The Self Control Apps that Just Might Change You

time management Aug 20, 2020

Am I right to guess we’ve all spent more time indoors this year than we ever imagined we would? Did you ever think we would be here?!⠀

It’s changed the way we work and relate to each other.  

My work requires a deep focus.  Time I need to be in my head and with my thoughts.  I’ve played around with tech that helps me get into that deep focus, but today I’m diving even deeper into the tools.  There’s some fancy stuff to get your head in the game.

Noise Cancelling Apps 

First, here’s the two I’ve been using forever:

White Noise Lite

Honestly, it’s been so long that I’ve been using this app, I forget how I stumbled across it.  I can’t sleep without the pink noise sound, and I’ve trained my family to like it too.  Bonus, when we go on vacation I can crank it up and drown out all the noises everyone makes in their sleep.  

I’ve also used their mix pad to create the sound of a busy coffee shop.  It’s no longer my go-to for focused work sessions, but it will work in a pinch.

Reasons I LOVE:

  • The pink noise is the perfect clean static sound that puts me to sleep
  • It plays on a continuous loop, no pauses in between
  • This app works across devices, so if we are in a hotel room I can play it on my MacBook
  • FREE

Room for Improvement

  • I wish it worked with my Alexa.  This sounds super lazy but rolling over to turn it on is a bit of an inconvenience
  • This isn’t the apps fault but sometimes my phone isn’t all the way on the charger and it dies in the middle of the night


I know this is a meditation app and that’s mostly how I use it.  Then I discovered the little music icon at the bottom of my app.  Music for almost anything - Work to Sleep. My favorite for focus has been the tracks by GRAMMY-nominated trio Above & Beyond

Reasons I LOVE:

  • You can download tracks to use when offline
  • Plans to integrate into ALEXA
  • It’s already a service I’m paying for but still not cheap at $69.99/year
  • New music added weekly

Room for Improvement

  • I’m wishing there was a timer built-in for Pomodoro sessions.
  • If you are just using it for focus work (not the meditating type) it’s not cheap!

Brain FM

I ran a free trial of this in efforts to review for you all.  You get to choose your mental state and amount of focus time.  In increments of 30, 60, 90, 120, or infinity minutes.  

Reasons I LOVE:

  • Lots of customizations (for example I could choose what kind of focus work I was doing: creative/ deep work/ study & read/ light work)
  • It’s based on science (Patented Neural Phase Locking)
  • Ability to download music and use while not connected

Room for Improvement

  • My phone notifications still broke through the super fancy brain wave music
  • They advise working with noise-canceling headphones.  I get it, but eventually, these start to hurt my ears.
  • The online reviews show problems with crashing but it looks like these issues have been fixed with updates.  I didn’t have a problem.  
  • Pricey for my budget at $6.99/month since I’ve already invested in Calm.


Website Blockers

Now let’s take a peek into the world of website blockers.  I’ve been flirting with these for some time but haven’t committed because my work often takes me to places these guys try to protect you from.  (I’m looking at you Instagram.)

But do I really NEED Instagram to finish a blog post?  Probably not!  And if I’m being honest simply turning on the “Do Not Disturb” on my computer isn’t quite doing the job.

Cold Turkey

This one sold me with incorporating the Pomodoro method.  I jumped on board and then realized Pomodoros are part of the paid version. (should have read the fine print)

Reasons I LOVE:

  • There’s a free version
  • Incorporates Pomodoro Method
  • Reviews state great support (that’s HUGE for me)
  • The cost is low, only onetime fee of $39
  • Stats on how you spend your time online

Room for Improvement:

  • My first time running through the setup didn’t work (probably user error)
  • There’s no free trial of the paid features



This is embarrassing, but I didn’t realize I had this installed on my Chrome browser until I started to work on this post.  Time to figure out what it does!

Reasons I LOVE:

  • It’s a free extension on Chrome
  • When you go into “work mode” it will block your chosen sites for 25 minutes
  • There’s a version for iPhone and Andriod

Room for Improvement:

  • You have to type in your list of sites you want to block (no preset filters)
  • I might be missing something... but there doesn’t seem to be a way to adjust the work mode timer

***Update: I've now been using this extension for a few weeks and the timer that pops up to let you know your work block is over is super easy to miss.  Especially if you're in the zone. 



I spend a lot of time in the writing world and this one seems to be a favorite.

Reasons I LOVE:

  • You can use it across devices
  • There’s a free 7-day trial
  • Keeps track of how you spend your time
  • You can customize which sites are blocked (Instagram we might still be at war)

Room for Improvement

  • No free version
  • Even more expensive at $6.99/month, $29/year, or $129 forever
  • It still allows access to apps on your phone, just blocks the refresh.  In other words, you could scroll through old Insta feed, but you won’t get it to bring in the new stuff while blocked.

What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?  There are plenty of reasons to lose control, but I’ve got you, girl if you want to fight your way back.


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