It only takes a second to ruin your entire working day. One peek at Twitter or Facebook, and boom — the entire afternoon is gone.
If you’re working remotely, you probably don’t have anyone to crack the whip, so online distractions are dangerous. Whatever your vice, you need to stop it interfering with your writing.
Freedom is a free internet blocker that helps to curb bad habits by blocking the websites that distract you. I’ve tried various tools and techniques to achieve this, and Freedom was by far the easiest to use.
How Freedom Blocks Distracting Websites
Freedom is a small application that runs constantly on your device. Once you switch it on, it prevents you from accessing the websites you’ve defined on its website by routing your traffic through a proxy server.
This is particularly useful for any creative person that finds their mind wandering as they work. Sometimes you can develop unwanted urges to visit social media websites when you should be focused on working through a mental block.
The free Freedom plan is called the 7-Use Trial. It allows you to access a subset of Freedom’s blocking features over a maximum of 7 concurrent sessions.
You can configure the free version of Freedom in different ways, depending on the websites that you want to block, and the devices that you want to block them on:
- Each device can have its own settings in Freedom. That allows you to select which ones to block as you work. You might want to block your desktop and laptop computer at the same time, but selectively block your smartphone depending on the time of day. Every plan includes unlimited devices, but as we’ve discussed, the free plan is limited to 7 concurrent sessions.
- Separate block lists let you fine-tune what you can access. You can create a list of blocked websites for a certain time of day, or a certain device. Each block list can include unlimited websites on all plans, including free.
- Blocking works on iOS and Android as well as your desktop. No more lost time “researching” on your tablet or iPod Touch. It blocks all of them equally well on the free plan.
- You can block the entire internet if you want. This will genuinely prevent you from going online at all while you’re writing. This setting should be used with caution.
Free, Plus and Forever Plans
In addition to the free account, Freedom also has Plus and Forever plans:
- Plus can be paid for monthly or annually. The annual fee is just $29, which is pretty reasonable when you think about the amount of time you’d claw back from it each day. You get a 60-day money back guarantee, and you can cancel anytime.
- Forever is essentially a lifetime subscription with a reasonable one-off payment. There’s a 60-day guarantee with this plan too.
If you pay for either of these plans, you unlock more features:
- You can set up a schedule. That allows you to effortlessly block websites during working hours, but then remove the block for a lunch break or a scheduled research session. If you don’t trust yourself to switch Freedom on manually, this is a must-have feature.
- You can stop yourself from changing the settings. Plus and Forever plans let you down your settings while you work. While Locked Mode is on, you won’t be able to change your configuration. That prevents you from sneakily deleting a device in order to remove the block. Be warned: this feature works very well!
In everyday use, all of Freedom’s blocking features have been solid and worked very well to curb distractions. Closing the app does not end a block, which is great. Freedom is very difficult to trick.
That’s ideal if, like me, you tend to get drawn into news websites or social media at inappropriate times.
Blocking Apps With Freedom
If you’re spending too much time playing around with an app, Freedom lets you block it. It provides a pre-defined list of apps that you can block, but you can add any app to the blocklist providing you know the URL that it accesses when it loads.
Freedom says that it can block apps on your computer as well. You may need to reach out to its support department for help getting them set up.
What About Privacy?
Freedom is a proxy, so all of your internet traffic is being funneled through its servers. On its website, it’s very clear that it doesn’t log your activity, and it doesn’t keep track of what you do online.
That said, it isn’t designed to hide your browsing, and you should use a VPN if you want peace of mind that your activity is encrypted from other parties. I’ve tried ExpressVPN and Freedom together and the combination works just fine.
Does Freedom Make You More Productive?
Yes. Most definitely.
Freedom is extremely useful for retraining yourself and increasing productivity. I’ve recommended it to several writers who have seen amazing results. In one case, the writer doubled their output almost immediately.
It definitely works best for writers that can predict the websites and apps they need, and safely block the ones they waste time on.
A word of warning, though. If you write about anything that has an element of research, Freedom can get in the way. You either need to block all the sites you might need to work on, and allow yourself a very small window to use them, or you need to leave them unblocked and re-train yourself to quit browsing through to see what’s happening in the world.
It would be great if there was a mode that loaded the content of pages, but not the distracting sections, a little like AdBlock does with ads. But that’s beyond Freedom’s remit.
For general purpose internet blocking, I highly recommend Freedom as a productivity booster. It’s easy to configure, stable in operation, and genuinely helps writers to get more done. For $29 a year, it’s a complete no-brainer.