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A Review Of Window Blocker a Time/Productivity Management App

Greetings, readers. A recent bout of calendar loss resulted in me missing a deadline, so I was naturally looking for tools to help me deal with that. As you regular readers no doubt know, the more tools available the easier it is to deal with the symptoms of ADHD.

I swear, I’m going to write that auto-biography titled “Indistinguishable from Lazy” any day now.

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In any case, today we’re looking at Clever Gizmos Window Blocker. It’s one of those “blocks your computer from doing other things” programs, designed to help give you an additional barrier between impulsive inattentiveness and active decision. If you’re not a long time reader and just here at Orphic Platonism, I’ll give you a short explanation of what that means and why it matters before getting into the actual review.

ADHD and Impulse Barriers

There’s a lot of misinformation about ADHD, thanks in part to over-diagnosis in the late 80s and early 90s and in part to the stigmatization of mental illness in U.S. culture. It doesn’t help that ADHD is a spectrum and not a binary. A child, or an adult, doesn’t simply have ADHD or live ADHD free. It’s that a child, or an adult, exhibits certain behaviors that are connected with particular chemical brain activities. The stronger the behaviors, the more their brain creates chemical reactions in one way instead of another.

The practical effect of this is that some people’s ADHD is much, much worse than other people’s ADHD. The chemical reactions in their brain are exaggerated to more extreme levels (in this case the brain not producing normal levels of dopamine), and so the ADHD-associated behaviors at an exaggerated level.

This is important because it means some people can “treat” their ADHD without medication. This is similar to being a non-insulin dependent diabetic. It’s not that they don’t have ADHD. It’s that they can manage it as long as they’re taking the right actions. If they stopped taking those actions, their symptoms would get worse. Where as a healthy person might exhibit the same symptoms, but only when an outside source causes them.

That is why a person with ADHD has a hard time paying attention. Everyone has a hard time paying attention, but because of brain chemistry, it’s exaggerated. I myself bounce my leg in place constantly when I have to sit still, especially when I’m unmedicated. Some people chew gum, while others tap their pencil on their desk, but it’s all the same thing. An action that helps keep the mind focused. A “healthy” mind might be able to stay focused from will alone.

So this is why a barrier is useful in terms of impulse control. Everyone has sudden impulses. Everyone feels a sudden desire to stop doing the thing they’re doing and do a different thing. But for people with a “healthy” mind, it’s easy to take a breath, tell yourself that you need to focus and get back to work. People with ADHD need tools to help with that.

Which brings us back around to Anthony Raymond’s Window Blocker.

Personal Computer Program and Website Blocking Software

The concept of Window Blocker is not unique. It’s an application designed to help you focus on only one task at any time. It either works by turning off functions that would allow you to shut down the program for a pre-set length of time, or they keep pre-set lists of programs from opening if the user attempts to do so.

Window Blocker is the second type. It works via the tools of all major internet browsers supported by Windows, which already limits its versatility some. There are plenty of people who use Apple machines, and plenty of us with ADHD are attracted to Linux set ups since we get to pick at the pieces of it without necessarily destroying everything. Still, there’s WINE for Linux. Apple users may still be out of luck, so that’s a knock against it. Even with that, it’s not a giant knock. The fact is that most people have a PC.

The Toolset Offered By Window Blocker

A distraction barrier is only as good as its features. Regular readers know that I’ve given low ratings to programs that work flawlessly but don’t have enough features to be useful in a general sense. I don’t know about you, but for me, if I have to use more than one tool to create a distraction barrier, I won’t use any.

Sometimes, I really wish I could sit my brain down and give it a good talking to.

In terms of features, Window Blocker is the tool to use. In point of fact, if you’re a person who uses your personal computer for work and needs to replace your Apple I would suggest getting a PC so you can use Window Blocker. Yes, the features are that useful.

It has the basic features you would expect, such as a work timer and the ability to list programs and websites you don’t want to be opened. Yes, yes, “Pomodoro timer,” but we have enough experience with the technique. We know it’s just a fancy term for “kitchen timer.” Whether it’s a fancy timer or not, however, the fact is having a timer, and a blocker in one program is a blessing in and of itself. While I consider them “basic features,” there’s been more than one program shown on this blog that lacked the timer and so got a low rating.

What about the advanced features? That is where Window Blocker earns its rating. It has a file manager. I repeat, it has a file manager! People without ADHD might laugh at it, but the fact is even the act of having to open more than one folder to get to your work file can be distracting enough to throw off your train of thought. Being able to open one program and have both your pre-set distraction barrier as well as immediate access to needed files would make this worth the price alone.

But it gets better. You can set keyboard shortcuts to opening different programs. Once again, Window Blocker allows you to stay focused on your work by giving you ways to quickly, easily, and reflexively bring up programs you need for work. The number of times I’ve sat down to work opened everything I needed and realized halfway through that I hadn’t opened up a program has been the gateway to a missed deadline can’t be counted without taking off shoes. Something about having to stop, minimize programs to get to other programs, and then look for programs I need tend to get me focused on programs I’d rather be opening.

If I could stop typing for three seconds to bring up a program with a keystroke, that’s liable to cut my impulsive distractions by half.

It has a few other useful bells and whistles, such as a punch clock to gauge how long you’ve been working, the ability to pre-set where you’d like a program window to open on your desktop, and a “Write or Suffer” setting which plays an annoying sound if you stop typing.

Not my thing, but there for those who want it.

Final Rating

So at the end of the day, how does Window Blocker rate in terms of a distraction barrier? Frankly, it’s one of the better programs I’ve reviewed. A reliable, easy to set timer and program blocking list would be enough to get it a 3-star rating.

But the fact that it lets you set program opening keyboard shortcuts as well as allows you to find the files you need in one program without opening other parts of your computer is what cements it into 5 stars. However, I can only give 4.5 stars because it only works with windows, but if you have a PC, this is the program to get.

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