Working from home has its perks, but the downside for many of us is that it can be hard to stay focused and get work done. There are a myriad of distractions, from housework and kids to TV. But the biggest culprit is mindless Internet browsing. To help you avoid wasting time on Facebook and other time-sucking websites, I have compiled a list of the best productivity apps and extensions for helping home business owners, such as yourself, get more work done.
This is my go-to app for keeping me on task during my work day. It's a Chrome extension, so it's for anyone who uses Google Chrome.* Nanny allows me to block websites I choose so that I can't get distracted by them when I am trying to get work done. This extension is popular because it's very flexible. You can choose the lockdown option, which disables Google Chrome completely and leaves you free to work on desktop software like Microsoft Word or Excel. However, most of us have work to do online and we need our browser active. To keep using your browser while preventing procrastination, you can choose to block certain websites at certain times of the day. You can also choose to allow yourself a set amount of time for accessing your blocked sites each day, making it possible for you to visit them briefly during breaks.
First of all, I don't use the lockdown option that prevents all websites from loading. There are very few work-related tasks I do at my computer that don't involve being on websites. Instead, I listed all my time-sucking websites on a "block list" in Nanny and blocked them from 8am until 6pm Monday through Friday. I then chose to allow myself 15 minutes per day on these websites so I can take a break during the day. That 15 minutes is for all the sites on my blocked list, not 15 minutes per website!
Nanny has a list of recommended websites that you can choose to add to your list, or you can just add your own. If you find yourself spending too much time on a website not already on your blocked list, adding it is easy.
*If you're using Firefox or Internet Explorer, I highly recommend upgrading to Chrome. It's faster at loading pages, it's lighter on your hard drive and there are a lot of very cool extensions you can use to customize it. Plus, it's made by Google. 'Nuff said.
I upgraded from Firefox to Chrome a few years back, but when I did use Firefox, this was the add-on I used. Like the Nanny extension, you can list which sites you want to block and when you want to block them. With LeechBlock you can also set it to allow you a few minutes before the site blocking starts. For example, if you want to be able to check Facebook when you stop for lunch, you can set it up to only start blocking after 10 minutes, or however many minutes you specify.
This is a very simple and very effective tool for Mac users. It allows you to block access to any websites you specify from any browser on your computer. A friend of mine uses this app because when she is blocked on a website in Chrome, she just opens up Firefox and gets surfing! So if you are a serial procrastinator with a penchant for getting around your productivity apps, this is for you.
I love the simplicity of this app: You simply create a blacklist of sites you want to restrict and tell SelfControl how long you want to block those sites for. If you have a huge day ahead of you, you might select eight hours. If you have short task that you need to get out of the way quickly, you can choose one hour.
I use this Mac app in conjunction with Nanny to lock down access to all websites on my blacklist. The reason I use SelfControl (love the irony behind the name, by the way) is because there are certain websites such as Facebook that I have to use for work on a daily basis, so adding them to Nanny and blocking them from 8am 'til 6pm won't work for me. Instead, I use SelfControl when I have a task that doesn't require any sites on my blacklist. It's great for tasks that I find a drag, which make me more likely to trail off and procrastinate.
I used to get so distracted with desktop and iPhone notifications! If I got an email (which happens at least 25 times per day), my Gmail notifier would pop up on my computer and my iPhone. If someone messaged me on Facebook, or liked my latest photo on Instagram, or interacted with me somehow, I got a notification on my phone. It was incredibly distracting for me, so I edited all my settings to get rid of all the beeping and flashing on my phone. I keep notifications on for phone calls and text messages, as these are more important and don't interrupt me as much.
For all the iPhone users out there, you can choose between no notifications, banner notifications and alerts. I turned off alerts for email, social media apps and so on and only see banners when I unlock my phone. I don't see alerts when my phone is locked. You can do this by looking under Settings > Notifications, then selecting each app and customizing how you get notified.
I hope these tips are useful for you. At the end of the day, productivity and the willingness to get work done comes from within, but apps like these can help keep you on track.
Just for Fun
Are you a Facebook addict? A Candy Crush fanatic? Do you find it hard to go longer than 15 minutes without checking Twitter or your favorite news site? Leave me a comment below and tell me what you do when you start procrastinating!