These smartphones are fantastic for productivity, really. You can check your email, research things online, read your RSS feeds, take photos, upload them to Facebook, read what your friends have to say on Facebook, chat to friends using a variety of IMs… wait. Somewhere in that list my productivity got thrown out of the window. That’s right, there are also dozens of ways to be completely unproductive on your smartphone. In fact, you could quite easily spend all day playing Angry Birds (or in my case, Dominion) and never get anything useful done at all. That’s why I’ve decided to investigate a few smartphone addiction apps that claim to help you regain your life by blocking your smartphone activity.
Why would anyone want to limit their own smartphone usage? Well, for starters, it could save you your job. It could also help you to stay on task towards your more meaningful goals, such as: studying, reading full-length novels instead of just articles you find on Reddit, writing more yourself, or maybe even hanging out with people in real life. Most of which are legitimate things you could be doing on your smartphone. So, let’s check out the best ways to control yourself.
Stay On Task
The Stay On Task app is smartphone addiction app which doesn’t aim to control you in any way, but merely reminds you that you had plans. Quite literally, it asks you of you are “Still on task” at random points after you have started the app. Normally, this is after around 15-30 minutes or so. So, just long enough that you may have strayed onto something else and forgotten about your task. It is helpful if all it takes is a reminder to get you on task again, but if you’re less motivated you’ll find it completely useless.
The Keep Focus app is a great way to set up a number of different focus blocks for different types of activity. For instance, when I’m working I might like to block Facebook, Reddit,, games and anything else that is generally for chatting and killing time. In the evenings, I may want to block out work and stop myself from checking my email for a while. Or, I might decide that if I am awake during the night I want to force myself to read a real book on the Kindle app instead of Reddit. Each focus block can have different hours of action, different apps blocked and other variables altered according to your needs, such as blocking wifi/3G access and more. In the settings, you can also choose to nominate an app which will be opened whenever you try to open a blocked app. Say, for instance, your to-do list.
Self Control For Study
The Self Control For Study app is dedicated to the idea of studying being your only real focus. Because of this, the settings are the same whenever it is activated. Also, by default everything is blocked and you choose which apps are to be excepted from blocking. I recommend that you make exceptions for all your best productivity apps and anything that will try to notify you. When I first opened the app I set a trial time and then moved on to set the app up. This was a bad move, as the app doesn’t let you change settings while the block is active. I also had alerts from “Stay On Task” demanding my attention and getting blocked by this app. The result was quite noisy and annoying. Thankfully, this app does allow an override option (unless you remove it), which by default is the act of connecting your phone to a USB slot. Another great feature of this app for students is that it adds up all the time slots you’ve deemed “study time” and shows you how much study you’ll get done in a week.
The Procrastination Punisher app is a little bit of a scary concept, designed for people who are motivated by money — or the desire to keep money, at least. The app will charge you a fee every time you wish to override a block you’ve set up, then they send the money to your chosen charity (from a pre-defined list of several great charities). Similarly to Keep Focus, you can set up different sorts of things you’d like to block for, such as work and study. You go about this by setting all of your work hours and all of your study hours. Then you set up the blocks and punishments by app, choosing which time profile you’d like to block the app for and nominating a price to be able to open that app. Where it seems to fall down, though, is that it’s possible to just change the blocking set-up in the app even when it’s the middle of one of your time profiles. So, it’s very easy to just delete the block or change the blocked app to something else – which kind of defeats the purpose of blocking it. You can’t even use one of the other apps to block Procrastination Punisher as it needs to be able to run in order to charge you to use the app you’d like. But, one day this app will probably add some sort of locking mechanism (like ‘Self Control For Study’ has) and then it will be awesome.
If you’re looking for other ways to block apps, you could consider using a parental control device – perhaps giving the control to a trusted person in your household. It’s certainly something that could work!
How do you curb your smartphone addiction? Do you block apps or remind yourself to get on with other things?