Three distraction-free tools that force you to focus on your tasks

keyboard shortcuts primary user hands typing

Computers are both a blessing and a curse when it comes to getting work done. They make it so much more efficient to create the next great novel or balance the books than doing the same task on paper. But they are also a distraction machine, tempting us with Netflix streaming, Facebook, YouTube, games, and more.

To get past that, developers have come up with some inventive ways to overcome our appetite for diversion with distraction-free mode.

This is when an app appears full screen and everything else about your PC—the taskbar, web browser, and other apps—disappears. Some apps allow you to return to the land of distraction with a simple key press, while others aren’t so easily dismissed.

Here’s a look at three apps—mostly for writing—that can help you focus on your next work session and not on how many Likes your status is getting on Facebook.

Gentle

focuswriter

FocusWriter offers a simple distraction-free mode that you can exit out of at any time.

If you have at least some self-discipline, a text editor with a plain distraction-free mode can be a good choice. FocusWriter is a free, basic text editor with customizable themes, timers, alarms, and the ability to set daily goals.

When you start it up, FocusWriter takes over your entire primary screen—secondary monitors are not affected—allowing you to focus solely on the task at hand. To call down the app’s menu, just move your mouse upwards to the top of the screen. You can exit FocusWriter at any time by calling up the menu bar and choosing File > Quit.

Moderately restrictive

coldturkey

Cold Turkey protects you from yourself by blocking websites offering distractions.

If you just need to keep Facebook or Twitter out of reach during your writing sessions then try Cold Turkey by developer Felix Belzile. Cold Turkey isn’t a text editor, but an app that makes the websites of your choosing inaccessible for a scheduled duration.

Try to open Facebook during a work session and you’ll be out of luck. Cold Turkey is free, but there is a $15 paid version that also lets you block desktop software.

The great thing about Cold Turkey is that it can be used for any work session you want, and not just writing.

One word of warning with Cold Turkey: To block specific websites, the app appears to edit your system’s hosts file. In my tests, Windows Defender perceived Cold Turkey as a threat and warned me that malware was trying to hijack my hosts file.

There were also previous iterations of Cold Turkey that were apparently difficult to uninstall, but that is no longer the case. 

Merciless

forcedraft

Not for the faint of heart, FORCEdraft does just that: forces you to work on your draft.

From the same developer as Cold Turkey comes FORCEdraft, a program that shows no mercy when it comes time to get work done. With FORCEdraft you have the option to set a daily goal based on writing time or word count.

Then you fire up the app—it takes over all of your PC’s screens, secondary monitors included—and get typing. If you set a specific goal such as a word count or time duration the app will not exit until the goal has been reached. Period. There’s no secret escape key, no menu option, nothing. You are locked in until you’re done.

If you don’t set a goal then FORCEdraft behaves similar to other distraction-free text editors; it allows you to escape at any time by clicking on the app logo at the top of the screen and selecting Save and exit.

FORCEDraft is free, but you get some extras if you opt for the $10 Pro version such as themes and a status bar.

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