotes or to-do’s on new tabs

Use a browser extension to change the content of newly opened tabs

Todo Tab

Chrome

Why: Very highly rated on the Chrome Web Store

What it can do:

  • replaces the content of new tabs with a clean and simple to-do list

Cons: Depending on how you use your browser, you may prefer to see recently visited websites, or other information, on new tabs.

Price: Free

Try it:

Daily motivation

Chrome

Why: Very highly rated on the Chrome Web Store

What it can do:

  • shows a new motivational quote every time you open a new tab - replaces the default content of new tabs

Cons: Depending on how you use your browser, you may prefer to see recently visited websites, or other information, on new tabs.

Price: Free

Try it:

Daily Motivational Tab

Firefox

Why: Among the limited number of these extensions for Firefox, this is the most highly rated option.

What it can do:

  • replaces the content of new tabs with a series of motivational images overlaid with the text ‘never never never give up’

Cons: Displaying five images side by side might be less calming than having just one single image.

Price: Free

Try it:

Motivation

Firefox

Why: Highly rated on the Firefox Add-ons store

What it can do:

  • when you’ve installed this extension, you enter your date of birth — then, every time you open a new tab, a running timer of your current age will be shown

Cons: Depending on your personality, you may find it more stressful than motivating to see a counter of your age.

Price: Free

Try it:

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Replace distractions on the web with a to-do list

Use a browser extension to replace recommendations and feeds with a to-do list.

Todobook

Chrome

Why: Very highly rated on the Chrome Web Store

What it can do:

  • can be used on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Product Hunt, Hacker News, and LinkedIn
  • replaces YouTube’s video recommendations, Facebook’s or LinkedIn’s newsfeed, and similar distractions with a to-do list
  • when you have completed all to-do’s, you unlock the newsfeed / recommendations for 5 minutes

Cons: As per 29th November 2020, it seems the extension has not yet been updated to work with the new Facebook design - it still works on the other sites.

Price: Free

Try it:

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Redirect yourself away from distracting sites

Use a browser extension to send you to a useful website when you open a distracting one.

Timewarp

Chrome

Why: Highly rated on the Chrome Web Store

What it can do:

  • set up ‘wormholes’ on distracting sites: either (1) Redirect (takes you to a more productive site which you specify), (2) Quote (shows a motivational quote), or (3) Timer (shows the time you’ve spent on the site today)

Cons: Only applies to Chrome

Price: Free

Try it:

Nudge

Firefox

Why: A new tool on the Firefox Add-ons store that provides a simple solution for setting a goal and keep returning to it

What it can do:

  • set a target webpage — the one you want to focus on — then block the sites that are distracting you away from it
  • next time you try to access a site that you’ve blocked, Nudge will send you right back to your target page

Cons: Cannot block sites in bulk

Price: Free

Try it:

Make your goals attractive

Make your goals attractive

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Set up reward or punishment

Add a reward for staying focused, e.g. by protecting a virtual plant or animal

Forest

iPhone / iPad
Android
Chrome

Why: One of the most used (10M+ installs) and praised productivity apps on the Google Play, Chrome Web, and Apple App stores

What it can do:

  • essentially a gamified productivity timer:
    1. plant a tree and set a duration of time where you want to focus and not use your smartphone / distracting websites (Chrome)
    1. If you stay focused without getting distracted before the time is up, you’ll get a beautiful, healthy tree; if you cannot resist using your phone, your tree will die
    1. grow your personal forest over time by being focused

Cons: Some people might not find it motivating.

Price: $1.99 on Apple App Store

Free on Google Play

Try it:

Flora

iPhone / iPad

Why: The most highly rated and reviewed alternative to Forest on the Apple App store

What it can do:

  • similar to Forest: (1) plant a tree and set a duration of time where you want to focus and not use your smartphone, (2) if you commit to your task without getting distracted before the time is up, you’ll get a beautiful, healthy tree; if you cannot resist using your phone, your tree will wither, (3) unlock new trees over time by succesfully focusing
  • multiple people can sync with each other and grow trees together

Cons: Some people might not find it motivating.

Price: Free (in-app purchases)

Try it:

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Go grey scale

Turn your phone in grayscale mode to avoid visual distraction from shiny icons

Grey scale

iPhone / iPad
Android

Why: No need to install anything, it’s a simple systems setting

What it can do:

  • app icons and notifications markers are designed to be eye-catching - putting your phone in grey scale can tone down their allure.
  • Note that for this to be useful, you need to be able to toggle it on and off easily, because you will want to turn colour back on for some functionality (like maps)

Cons: Might be tedious to toggle on and off, when colour is needed.

Try it:

  • on iPhone / iPad, set a triple-tap on the Home button to toggle grey scale on and off, by going to: Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Colour Filters
  • on Android (v11+) add a gray scale toggle to your quick settings: (1) from the top of your screen, swipe down twice, (2) at the bottom left, tap Edit (3) touch and hold the grayscale symbol, then drag to where you want it
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Move distracting apps out of sight

Reduce visual distraction and mindless use by moving apps off the homescreen

Moving apps off home screen

iPhone / iPad
Android

Why: No need to install anything, it’s simply about organising your device layout.

What it can do:

  • arrange your apps so that the home screen is minimalistic and simple, and the apps you want to use less often require a bit more effort to get to.
  • for example, try limiting your first page of apps to only apps you use for quick in-and-out tasks - move the rest, especially those you find yourself using mindlessly, off the first page and put them in folders

Cons: None.

Try it:

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Write under time pressure

Set a time or word goal, then begin typing – if you stop early, everything is deleted

The Most Dangerous Writing App

Chrome
Firefox
Safari

Why: Positive reviews in magazines from Wired to Lifehacker; nothing to install - just visit it in your web browser

What it can do:

  • simulates the feeling of being so close to a deadline that you just need to keep going to get our your first draft
  • if you stop typing for more than a few seconds before your reach your goal (typing for a number of minutes, or typing a number of words), everything is deleted.
  • very useful in those writing situations where you just need to bash out a rough draft, which you will then edit afterwards

Cons: Only useful for specific writing purposes.

Price: Free

Try it:

  • go to the website, set a time or word goal, then begin typing
Flowstate

Mac
iPhone / iPad

Why: Loads of critical acclaim in tech magazines and very highly rated on the Apple App Store

What it can do:

  • choose how long you want to write (5, 15, 30 min), then enter a flow session.
  • if you exit early, or stop typing for longer than five seconds, all progress is lost
  • the only way to save your work is by writing until the timer ends.
  • in this way, the app forces you into a state of flow

Cons: Only useful for specific writing purposes.

Price: ~$10 on Apple App Store

Try it: