Skip to main content Jump to main navigation Search content

Notes from a long-time student: SelfControl

Wikipedia defines Self-control as “the ability to control one’s emotions, behavior, and desires in the face of external demands, to function in society” (original emphasis). Self-control is not always the easiest skill to (ironically) control when you’re a student. The nature of most of our academic work demands that we spend time on the internet and specifically on our computers. While the internet and our computers are useful tools they can also be the source of many, many distractions: email, facebook, youtube, twitter, buzzfeed, and powerful search engines that seem to know the answers to all of our endless curiosities.

One of the tools you can use to exercise your self-control and motivate yourself to stay on task is (again ironically) SelfControl. SelfControl is a free application for Macs that allows you to identify the sites that distract you and block them! I imagine the developers of the app thought of us, students, as they built this incredible tool. Understanding our genius and the innate nature of our compulsive need to check social media sites every few minutes, they made sure the app was robustly unhackable. That means that once you block a website there is no way to access it. You can restart your computer or even delete the SelfControl app and the app won’t budge. Of course, you can decide the length of time you want to block yourself from the sites.
How does this gem work you may ask?

It starts with a simple download at The site is pretty straight-forward and has a big blue button right in the center reading “Download SelfControl.” Do not be discouraged by the logo of the app, it’s not a virus.

Once you download the app, using it is easy. You will see a toggle bar that allows you control the amount of time you want the sites to be blocked. You can decide the time by sliding the toggle left or right. The time you’ve selected will be visible immediately under the bar.


To choose the sites you would like to block, click the “Edit Blacklist” button on the right side of the app box. When you download the app you’ll find a few pre-loaded sites: facebook, twitter, Netflix, hulu etc. You can add or delete sites by using the + and – signs on the bottom left. One of the newer functions of SelfControl is a “Whitelist.” This list does the opposite of a Blacklist–it allows you to block out all of the internet except for the sites you choose to give yourself access to.


A few notes of caution before you click start: SelfControl only works for websites so be mindful with other potential distractions like cellphones, tablets, and friends. Make sure you have everything you need from these sites before you block them. I once blocked facebook and only later realized I needed to contact group partner through it.

Ready? Click “Start”! You’ll be asked to grant the app permission by entering your computer password.
If you’re not a Mac user and wondering where this leaves you, stay tuned. Next week, we’ll talk about a program that can similarly help you control your self-control.

Staff Blogger: Erica Saldivar Garcia

Skip to content