SelfControl – A free Mac application to help you avoid distracting websites

If you’re like me, you often find yourself browsing to other websites when you’re really supposed to be getting something done. Sometimes it takes hours to get back on track. For years I’ve been looking for a simple way to block myself from going to certain sites during work hours, or after work while I’m trying to get some writing done.

SelfControl Webpage

Last week, Aaron Parecki told me about an app called SelfControl, and it immediately solved my problems. SelfControl provides a visual interface and a simple countdown timer, which is the kind of feedback that works well for my brain.

SelfControl is a free and open-source application for Mac OS X (10.5 or above) 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.

SelfControl App Start

After you download the SelfControl App, you can set how long you’d like to be blocked from sites and then press start.

SelfControl Timer

You’ll get a little SelfControl App dialog with a timer and a Blacklist button.

SelfControl Blacklist

Simply add sites to the blacklist by typing them in.

SelfControl in Dock

When everything is set, you’ll get a little timer on the icon in your doc. Remember that even if you turn off the app you’ll still be beholden to the timer! I just shut off Gmail access for 12 hours and am not getting it back!

SelfControl is free, open source, and Mac only. You can download SelfControl here.