Squirrel-Reducing Software

I do most of my self-assigned writing—as opposed to client work—at coffee shops, where I can focus on fiction or the occasional poem without the distraction of everything that isn’t getting done around the house.

The strategy usually pays off, but there are times when I say to myself, “Self, let’s just check our email before we open the document and—SQUIRREL!!!!

Twenty-five minutes later I’m still replying to emails that could just as easily wait two hours or two days, and my chai is gone besides.

A really disciplined person would Just Say No to cyber-distractions, but I admit to having a squirrel day now and then. I’m not 100% certain-sure about this, but I might not be the only writer out there with this particular weakness.

So when I read a post in Lisa Yee‘s blog about a program named Freedom that will disable your internet access upon command, for anywhere from 10 minutes to 8 hours, I gave it all of 10 nanoseconds thought before I looked it up in VersionTracker to make sure it was legit, then downloaded the app from the developer’s website, http://macfreedom.com/.

Freedom and I have been a couple for two weeks now. I’m happy to report that setting it to keep me offline for 90 minutes has done wonders for my Work in Progress. If there’s something I need more information on, I just highlight it and plow ahead rather than chasing down the information right away—and inevitably getting sidetracked by squirrels, Wikipedia, etc.

Freedom is free, but there’s an optional $10 registration fee payable through PayPal. The fee helps Fred Stutzman, the doctoral candidate who developed the program, keep the program updated in any spare moments he has while working on his dissertation, teaching, and apparently, changing diapers. I’m happy with Freedom—and the results—so I gladly sent him my $10.

Here’s a suggestion for other Mac users who find the enforced discipline Freedom offers to be helpful: If you’ve either coped with a newborn, or ever been a newborn yourself, ante up the registration fee and help Fred keep Freedom alive and functioning for many generations of OS X to come.

© 2010 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

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10 Responses to Squirrel-Reducing Software

  1. Lisa G. says:

    I saw the same post, but admit that I am afraid to do it. What if the world blows up because I get an email more than five seconds after it’s sent??

    Okay I seriously need that program.

    Then again, it’s quite possible I wouldn’t have read this blog if I’d been using it…


  2. Anna says:

    I wish I had a Mac so I could use this! Sadly, I have to rely on my wimpy self-control. Pictures of baby animals are my weakness.


  3. My problem would be quickly surfing the net to see what I might miss when I turn it off!


  4. Anne Bingham says:

    Oh, Lisa: awesome power, that!

    Anna: self-control is under-rated. Use it wisely and you will conquer the earth.

    Catherine: The trick is to set Freedom right after a surfing session!


  5. MaryWitzl says:

    I know I need this, but I’ve got a husband and daughter who keep whining for their share of the internet, so they pretty much do it for me. When they don’t, I have just enough control to hint that they should. (No matter what they may tell you.)

    I go wild at baby animals, by the way. People have to get out of the room when I get on baby animal sites, I’m that fanatic.


  6. Julia says:

    I am a huge fan of Freedom! Actually, it should be on right now! Ack!


  7. Anne Bingham says:

    What’s all this fascination wid ittle baby aminals? Does this mean I Can Haz Cheeseburger isn’t unique?

    Mary: There’s a lot to be said for having only a family computer around; sharing does focus the mind!

    Julia: If you are reading this, you shouldn’t be. Get to work.


  8. Z says:

    The funny thing is that I’ve been told that I need to go online more! And do more blogging, more commenting on folks’ blogs, more networking, more more more!

    (and I am *totally* counting this post as fulfilling my “did you comment on writerly blogs today?”



  9. Pingback: Ensnaring that elusive productivity! | Diary of a PhD student

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