How to block a website when you’re distracted and need to focus: The best tools, tips, and workflows

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You sit down ready to power through a task, study for an exam, or do important research. But before you can even start… you suddenly find yourself scrolling through Facebook or an hour deep into a YouTube rabbit hole. 

It’s disheartening to feel like you’re not in control of your own actions.

Yet it’s impossible to avoid the websites, apps, and online products that feed on our focus. This is why you need a website blocker.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to block a website on your computer, browser, and mobile phone as well as cover some of the most popular and free website blockers available. 

How to block a website when you need to focus:

How to block a website using parental controls

If you’re looking for a free website blocker, you don’t have to look further than your operating system.

Both Mac and Windows have built-in parental controls that allow you to choose sites you want to make inaccessible to your children (or yourself when you need to focus). 

The main benefit of this method is that it’s free and allows you to create hard blocks on websites.

However, it’s not very flexible or as intuitive as some of the other methods. This means you’ll have to actively log in and out of accounts when you want to stay focused.

How to block distracting sites on Windows

  • Create a “child” account under Settings > Accounts > Family & other people > Add a child
  • Scroll down to Web browsing and add the URLs of any sites you want to be blocked under Always blocked
  • Log out and log back in under your new “child” account when you want to block websites and stay focused
  • Check out this support article for more info

How to block distracting sites on Mac

  • Create a “child” account under System Preferences > Parental Controls and then select Create a new user account with parental controls
  • Head back to Parental controls and select your new child account. You’ll now be able to select what websites and apps you want to block as well as time limits for weekdays, weekends, and bedtime. 
  • Check out this support article for more info

How to block a website on Google Chrome and other browsers

A better option than going through your device’s parental controls is to get a website blocker for Google Chrome or whatever browser you’re using.

There are a lot of good options that will block websites when you’re focused, studying, or even after you hit a daily time limit.

Let’s look at a few:

RescueTime

RescueTime’s FocusTime feature is a powerful website blocker designed to help you stay focused, be more productive, and build better habits. FocusTime works on the majority of modern browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Brave.

But where FocusTime truly shines is in how intuitively it blocks websites for you. FocusTime can be set to intelligently block websites based on your daily goals, time spent on unproductive activities, and scheduled calendar events.

Unlike almost every other website blocker that relies on your willpower to turn it on (and off), FocusTime automatically senses when you’re distracted and blocks websites when you need it most. 

Here are just a couple of examples of how you can use it:

  • Manually block websites for a period of time (like a Pomodoro session)
  • Automatically block websites at the start of your workday
  • Trigger website blocking from your calendar events (i.e. scheduled Deep Work sessions)
  • Automatically block websites when you’ve spent too long on distracting apps and sites
  • Put Slack into do-not-disturb mode when you’re doing a FocusTime session

Pros: Quickly and easily categorize websites as distracting and add them to your block list. Trigger your website blocker based on your behavior (not just manually). 

You can also choose between allowing site unblocking during FocusTime sessions (after a 15-second pause to reflect) or hard blocking them until the end of the session. 

Finally, you can connect to other apps using Zapier, IFTTT, and our own integrations to trigger FocusTime sessions or tell your teammates when you’re focused. 

Cons: Premium feature (but you can try it out with a free 14-day trial). Doesn’t block websites on mobile browsers. 

StayFocusd

StayFocusd is a simple way to block websites on just Google Chrome. After installing the extension, StayFocusd lets you enter the maximum amount of time you want to spend on certain websites before it blocks them.

However, unlike RescueTime that allows you to set limits on whole categories of websites (for example, social media or entertainment), StayFocusd works on a case-by-case basis.

Pros: Lets you set time limits on specific websites. Choose from whole site blocking or just specific subdomains, pages, or content. Free.

Cons: Only works on Google Chrome. Takes time and effort to set up properly. Can’t set specific blocks of blocked time or trigger website blocking in any other way.   

LeechBlock

If you’re a Firefox user then you’ll want to check out LeechBlock. This ad-on lets you create custom “sets” of websites and rules around when and how they’ll be blocked. It’s much more customizable than StayFocusd.

However, it still takes considerably more set-up time and is less intuitive than FocusTime.

Pros: Tons of flexibility in choosing what sites get blocked, when, and how. Enable blocking only during specific time blocks or set time limits for specific times during the day. 

Cons: Lots of time spent on a confusing setup. Doesn’t intuitively block websites when you need it most. Only works on Firefox.

How to block a website on your iOS or Android device

Of course, desktop browsers aren’t the only places we need to block distracting websites. With our phones never out of arm’s reach, it’s all too easy to reach for your small screen and flick through the sites you wanted to block.

While mobile website blockers are a bit harder to come by, there are still a few good options that will help round out your distraction-blocking needs. 

Freedom

Our friends at Freedom have built a comprehensive website blocker that works on your iOS and Android devices (as well as your laptop). After creating your custom “block list”, you can trigger blocked sessions across all your devices. 

Pros: Works across all your devices. Schedule blocked sessions in advance. Option to block the entire internet. 

Cons: Premium (paid) feature. Have to manually start sessions (or schedule them within the Freedom app). 

Forest

While not an official website blocker, Forest helps you disconnect from your phone during the workday by planting virtual trees. If you pick up your phone within the selected “grow cycle” your tree dies. 

Pros: Encourages you to break your phone habit instead of blocking websites. Relies on behavioral nudges instead of restrictions and limits. Plus, it’s actually a lot of fun. 

Cons: Doesn’t actually block websites on your phone. Paid. 

10 powerful tips for getting the most of the FocusTime website blocker

The ultimate goal of any website blocker isn’t just to block distractions. It’s to help you retrain your attention and rebuild your focus. Rather than locking the cookie jar after you’ve eaten 3, they should help guide you towards overall healthier eating. 

Unfortunately, that’s where many website blockers fail. 

They rely too much on manually starting sessions or scheduling them in advance. But this is just a band-aid solution. To build better habits, you need to use your website blocker as a guide—coaching you towards longer periods of focus and sustained attention.

That was our goal when we built FocusTime and why we think it’s the best website blocker out there.

Here are a few powerful ways you can use FocusTime to block distracting sites, rebuild your focus, and become more productive.

Remember, you can get a free 14-day trial of RescueTime Premium including FocusTime distraction blocking as well as automatic time tracking, daily productivity goals, and more. 

1. How to block websites while using the Pomodoro technique

While FocusTime has many powerful features, it can still be used as a manual website blocker. One of the best uses for this is if you’re using the Pomodoro technique. 

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity technique where you work in 25-minute intervals, then take a short break to recharge (similar to how you might work out at the gym).

Simply click the RescueTime icon in your menu bar (MacOS) or system tray (Windows) and select Start FocusTime.

You can use RescueTime to reinforce your focused intervals by blocking sites during each 25 minutes of focus. After you’ve taken your short break, you can quickly start another session. See how many you can do in a day!

2. How to limit your time on social media sites with FocusTime

It’s easy to slip into checking Facebook or chatting on Twitter throughout the day. But that’s not how you want to spend all your time, is it? 

With FocusTime, you can offload the willpower needed to not check social media sites by setting a daily limit. For example, set an alert to give yourself a 30-minute FocusTime session after 1 hour spent on Social Networks to snap you out of it.

social-network-alert
Click the image to set up an alert like this

3. Build a better morning habit by blocking distractions at the start of your day

Our morning routine sets us up for a successful, productive day. With FocusTime, you can block distracting websites for 15 minutes first thing in the morning to avoid starting the day off unproductively. You can do this manually, or create an alert that will do it for you.

(Tip: Use the “when” dropdown when creating the alert to restrict the time of day this happens. You could create one for just weekday mornings, after lunch, etc…).

start-day-alert
Click the image to set up an alert like this

4. Trigger FocusTime during calendar events

One of the best things you can do for your productivity is to schedule every task you need to do on your calendar. Known as time blocking, this strategy not only helps you stay focused, but it keeps you realistic about how much you can get done in a day. 

With our new RescueTime for your Calendar integrations, you can now automatically trigger FocusTime during any calendar event. Simply add the integration to your account and then add #focustime into your event name or description.

FocusTime will start at the designated time and continue blocking sites throughout the event’s duration. 

This is a great way to make more time for meaningful work throughout the day or separate your Maker Time. 

Read more and connect RescueTime to Google Calendar or Outlook.

5. Block distracting websites during a particularly unproductive day

We all have bad days where we can’t seem to focus. With FocusTime, however, you can set guardrails on these days so they don’t get completely away from you. 

Use this Alert to automatically block distracting websites after you’ve logged 5 hours of unproductive time in one day. 

brutal-alert
Click the image to set up an alert like this

6. Turn off notifications from your phone and Slack when you’re focused on important work

Websites aren’t the only thing that distract you when you’re trying to focus.

Even productive things apps Slack conversations can derail you. With the RescueTime for Slack integration, you can automatically trigger a FocusTime session when you’re focused on important work like writing, designing, or coding. 

Once you install the Slack integration, you can select certain activities where you want to protect your focus. When RescueTime sees you’re spending focused time on them, it will automatically put Slack in do-not-disturb mode and also block distracting sites.

The RescueTime for Android app can also do the same thing for your phone—putting you into DND mode during FocusTime sessions. 

7. Block distracting websites at night so you can get a better sleep

Working on your computer late at night has been shown to decrease the quality and amount of sleep we get, as well as make us less productive the next day. You can block distracting websites between the hours of 10 pm and midnight (or any other period) to help you get off the computer late at night.

late-night-alert
Click the image to set up an alert like this

8. Protect your billable hours by blocking distracting websites during client work

If you’re a freelancer, agency, or anyone who relies on accurately billing clients, you can use FocusTime to keep you focused and productive during your most important hours. 

Using IFTTT (If This Then That)—a free service for connecting your apps—you can automatically start a FocusTime session when you start and stop a timer in Harvest. 

This is only one of the ways you can customize how you use FocusTime with IFTTT. Check out their main page to see how you can do things like:

  • Mute your phone when a FocusTime session starts
  • Add a “Do-Not-Disturb” event to your calendar when a FocusTime session starts
  • Turn on a smart light when a FocusTime session starts

9. Customize your list of what websites get blocked during FocusTime sessions

The great part about FocusTime is you don’t have to worry too much about compiling a big list of distracting sites you’d like to block.

RescueTime tracks how you spend your time on your digital devices and automatically categorizes and scores them on a scale of Very Distracting to Very Productive. 

Just by running RescueTime and saying “social media sites are generally distracting,” it will know what websites to block. 

By default, anything you’ve categorized as “very distracting” will be automatically blocked during a FocusTime session.

If you want to be stricter with your website blocking, you can change your settings to include any site not explicitly scored as “Productive” on your FocusTime settings page.

As you use RescueTime more it will start to understand your habits and what pages you frequent and will add those to your “distracting” list. This means if you’ve just started, it might take a day or so to build up a useful list.

To see what sites are being blocked, check out the “block distractions” page (you must be logged in), which can be found under the ‘tools’ menu on the RescueTime site.

The auto-categorization should hopefully get you 95% of the way there, but if there are sites that are distracting to you that we don’t have a default category for, there are a few simple solutions:

  1. Manually mark websites as “Very distracting” on your profile
  2. Go through and categorize items on your “Uncategorized” list
  3. Review the productivity levels you’ve assigned to each category

10. Use RescueTime Alerts to trigger a FocusTime session when you need it most

Blocking websites is a great way to offload your willpower to your computer so you don’t have any choice but to work on what you planned.

However, what if that work suddenly involves research on a news site or grabbing a link someone shared to your Facebook wall? Or what if you don’t have the motivation to block a site on your own, even when you know it’s in your best interest?

That’s where FocusTime really shines. While we’ve run through all sorts of examples on how to block websites, FocusTime can be totally customizable and flexible for your goals. 

RescueTime has a robust Alert system that allows you to take action when you have spent a predefined amount of time on certain activities.

For example, you can set a rule that if you spend more than 2 hours a day on email, you’ll be sent a message (Such as “Nobody changed the world by checking their email!”) and tell FocusTime to start a session to help you focus on what matters most. 

Alerts and FocusTime are RescueTime Premium features. Find out more and start your free 14-day trial today!


Website blockers are great tools not only for keeping you on track today but building better habits for life. 

The more flexibility you have in how and when you use them, the better chance you have of sticking to your schedule, being more productive at work, and building a more meaningful career.

Do you have any tips on how you use FocusTime? Share them in the comments and we’ll add them to the list.

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Robby Macdonell

CEO at RescueTime

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