I’ve been using Freedom for the last couple of weeks, with interesting results.
Freedom is an app that helps you control distractions by blocking the internet, apps and websites — or any combination of those. You can start a freedom session whenever you like, or schedule a session for the future. It supports recurring sessions too. You have complete control over how long you want sessions to be, and what distractions you want to block.
I started off with a few ‘on the fly’ sessions for an hour and chose the default freedom blocklist (blocks the most common social and news websites). I used the time to write and work on a personal project. Whilst I felt urges to procrastinate on the internet and check twitter, I wasn’t able to. I definitely felt more focused and productive and was able to concentrate for the whole hour.
Co-incidentally, I also noticed this tweet from Neil Strauss recently:
When you’re interrupted or distracted by something, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back into the task you were doing. 12 percent of the time, you won’t even return to it that day.
— Neil Strauss (@neilstrauss) December 15, 2017
I’ve no idea how accurate this is, but it feels pretty accurate. I felt the last 30 – 40 mins of the hour session was better work. I managed to build some momentum and get in the flow. My guess is, a focused hour is probably more productive than an entire morning with distractions.
As I mentioned in Two years without a smartphone, I’ve found myself using my laptop to replace some of the addictive behaviour I used to do on a smartphone. So, for the last few days, I’ve been working to the following 3 recurring freedom sessions:
- 8:30 am – 1:30 pm
- 2:30 pm – 7:00 pm
- 7:30 pm – 8:00 am
During the above times, I use a tweaked version of the default freedom blocklist (a few extra added). That means for 22 hours a day, I’m unable to freely access the internet. I only get 2 hours of completely free access.
I’ve noticed three things so far:
- I’ve got more done, because I’m able to get more deeply into a task.
- I enjoy using the sites that used to distract me, more. Checking twitter twice a day for a total of an 30 mins, is way nicer than checking it 10 times a day, for an average of 3 minutes.
- I am more present and focused at home.
Of course, both myself and the system are far from perfect. I still need to figure out the optimal way to use freedom. I’ve had to override a session a couple of times for an urgent email or call. Shortly after, I would find myself slipping back into old habits — which were instantly corrected when the next session kicked in.
I’m going to experiment a bit and hopefully settle on the right schedule for me. I also want to test blocking the internet entirely. I’m thinking a scheduled session — probably at the weekend. I’ll report back when I’ve settled on something that works.
If you’re interested in this type of thing, here are a few great reads, along the same lines:
How to write a million words – on a slacker’s schedule (post) — Nate Green
Digital Sabbath (post) — Brad Feld
Deep Work (book) – Cal Newport