Sentinel Tries to be Productive: Part 1

By Mary Zech and Colette Juran

The Internet and technology are ever present in most modern student’s lives, whether we like it or not. Consequently, daily tasks are fraught with constant distractions from every source. App developers and conscientious students across the world are working to ameliorate this issue by creating apps, websites, and computer programs that combat distractions and increase productivity. In this article, two members of the Sentinel staff, Colette Juran and Mary Zech, share their experiences testing a few of these resources.


Colette Juran’s thoughts:

Accessibility: 7/10
Before I put it on my toolbar it was easy to forget it existed and that the timer was running.

Effectiveness: 9/10
The software does what it is told with no exceptions.

Pros: Unlike other comparable software, SelfControl is simple and universal, as it applies to all browsers. Increase in productivity is almost a guarantee.

Cons: It does not let the user reconsider site blockage once a timer has started. It does not apply to services that do not require the Internet and does not let one set the timer for more than a day.

Bottom-line: This app will likely increase one’s productivity if used correctly. I really recommend it for those who find the Internet distracting (likely the majority of students).

Mobile equivalent: Forest for IOS. Forest has the same premise as SelfControl it just blocks complete use of one’s phone. A tree will grow proportionate to the amount of time one spends away from their phone. If one uses their phone while the app is still counting down time, the tree will die, thus negatively reinforcing use of phones during study sessions.

Full disclosure, SelfControl is already one of my favorite programs for increasing productivity. Typically, during a stressful week, I set the program for about a day at a time. The interface is simple, including a timer and a list of sites that requiring blocking. Within this list there are two options: the blacklist and the whitelist. The blacklist option allows the user to continue their Internet usage with only the sites they have added to the list blocked. This list contains websites the user deems “distracting”, i.e. social media, Netflix, etc. Therefore, the rest of the Internet is unrestricted. For the more extreme user, the whitelist option is available. In whitelist mode, the user is prevented from visiting websites except for the ones they have previously listed. This method may prove to be a bit too much for some, as it does not let the user reconsider site blockage once a timer has started. Therefore, I’d recommend starting working in small periods of blocking using the blacklist.

Overall, I really recommend that everyone try this app. It is never clear how much time one can waste on the Internet, until it is no longer an option.

Mary Zech’s thoughts:

I was a bit intimidated by the skull and crossbones icon, and rightly so! Putting a ban against Youtube is sometimes the only way I will succumb to the daunting tasks ahead. This app worked well for me because my main issue is getting started on my work, so by banning my biggest method of procrastination I was set up for success!

However, I did not find it extremely helpful because once I am working I am able to stay off those sites on my own. This app is good if that is an issue that you struggle with when working, so it definitely does its job well!
Rating: 8/10

-Colette Juran, Science Editor, and Mary Zech, Arts Editor

Posted by on February 4, 2016. Filed under Just 4 Fun. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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