By Mike Halsey, Microsoft MVP.

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Like all conscientious self-employed individuals who work from home I do try and maintain a good number of productive hours during the day but, like many in my position or who work in a small business, the distractions (TV, Facebook, Twitter and shopping) can be all too difficult to resist. But did you know there’s a feature built into Windows 8.1 that can help you maximise your productivity, maintain a healthy work/life balance and help you resist temptation? Better still its child’s play.

The feature I’m talking about is Family Safety, designed to safeguard our children from Internet nasties and get them off to bed at the correct time in the evening, it’s also remarkably good at helping productivity. Let me explain how you can use it for this.

The first task is to create yourself a new user account on your PC and, when asked if “this is a child’s account” say yes.

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This can be a Microsoft Account setup, you will need to use a different Microsoft account ID from your main account on the PC, or create local account, the latter of which will be fine if you will be using desktop programs and don’t want to use apps from the Windows Store.

The next step is to log into your main account on the PC and set the Family Safety preferences for your new Child/Work account, search for Family Safetyat the Start screen. The main thing you’ll want to do will be to block social media and perhaps shopping websites, while leaving access to the rest of the Internet and the sites you’ll need for your work.

You can do this quickly and simply in Family Safety in the Web Filtering panel. This will present you with five broad categories and you’ll most commonly want to select the “online communication” category.

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This will block social networks, chat services and webmail allowing you to stay focused. You might find however that some services you actually need for work are also blocked, or that sites you don’t want to access are allowed. On the left of the panel is an “Allow or Block websites” link and it is here that you can put specific websites on your allow or block lists.

To further keep you focused you can permit the use of only the software that’s required for work and nothing else. This can block the sneaky use of social networking apps or others such as eBook readers or TV players such as 4oD or the iPlayer.

This feature is found in the “App Restrictions” settings where you can specify all the programs and apps that are permitted to be used by that account.

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I mentioned maintaining your work/life balance earlier though and there’s no point in using Family Safety to keep yourself productive if that means you end up working late into the evening when you’re really supposed to be doing other, and quite possibly healthier things.

The “Time Limits” section of Family Safety can be useful here. There are two main settings, limiting the number of hours that the user can use the PC for each day, or specifying the hours within which it can be used.

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This latter option is probably the most useful as it presents a grid of hours in the week which you select in a drag and drop action to determine what your permitted hours are, and what aren’t.

When you near your end of day limit Windows 8.1 will politely warn you that it’s approaching time to down tools. If you still need to continue though you can authorise yourself some extra time with the administrator password for your main account.

Don’t forget with all this that if you still want to check Facebook during the day you can do so using your smartphone or tablet, the way you would in a formal workplace.

So that’s how you can use Family Safety in Windows 8.1 to keep yourself productive and reduce distractions. You may want to use some or all of these tips to help you stay focused when you’re at work, and I’ve found they work well. Oh, and they can be used to keep your children safe too!

Find out more about Windows 8.1 here. 

About the Author..

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Mike Halsey is a Microsoft MVP and the author of many books on Windows including the best-selling Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out and the new titles Beginning Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1: Out of the Box.  He runs PC Support.tv, producing televisual quality tutorial programming for consumer and business Windows users.