Can't stop checking status updates? The software formerly known as MacFreedom, and now shortened to Freedom ($10 for Mac and Windows) shuts down your Internet access for a set amount of time. It's serious: The only way to renege on the set time is to turn off your computer. This app is a good choice if you need to work on a non-Internet-based project, such as word processing or visual design, or if you're trying to rein in some easily distracted kids who need to focus.
The rub is that many workers need to use the Internet to get things done, whether the resource in question be Wikipedia or Google, and those pesky social networks are always just a tab away. If you need a little hole in your cone of silence, but worry about refreshing Twitter every 10 seconds, check out Freedom's sister product, Anti-Social ($15, Mac). This accurately titled software allows you to venture onto the Internet, but it locks out Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, and other distracting time-sucks. Paying someone to keep you off the Internet may sound crazy, but it's not as crazy (or as expensive) as frittering away your productivity on the new MySpace.
Freedom and Anti-Social can't curtail every distraction, but they can give you plenty of flexibility with settings ranging from 15 minutes to 8 hours. Each offers a trial option, and they're certainly worth a spin. For now Anti-Social is strictly Mac-compatible, but a Windows version is reportedly in the works. Until then, browser extensions can do the trick for PC users. Check out LeechBlock for Firefox and Nanny for Google Chrome. Just don't sabotage yourself by blocking social sites from one browser and then launching another browser to get your Facebook fix.
It doesn't matter how much you avoid the Internet, though, if you don't schedule work time at the computer. Binary Hammer's free 30/30 (iOS) is a gorgeously designed time management app that divides your tasks into 30-minute segments, though you can quickly adjust the task's time and type.
All of 30/30's functions are icon based: Tap the minute icons to increase or decrease the time slated for each task, push the trash can to remove a task, push the pause button to stop the timer, and so on. Binary Hammer loads the app with generic text, but you can replace that with your own specific tasks. 30/30 even provides icons--like a keyboard and an envelope--that you can use to represent your tasks. Each task is color coded, too, so you can quickly see what you're focusing on at the moment.
Available on all iOS devices, 30/30 can sync tasks across multiple devices.
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