Best apps to block distractions

5 min read

Three minutes. That’s the length of time a University of California study found that we can work for without becoming distracted — either by our surroundings or by ourselves.

Whether it’s working from home, in a library, or in an office, we’re continually tempted by background programs and other technology (how many of us look away from our screens to check our phones?). Constant access to everything we could ever want to see makes it harder to work uninterrupted: but how to block online distractions and keep on track?

How to ACTUALLY Stop Wasting Time on the Internet

Anyone who spends a lot of time online, for work, leisure, or both knows that 95% of the internet is one massive distraction. Distractions are destructive to productivity. For every interruption or distraction, it can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get your work back on track.

As hard as it might be to avoid every kind of distraction — notifications from email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and dozens of other apps — there are tools that can give us a boost when our willpower starts to waver.

Turn off your WiFi

You probably know that your smartphone has an Airplane Mode or Do Not Disturb function, which blocks or snoozes all signals, including data, WiFi, and calling services, leaving you with apps that don’t connect to the outside world, such as your notepad, calendar, and photos.

Macs don’t have a similar feature, but you can disconnect your WiFi. Just make sure to turn the WiFi off completely. Otherwise, your Mac will keep searching for new WiFi networks to connect to.

wifi guest home

Now you can no longer access the internet. It’s focus time, and it’s great if you’re working with applications such as Pages or Numbers, as they don’t require the network, but if you absolutely need to access the internet without getting distracted, there are a few more apps that could help you out.

But can apps really eliminate distractions and help you focus? Yes. When certain apps are used effectively, instead of as another distraction, they can actually focus your attention on the task at hand and prompt you to refrain from wasting time elsewhere.

Allow access to useful websites only

More often than not you still need access to some of the internet, which is enough to get you distracted. Creating a document in Pages may require research on Safari, or putting together a spreadsheet in Numbers might need collaborative emails. So, cutting off all internet isn’t the answer. Instead, we need to streamline our access.

Focus is an app that doesn’t remove your access from the internet: it simply removes your access to unnecessary sites that are stealing your time and your focus. Does an internet search ever turn into a Facebook scroll? A 30-second Instagram check becomes 30 minutes of post-hopping? Focus allows you to create lists of sites or applications that it will restrict you from using.

When you try to get to the restricted apps or sites with Focus on, a motivational quote will remind you to keep focused on the task at hand. Focus doesn’t even have to be manually applied every time you want it — you can set timers so that your restrictions are in place during weekday working hours. You would be able to use all of your internet applications, just without the time-wasting culprits.

focus app

Focus on one app at a time

Perhaps it isn’t social media and news sites that are eating up your time. When you’re working on massive projects, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by dozens of windows filling up your screen, particularly when working split-screen. You need all of the applications that you’re using within reach, but at the same time, you want to focus on whichever application you’re interacting with right now. So, how do you prevent yourself from jumping from window to window?

HazeOver is your perfect app to keep everything you need right there on your screen but dimming out applications which you’re not currently using. It’s by far the best way to stop your eyes from jumping all over the place.

hazeover lighting dimming

You don’t have to go into full-screen to relegate applications to the background. Instead, HazeOver will unobtrusively dim them while keeping the main window bright.

The app is particularly useful for working at night, when overpowering brightness can be detrimental to your eyes. With HazeOver, your gaze is physically drawn to the current window, so your attention is less likely to wander. And, after working hard on a project, it’s great for relaxing and watching movies and flicking through photos too.

Set time limits for work and rest

Sometimes we just need that extra nudge to focus on a project and resist the temptation to browse elsewhere. This is particularly important when your project is time sensitive. It seems that the bigger the project is, and the closer it gets to the deadline, the more overwhelming it can seem. And when a project is overwhelming, it’s difficult to focus or even to find a point to start from.

Conversely, if a project has a deadline that is more flexible or further away, it’s easy to become complacent. After all, we have plenty of time so that we can approach it in a more laid-back fashion — and then, before we know it, the deadline is looming, and we’ve only done a fraction of the work. But if you have a time limit, you can commit to bursts of activity that are equalized by timed breaks.

Be Focused is a productivity timer that works across Mac, iPad, and iPhone, so the experience remains consistent regardless of the device you’re using. The app can be used for a one-off task that needs your full attention, or it can handle goals across a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.

be focused app

To keep you on track, Be Focused breaks up your project into smaller manageable tasks — you choose how many you can realistically handle per day, reaching your potential without overburdening yourself.

You can also factor in your breaks to keep yourself refreshed. The app offers a report that shows just how many tasks you have completed in a given time frame, so you can monitor how your productivity is increasing. In time, you may find yourself slipping unconsciously into the habit of short bursts of activity, breaking to re-energize, and then working again until you complete all your to-do’s.

Extra tip: Focus easier with AI soundscapes

Boost your focus with AI soundscapes that are generated in real time and match a location, weather, and current time — bring an ambient atmosphere to your workspace with GetSound. The app’s customizable soundscapes help you focus on your tasks and provide a breezy pace to your day.

You can grab the app on Setapp and enjoy the customizable playback every time you want to focus, relax, or fully focus on work.

GetSound London sounds

Use a combination of apps to battle procrastination

With distraction-filtering apps, you take control of your tasks, rather than the tasks feeling like an insurmountable challenge. The true secret lies in using a combination of the apps listed above, all of which are available on Setapp, to create a supremely concentrated working environment, so that every minute is accounted for and used to its full potential.

Setapp is a flexible app subscription service that provides you with a selection of quality apps for daily tasks on Mac and iOS devices. You can grab a Setapp subscription starting at $9.99/month and enjoy easy access to dozens of apps for writing, editing, work with code, AI chats, work with media, design, customizing your Mac, digital security, focus, and much more.

240+ apps for $9.99
per month

Sign up to Setapp and try them for free.