Over the past few years I’ve used a program called Freedom to cut myself off from the internet when I’ve needed to be more productive. It works well but it’s a bit brute force– it blocks all access to the net. Recently the makers of Freedom have started moving towards a subscription model. This leads me to believe that the standalone app might not be long for this world. I like Freedom but I am not a big fan of the subscription model so I started looking around for alternatives.
I had a half-price coupon for a program called Focus so I thought I would give it a try. I’m glad I did. It’s a bit more subtle than Freedom, at least to begin with. Over a time period of your choice, it stops you from accessing specific sites. Instead of getting Facebook, you get a motivational quote, which I thought was a nice touch. The program can be set up to block both websites and apps on your computer.
You can choose to use a white list. The program prevents you from accessing everything except approved sites. Or you can use a blacklist which blocks only specific sites like Facebook or Twitter. There is a default list populated with all the usual suspects and it’s easy to add your own personal banes to it.
The blacklist method lets you cut off all your primary timewasters yet still have access to the net for research.
Normally you can over-ride the program so it functions more as a nudge in the right direction that an absolute cut off. There is also a hardcore mode which prevents all access and cannot be over-ridden for those times when a gentle push is not enough. So far I have not had to use it but it’s nice to know it’s there.
The program can be set up to come on automatically on a schedule such as between 9 am and 12 am or 2pm and 4pm. (This is what I use.) Schedules can be as complex or simple as you like. Its a useful way of blocking out a work day. It let’s me know there are times when I absolutely should be working and still leaves me times to check email, social networks etc.
You can also set it up to run scripts during focus periods but this is beyond my level of competence.
So far the program has worked perfectly and been a pleasure to use. If you find willpower alone is not quite enough to cut yourself off from the lure of the Interwebz, you’ll find Focus useful. It costs $19.99 for a single computer license and is available here.
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