Website Blocking Apps. Do you they work for you?

Hey there!

Does anyone here use Freedom.to or heyfocus.com?

I’ve come to the sad realisation that I might need a little help in this area to break a few habits during the working day.

Both apps seem pretty similar, but I’m not sure which one to go for.

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I’ve used Focus (https://heyfocus.com) extensively in the past and found it worked really well. I’ve also put Freedom through its paces and didn’t find it as useful on the Mac.

p.s. Focus is available as part of the Setapp subscription.

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I have used Focus for years. The trick is remembering to activate it, but it has a few automations (like scheduling) to help with that. It’s wonderful.

Definitely helped me get through my undergrad, masters, and PhD comprehensives!

Forest on iOS provides something similar for your phone/iPad.

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Thanks chaps! Sounds like Focus is the way to go. Will download the trial this evening and see how I get on.

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You’re very welcome, Leanda. I’ll be curious to hear your impressions once you have a chance to kick the tyres.

Sure thing! Installed and already ran a couple of focus sessions this afternoon. So far, so good! Will follow up though after a few weeks using it.

Thanks again!

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Count me as a vote for Freedom. I haven’t used Focus, so I can’t compare, but I’ve used Freedom effectively for years. It does take some self-discipline to turn these tools on, or to not thwart them (though there are mechanisms in the software that make thwarting near impossible).

I happen to know the creator of Freedom personally, and can say without a doubt that he’s a truly standup individual.

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Hey Beck! I remember you talking about Freedom on your Learn OmniFocus session.

I tend to do most of my focused work on my Macs and have found that Focus was a better option for me. Last time I checked, it was quite a bit much more configurable than Freedom and allowed me to do things like automatically kick off a Pomodoro timer app at the start of a Focus session.

On a side note, the timer app I used is also called Focus (https://www.masterbuilders.io) which can cause some confusion. It’s an outstanding app as well.

I could see Freedom being a good option for people who want this sort of functionality across multiple platforms.

p.s. Next time you’re talking to Fred…it would be helpful if the free trial of Freedom provided more than seven sessions. For most people, I don’t think seven sessions is enough to get a good sense of how well the product works for them…especially given that they may use a few of these sessions experimenting with the functionality. Instead, it would be nice to have full access for a week to two.

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I, too, haven’t used Freedom, only because I never looked beyond Focus.

Focus’ scriptability is my favourite feature. If you’re comfortable with simple scripting, you can use this trick from Jason Snell to trigger Focus from iOS (e.g., via Shortcuts).

If anyone is interested in this but can’t figure out how to get started, let me know and I can post more thorough instructions.

There’s also SelfControl:

SelfControl is a free and open-source application for macOS that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites—even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

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Curious - what does SelfControl do to your system that enables it to block websites, even after deleting the app? Does app uninstallation clean-up using CleanMyMac or Hazel remove its ability to block websites?

I’ll be following this thread with interest - I ashamedly spent four hours watching Pokemon speed runs on YouTube last night…

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I’ve never looked into it, and I don’t want to know, so if you find out, please don’t share the info :slight_smile:

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I’m too lazy to install SelfControl to find out, so I think you’re safe :smile:

I know how to hard-block traffic to specific domains in a way that can only be manually removed… I suspect that’s what SelfControl is doing. If you really wanna know, DM me!

That’s interesting. Do you know if it would be possible to start a focus session using Keyboard Maestro? There’s a Stream Deck in my future and it would be great to trigger a session via a button.

SelfControl basically writes the blacklisted sites to your /etc/hosts list and therefore redirects them to 127.0.0.1 (your own machine) and creates a dead end for any attempt to access the specific domain. Technically you would still be able to access any of the services, if you use one of their IP addresses, instead of using the domain that you blacklisted.

SelfControl also creates a “SelfControl.lock” file in /etc/, which acts as a storage for the timestamp of the end of the session. You can – given that you have root rights – edit this .lock file manually to shorten the period.

You can run SelfControl from the command line: https://github.com/SelfControlApp/selfcontrol/wiki/Running-SelfControl-from-the-Terminal

Use it in conjunction with the “Execute a Shell Script” action in Keyboard Maestro :ok_hand:

I strongly recommend using Cold Turkey for Mac/Windows.

It has many features but my favourite is you can limit some websites and apps to only allow you X minutes per day and you can set it for a month advance. Once you set it, it cannot be removed so it keeps you honest. You cannot use VPN to get around it, not quit it via Activity Monitor, Uninstall it or switch to a different browser.

I’m currently doing Cal’s 30 day digital declutter challenge and have limited YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook to 60mins per day. After that time, the app quits or you’re redirected to a homepage.

If you don’t like this feature you can schedule instead a time each day you’ll use your designated apps or websites. Alternatively, you can just set Cold Turkey to just to block stuff for the next few hours for example. There are a lot of options.

I’ve made massive changes in my life since 1 December 2019 using this app, it’s possibly been the most productive period of my life.

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For sure. If you stick with Focus, it’s scriptable in the same way SelfControl is as per Leo, above.

I actually haven’t set up buttons for Focus on my own Stream Deck, but I should… feel free to bug me to do so and share the macros!

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I’d definitely recommend Freedom if you need help across multiple devices. It helped me a LOT with my procrastination. Thankfully, I’m much improved now, so don’t need that level of self-control.

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