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Five software tools to help online students avoid distractions

Whether it comes from Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram or Reddit, distractions abound online.

This is especially true for online students, who do much of their work on the Internet. How do you resist the urge to check social media when your phone is blowing up with notifications? How do you not check that email, not Google a question that just came to you, or not see if your friend read that important message you sent her on Facebook? If you can’t find the willpower, there’s another way.

Here are five software tools to help online students stay disciplined and avoid distractions.

1. Anti-Social


Sometimes in order to be productive you just have to push away everyone in your life for a time and become anti-social, which is the entire point of the Anti-Social ( tool.

For $15, Anti-Social will block the websites that distract you from getting work done. Facebook and Twitter instantly become off limits to you, for as little as 15 minutes or for as long as you designate. You can also add more websites to your block list. The software is compatible with Windows, Mac and Ubuntu, and the only way to get out of it is by rebooting your computer and then running the software for a few minutes until it clears your list.

Yep, that will pretty much keep you off those time-wasting websites. Peace out, distractions!

2. LeechBlock

If a website is sucking away your life much like a leech might, then it’s time to resort to LeechBlock (

Just like Anti-Social, LeechBlock lets you block websites. But unlike Anti-Social, LeechBlock is free and only requires that you have a Firefox browser. Another great thing about LeechBlock is that, in addition to being able to block certain sites at certain times (like 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), you can also block sites after a certain time limit (like allowing yourself to be on that time-wasting site for only 10 minutes per hour.)

Goodbye distractions. We had a good run.

3. Freedom


Sometimes you need to take extreme measures, and that’s exactly what Freedom ( software does.

Freedom, which works for Windows, Mac and Android, costs $10 and completely kicks you offline for however long you desire. This, of course, is not useful if you’re working on an online assignment or exam, or need to research something online for a paper. But, even as an online student, there are times when you just need to write a paper or do an assignment that doesn’t require the Internet. In this scenario, Freedom is the ultimate lifesaver. And if you realize you need to get back online, just reboot your computer and you’re back.

Freedom from distractions!

4. Time Out


If you can’t help but take Facebook breaks (you’re only human, right?), then at least go about it the right way with Time Out (

Available for Mac OS X users, Time Out is a tool that reminds you to take breaks. This can be a “normal” break (like 10 minutes for every 50 minutes of work) or a “micro” break (like 10 seconds for every 10 minutes). You can postpone or skip any break if you’re too in the zone. This software can help you avoid distractions by scheduling your distractions for you, so you don’t end up spending hours on Facebook.

Time Out could be the ultimate balance of distractions and getting stuff done.

5. RescueTime

rescue time

RescueTime ( is like multiple apps in one.

Not only will it allow you to block certain sites for an allotted period of time, but it also tracks how long you spend on sites and sends you a report. It logs what you accomplished during the day, alerts you when you’ve been on a certain site for a while, and grants you a timer if you want it to track activity on a certain site at that moment. There are free and paid versions. It’s available on Mac, PC, Android and Linux.

Basically, RescueTime is like a concerned boss or mother, which, let’s be honest, is something we all need sometimes.

With any or all of these five productivity tools, you have a fighting chance at beating distractions. Even the most disciplined of online students needs that sometimes.





Time Out,


About the Author


Jon Fortenbury is an Austin-based freelance writer who specializes in higher education. He’s been published all over the place, ranging from USA Today College to, and is a featured contributor to


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