22 Best Self Control Apps For Superior Focus In 2023

Updated On: 07/26/2023
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There's no denying it, we live in a world that's increasingly dominated by technology. From our professional tasks to the playlist for our next workout, everything hinges on the click of an app.

But how do you stay focused with all of these digital distractions vying for your attention? You use technology to your advantage, of course.

I've spent some extensive hours researching and road-testing countless apps to bring you the best self control apps on the market today that will help put you back in the driver's seat of your digital life.

We often find ourselves battling with time management issues; juggling between work and leisure, Facebook and obligations, Instagram and projects.

Most times we surrender to the seductive clutches of social media and trending games without a second thought, even during work hours.

Luckily though, after delving into my expedition of being technologically distracted more times than I’d like to admit – I've identified some real game-changers.

The following are my recommendations for best self control apps that tout compelling features to keep our minds less cluttered and more productive.

Why These Self Control Apps Are Necessary?

Why These Self Control Apps Are Necessary?

We are faced with a paradoxical puzzle - on one hand, our smartphones are powerful tools that augment our productivity, while on the other, they increasingly intrude into our personal lives, often causing distraction and procrastination.

In this digital era, we are constantly bombarded with notifications from social media, emails, news apps. That's where self-control apps come in as a necessity.

These ingenious apps arm us with the ability to manage our digital habits and encourage a healthier work-life balance.

Everything from blocking certain websites during work hours to setting time limits for social media usage helps us reclaim control over our screen time.

In turn, this increases our productivity levels and reduces the ensuing chaos caused by digital distractions.

In essence, these self-control apps operate as the virtual guards at the gate of your device-centric life. So without any further ado, let's look at my top picks for best self-control apps.

22 Best Self Control Apps To Limit Smartphone Use

These are fantastic apps to help you seize control over your digital consumption. Let's dive right into it.



RescueTime is an excellent productivity tool designed to understand your daily habits so that you can optimize your productivity and create a more balanced lifestyle.

Key Features

  • Automatic Time-Tracking: RescueTime runs securely in the background on your devices. It accurately tracks time spent on various apps, websites, and even specific documents.
  • Detailed Reports & Insights: The app provides intuitive reports and in-depth insights that reflect how much time you spent on different activities throughout the day, week or specific date range.
  • Goal Setting & Alerts: Users can set daily goals for their most crucial tasks. RescueTime will send alerts when set limits have been reached.

RescueTime offers a free Lite version with basic tracking features, but for full benefits, you might want to consider upgrading to the premium version which comes with an affordable monthly fee.

You can download the RescueTime app here.



Freedom is another powerful self-control app that helps minimize distractions by blocking disruptive apps and websites—tailoring a distraction-free environment for you to focus.

Features of Freedom

  • Sync Across Devices: One key feature of Freedom is its compatibility across Mac, Windows, iOS devices allowing synchronization of blocked sites/apps across all connected devices.
  • Blocklists & Whitelists: You can customize blocklists of distracting apps or websites you deem time-consuming. Alternatively, create whitelists only featuring sites or apps necessary for your work.
  • Scheduled Sessions : With this feature, you can schedule blocked sessions during specific hours of the day or week. this fosters routine structure promoting healthy digital habits.

Freedom does offer short-term free trials but requires a subscription plan to access full features. The pricing structure varies based on whether it's monthly, yearly or lifetime purchase.

To download Freedom app click here.

With both RescueTime and Freedom, it's essential to remember the goal isn't to eliminate fun from life but rather strike a balance between work and leisure while optimizing productivity in our increasingly digital lives.


In the realm of self-control apps, SelfControl comes out as one of the top choices. This app is designed to help users resist the lures of distracting websites that consume a lot of their time.

If certain sites hold you in their grip for hours, then indulge me as I walk you through SelfControl.


One fascinating feature about SelfControl? Once started, it can't be stopped. It doesn't matter if you restart your computer or delete the application; your blacklist remains intact until the timer runs out.

  • Blocklist: With this feature of SelfControl, you can create a list of websites that distract you. You might find that Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites are your time thieves - add them to your blocklist and notice the difference.
  • Whitelist: This innovative piece contrasts with the blocklist - only sites on this list will be accessible while your SelfControl timer is running!
  • Customizable Timer: You can set how long you want SelfControl to run - anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours!


The only downside I see with SelfControl? It's currently available for macOS systems only. So iOS users, breathe easier knowing there are tools designed specifically for your needs. Find out more about SelfControl app on their website.

Cold Turkey


With an amusing name and robust features tailored to promoting productivity and self-control, Cold Turkey has managed to swoop me off my feet.


Consolidated below are a few prominent features that make Cold Turkey stand out from thousands on offer:

  • "Website and App Blocks: Want to go full throttle on productivity? Cold Turkey lets users individually choose which websites and applications they wish to block temporarily.
  • "Scheduled Blocks: This feature allows users to schedule specific time periods during which apps or sites will be blocked automatically.
  • "Break Intervals: For those longer stretches of concentration, Cold Turkey even allows scheduled break intervals where certain websites become temporarily accessible—truly thoughtful design!

Additionally, when using "Frozen Turkey"—its strictest mode—not even restarting your device will lift these blocks!


Unlike SelfControl, Cold Turkey is available across platforms like Windows and macOS (and with limited capacity on Android), thus casting its benefits to a wider audience.

Learn more about Cold Turkey by visiting their website.

Indeed every user's needs may vary, but if focus and productivity top yours—with these apps at least—you've got technology on board helping you reclaim valuable time lost!



Modern work-life balance seems like a myth with our phones perpetually dinging with a barrage of notifications. Offtime is an app that proposes to change that and supports you to regain balance.

This productivity app helps you unplug by blocking distracting apps like social media, games, and even your browser.

This app is not about completely disconnecting but optimizing the time spent on your digital devices. It has a feature aptly named - 'Work-Life Boundary', which allows you to define the apps and people that can interrupt you during certain phases of your day.

So no more uninvited interruptions during that intense brainstorming session at work or while finally catching up on your favorite TV show after a hectic day.

Another key feature lies in its analytics. Offtime provides insights about your smartphone use - which apps take most of your time, when do you use them, how many times do you unlock the phone, etc., enabling informed decisions on appropriate usage of devices throughout the day.

But what makes Offtime truly stand out is its simplicity. It's designed with an easy-to-use interface that doesn't require a manual for operation. Simply install the application, set up your preferences, and step back as Offtime takes control.

Stay Focused 


In our interconnected world where distractions are inevitable, Stay Focused shines as one of the most effective self-control apps available.

Enabled with robust functionality capable of blocking specific websites and applications or limiting their use, this Android-focused tool equips us with arsenal necessary to combat productivity killers head-on.

One unique aspect is its 'strict mode' feature where once set parameters are incredibly challenging to undo during specified periods making sure we stay on track without finding loopholes in middle.

Stay Focused isn’t just effective but pretty flexible as well; allowing daily usage limits for different apps ensuring tailored experience per user's needs.



YourHour caught my eye immediately for its unique offering in the realm of self control apps. It's more than just a timer that blocks you from using your phone; it offers a host of features that decidedly put it among the best on this list.

Some of the app's most praised features include real-time monitoring, daily and weekly reports, comparisons with previous days, and the ability to set up 'no phone' intervals.

One of its most innovative features is the floating "Clock Timer" which appears on all your apps so that you're always aware of how much time you're dedicating to each application.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves scrolling through feeds or playing games without realizing just how much time we've spent.

YourHour provides insightful data about our most used apps, making it easier to keep track and avoid overindulgence.

Plus, it's highly customizable. You have total control to exclude certain apps or specify "no phone zones" where you absolutely cannot use any apps (except for emergencies).

You can find more about YourHour here.



Now let's explore another powerful tool for maintaining digital balance: Forest. This app is particularly charming because it takes an entirely different approach to help us reduce our dependency on mobile phones.

Forest is designed around a delightful concept - plant a tree and watch it grow. But if you give in to your digital distractions, your tree dies! This concept makes achievement visual and fun.

Positive reinforcement comes into play here as stronger focus leads to more flourishing trees in your forest. Over time, this forest can act as a visual reminder of all the efforts you have put into taming your smartphone usage.

It also offers a whitelisting feature which allows users to add some essential apps in their whitelist so these do not hinder in growing their virtual trees.

What truly sets Forest apart though is their partnership with an organization called Trees for the Future; they plant actual trees when users spend virtual coins they earn within the app!

Here’s where you can download and more information about Forest.

In conclusion, both YourHour and Forest offer unique means of gaining control over our digital lives – whether through comprehensive reports or creative imagery – which altogether makes them indispensable tools on our journeys towards better self control.



Flipd is an all-encompassing app that motivates you to stay focused by setting screen-free times.

This app creatively combines the principles of accountability, motivation, and community, which work together to encourage better productivity.

Key Features:

  1. Full Lock Mode: This mode is a great option for those of us who need more strict control measures. When enabled, it will default your phone screen to a minimalist interface that prevents you from accessing distracting apps until your specified focus time ends.
  2. Light Lock Mode: Light Lock can be customized according to individual needs, allowing users to stay connected with necessary apps like phone calls and messages while keeping other distractions at bay.
  3. Mindful Moments: These are calming reminders gently nudging users against looking at their screen too often. These notifications create a healthy habit of limited screen time, assisting in better tech-life balance.
  4. Community Motivation: Flipd stands out with its social community feature that includes wellness challenges and study groups; it lets users take part in friendly competitiveness and encourages members to achieve their digital detox goals collectively.

Use Flipd as your digital assistant, encouraging you towards a balanced interaction amid both your real and virtual environment.



AppDetox is another among the best self-control apps designed to aid in the reduction of smartphone usage, primarily balancing the use of specific distracting applications that you just can't seem to put down!

Key Features:

  1. Customizable Rules: AppDetox allows users to set specific rules about when and how much certain apps should be used. For example, if you realize that you spend too much time on Instagram during work hours; simply set applicable rules with AppDetox!
  2. Violation Notification: Upon violation of any rule set by yourself, AppDetox immediately sends notification alerts reminding you of your boundaries set.
  3. Progress Report: The app additionally provides stats showcasing how many times you violated the rules or complied with them successfully thereby providing a mirror reflecting your usage habits.
  4. Activity Logs: Detailed records providing complete insight into an application’s access frequency allowing one to pinpoint where their attention drains exist.
  5. Breather Feature: Temporarily blocks some selected apps when activated and keeps distractions away for desired intervals.

AppDetox free up your attention span from unwanted distractions via customizable commands making digital life manageable!



QualityTime is a fun, visually engaging and easy-to-use Android usage tracking app. It provides detailed analysis into how much time you spend on your mobile device.

The attractive and user-friendly interface lets you break down phone usage data and track it over different periods of time, giving you insight into your digital diet.

It offers numerous features to customize your digital habits tracking including the "Take a Break" feature that lets you enjoy some "off-screen" activities. You can also create device usage alert, set up 'scheduled breaks' and even opt to create 'Usage Reports' to keep track of your activity.

One unique aspect of QualityTime is its “Family Time” feature that allows family members to manage each other's screen time – effectively promoting healthier digital habits for the whole family. For instance, parents can schedule children's offline times for study time or bedtime.

It also offers an IFTTT (If This Then That) integration, so it interacts with other apps too if you have certain rules set up for enhanced digital wellness.

You can download QualityTime from the Google Play Store.

BreakFree App


BreakFree is yet another highly effective app available for both Android and iOS users aiming to maintain balanced smartphone usage. One especially notable feature for BreakFree is the S.I.A.M (Smartphone Interface Addiction Matrix).

This system monitors phone usage, tracks how many times the device has been unlocked, apps used and calculates an addiction score accordingly.

Another feature I particularly appreciate in this app is its ability to display notifications when we cross predetermined limits on specific apps or overall phone usage.

This sense of self-awareness goes a long way in fostering conscientious digital habits.

What's more appealing? It serves up non-intrusive notifications asking if perhaps we'd be more productive doing something else instead of floundering in our phones non-stop - a gentle yet helpful prompt to getting us back on track quickly!

You can download BreakFree App from Google Play Store and Apple App Store.



AntiSocial is a brilliant choice among the best self control apps to help us keep distractions at bay. As opposed to simply logging how much time you spend on social media, it goes steps further.

With AntiSocial, I can see how often I unlock my phone, which applications draw most of my attention, and even where I stand compared to other app users worldwide.

One of the handy features that hooked me is the benchmarking tool. This allows me to compare my app use with other users globally, thus giving a reality check on whether I am an avid smartphone user or a more disciplined one.

Did this make me paranoid? No. Instead, this data offered me perspective on how much time and attention I was unknowingly giving away to these digital platforms.

The simplicity of the app’s interface also wins brownie points. It's straightforward design ensures that you don’t have to scroll from tab to tab - everything is available in an easy-to-maneuver manner.



As simple and straightforward as its name suggests, Detox strikes at the heart of digital distraction by empowering you with customized control over your device usage.

Unlike many similar apps which focus gravely on limiting usage ‘times’, what appeals about Detox is its focus on app ‘frequency’.

Just like you detoxify your body off heavy junk food consumption by gradually reducing intake rather than abrupt fasting - Detox helps ease out your obsessive checking habit.

It offers various levels from beginner to advanced to help regulate screen time without causing abrupt behavioral shift discomforts.

Simply pick your level (which determines your screen-time), select the distracting apps, set the duration for which you expect it needs curbing and let Detox do its magic!

Just remember that once a profile has been activated, it cannot be undone until timer ends – this no-cheat rule maintains discipline!

Overall with its friendly user experience interface and relentless commitment towards achieving first-rate self-control – Detox really does deserve a spot among my top self control apps recommendations!

Social Fever


Have you ever felt your phone vibrate in your pocket, only to pull it out and find it was just a phantom alert? Social Fever is the app to help those of us who are just a little too attached to our phones.

It's an intuitive application with a dynamic design that empowers you with quantified insights about your smartphone usage.

Key Features:

  • Its most striking feature is the ‘Weekly Report’, which shows an overview of your smartphone activity for the week, including screen-on time, number of unlocks, and total minutes spent on different apps.
  • The 'Set Goals' feature lets you take control and limit app usage by setting goals for maximum screen-on time per day.
  • The 'Interests' section helps you calculate time saved from reduced phone usage towards fulfilling real-life interests like reading books or playing sports.

How it Works:

  1. Download and install Social Fever from Google Play Store
  2. Give the necessary permissions
  3. View your usage report
  4. Set goals and preferences

This amazing app helps you reclaim precious moments by reducing excessive screen time, fostering healthier smartphone habits along the way.



Can you imagine turning screen time into rewards? Welcome to Lock & Stock, a unique application that tackles excessive phone usage in a rewarding manner.

Key Features:

  • Offers 'Earned Vs Burned Points’ section that offloads points when apps are used during designated focus times.
  • Accumulated points can be exchanged for deals or discounts from hundreds of brands, university scholarships or even donating for worthwhile causes.

How it Works:

  1. Download Lock&Stock from Google Play or Apple Store
  2. Register
  3. Start accumulating points while staying focused
  4. Unlock rewards as per your choice

With Lock&Stock not only do you exhibit self-control while using smartphones but also get incentivized in return!

In conclusion, both Social Fever and Lock&Stock offer innovative solutions to keep tabs on digital distractions either by providing insightful reports or lucrative rewards using self-control strategies effectively wrapped in impressive designs.

Off the Grid


Off the Grid is an ingenious self-control app that tackles your smartphone addiction head-on by employing an interesting method - it quite literally takes your phone off the grid.

When activated, this app shuts off access to your device for a designated period of time.

The lengths can be adjusted from as little as 30 minutes to as much as 24 hours, depending on the level of productivity or peace you're pursuing.

Here's how Off the Grid works: Once you set a designated time, a fee is charged should you choose to end your digital detox prematurely.

It definitely pushes users to prioritize their choices, and weigh their immediate desires against a potential cost. This digital self-control strategy can be particularly effective for people who are motivated by monetary penalties.

Not only does this app helps users witness their own usage time, but it also assists in improving digital habits and enhancing productivity.

It's user-friendly interface makes setting up your time away from the phone seamless, while it gets busy in assisting you in reconnecting with life outside the screen.

Download here: OffTheGrid-Andriod



Our next brilliant ally in battling smartphone addiction is Focus. Lauded as a digital wellbeing app, Focus employs Pomodoro Technique coupled with task management facilities to help users work efficiently while also maintaining work-life balance.

Pomodoro technique breaks work into chunks usually separated by short breaks; helping maintain focus and not leading to burnout quickly.

Focus' simple illustration-based interface encourages users to add tasks they’re working on which are then broken into 25-minute cycles separated by five-minute breaks.

After four cycles there will be a longer break of around 15-20 minutes giving you enough energy for more rounds of focused work sessions.

This not only organizes your tasks but also keeps reminding about taking regular productive breaks that stops the mind from drifting off too far.

As an added feature, Focus also tracks accomplished tasks and records working statistics keeping you in tune with your productivity patterns and showing where improvement needs can be made.

Staying true in helping maintain balance; it features complete privacy with no tracking data sent anywhere after leaving your device!

Available for download at Focus-iOS

In summary these apps are great solutions to distractions thereby propelling productivity and aiding development of better digital habits.



PawBlock is a customizable website blocker that helps to increase productivity by allowing users to block distracting social media platforms and websites.

The app goes a step further by providing the user the added benefit of donating money to animal welfare organizations, meaning your digital distraction has a positive flip-side.

With a simple set-up and intuitive interface, this app is not only user-friendly but also serves the purpose aptly.



Digitox is an innovative digital detox tool designed to provide insightful statistics on smartphone usage.

This app monitors and provides vital information about screen time, individual app usage and phone unlocking counts.

One of the key features of Digitox is its "Silence Mode,” which blocks distracting apps for a designated period of time. It provides daily, weekly and monthly summaries that help track tech use effectively.

Thanks to Digitox, we have in our hands an intelligent tool helping us curb smartphone addiction - in such an unobtrusive way that it feels like part of the hardware itself.

Balance is essential for healthy digital consumption just as it would be for any aspect of life. These self-control apps are designed to bring just that: balance and structure to your typically chaotic digital world.

FAQs About Best Self Control Apps

What are self-control apps?

Self-control apps are tools designed to help manage your screen time, block distracting websites or apps, and improve overall productivity.

How do these self-control apps work?

These apps work by either blocking or limiting time spent on chosen websites and applications. Some provide detailed reports to help understand your digital habits better.

Are these apps compatible across various devices?

Yes, most of these self-control apps like RescueTime and Freedom are compatible across different platforms including Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android.

Are all self-control apps free?

No, while many offer a free version or trial period with basic functionalities, unlocking advanced features often requires a subscription or one-time purchase cost.

Can I set specific time limits or schedules on these self control apps?

Absolutely! Most of these tools allow you to schedule blocked sessions for certain times of the day or week. You can also set daily usage limits for different applications.


In an era where digital distractions are highjacking our productivity, self-control apps act as an antidote.

Each app listed above is a powerful tool to regain control over your focus and time. Picking the right one depends on your specific needs and comfort level.

The goal isn't to strict abstinence but achieving a better work-life balance and optimizing productivity.

Try them gradually, track changes and stick with one that provides maximum benefit. All it takes to reclaim control of your life, one distraction at a time!

Michael Restiano

I lead product content strategy for SaltMoney. Additionally, I’m helping our broader team of 4 evolve into a mature content strategy practice with the right documentation and processes to deliver quality work. Prior to Instacart, I was a content strategy lead at Uber Eats and Facebook. Before that, I was a content strategist at SapientNitro, helping major Fortune 500 brands create better, more useful digital content.