Software for ADHD? Wow. Who knew!

29 12 2010

Well, okay, it’s not actually software so much as add-ons for your browser. These add-ons work within your browser to restrict access to web sites, web sites that you waste time on. Unfortunately, they’re only for browsers, nothing to stop you from playing games that stand alone on your system or wandering through past emails and endlessly forwarding jokes and chain mail to undeserving victims … but, I digress.

These add-ons allow you to stipulate sites that you don’t want to waste time on. You set up a schedule that limits time per hour on certain sites or restricts access to those sites entirely. It can also restrict or limit access during work days or work hours.

So what are they and where do I find them already?

The first of these is James Anderson’s Leechblock, a Firefox add-on. The description tells us “LeechBlock is a simple productivity tool designed to block those time-wasting sites that can suck the life out of your working day. … ”

The second one is Transfusion Media’s Stayfocusd, an extension for Google’s Chrome. It’s description says “StayFocusd increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time per day that you can spend browsing time-wasting websites.”

No stigma attached to downloading these add-ons

(but I’ll bet we’d find a lot of brothers and sisters on the list of down-loaders)

Neither of these add-ons says ADHD anywhere in their descriptions, but it echoes out from between the lines. The concept is a winner.

Both packages allow you to override the block by typing in a long, random key string or password. The assumption is that having to do that makes you think. Stopping and actively changing focus will hopefully cause you to question your actions. For me, that’s a good thing.

Of the two, Leechblock seems to be the most comprehensive, although Stayfocusd is catching up with diligent upgrades. At the time of this writing I could find nothing for Opera or IE (Internet Exploder). Mac users can try “Anti-Social”, a site blocker for their systems, but I haven’t seen or studied it at all.

What’s the down side?

You have to recognize when you’re wasting time. You need to be aware of the sites you waste time on and you need to set up the plug-ins to recognize those sites. In short, you need to set your own boundaries. The plug-ins will only enforce the boundaries, not create them.

A problem for me is that, as a writer, I do a great deal of research and prep work online, this often involves wandering from site to site, places I’ve never been before. It’s very easy for me to justify hanging out on a site I’ve discovered by telling myself I’m doing research. By the time I’ve crossed the line into time-wasting I’m to distracted to notice I’m in never-never land. Having just found a site means it is, of course, not yet known to the plug-in, not on my “Leechblock” or “Stayfocusd” list.

Another little irritant is that I sometimes legitimately converse with colleagues on facebook (one of my big timewasters). It’s not cool to have to say “Please hurry up and say what you want to say, I’m going to be kicked off in sixty seconds.”

Lastly in the list of cons: I use Firefox and have Chrome on-board, but I also have Opera and there’s nothing to stop me from using it, or the big blue “e” to merrily waste time without restrictions.

What’s the answer?

The answer is the same one we had before. You need to be aware of the time-sinks in your day and guard against them. These two add-ons have the potential to help you immensely. But you still have to recognize and fix the problem, you have to set these add-ons up and you have to be firm in your restrictions or they will not be able to help you.

Two final warnings …

Firstly, you can waste a lot of time setting one or the other of these add-ons up, but you could do that instead of updating your facebook status …

And lastly, if you like toys, the add-ons pages for both Firefox and Chrome will have you wasting time in … ummmm … no time? Didja see the calendar add-on for Firefox? I gotta try that.

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