Better Grad Student

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Regain Your Freedom

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Distractions! It’s what the internet was practically built upon and it’s what keeps you from being productive during the day. I know from personal experience how a simple visit to Wikipedia can turn into 20 minutes of your day lost. The habits that have formed from years of internet use are practically ingrained in my hands. In my quest to be a better grad student, I finally came upon a solution to beat the distractions of the internet and actually get some work done. In the past, whenever I was stuck while writing or reading, or if my mind fluttered somewhere else for a moment, I found myself clicking on my internet browser and checking my email or my reader or one of the many sites I frequent. This pattern of defaulting to the internet when I needed a break was causing problems. I would wind up losing my focus and inevitably involve myself with something that wasn’t pertinent to the task at hand. I wanted to stop this behavior, but willpower only took me so far. Especially on days where I’m tired or very busy, which, let’s be honest, is often, it would be even harder to not get distracted. Enter a program called Freedom.

Freedom is a very simple application that has one purpose: Blocking the interent for a certain amount of time. You open it and tell it how many minutes you want freedom from the internet and it delivers. To get back access to the internet, you have to either wait for the time to end or restart your computer. It’s very unobtrusive and it works perfectly.

I started using this little program over a month ago and it really has been immensely useful. When I’m feeling particularly distracted, I set the timer for 30 minutes and get focused. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you know you don’t have access to the internet for a short amount of time. I’ve never had an instance where I had to use the internet during my time of freedom and it’s actually a relief to not check my email every 10 minutes. The longest I’ve set freedom for is 1 hour and the amount of work I got done in that hour really is surprising. Even setting it for 15 minutes is enough of a boost to get started on writing, reading, or analysis. I’m planning on setting it for even longer sessions when I know I have a lot of data analysis or writing to do.

Freedom was created by Fred Stutzman, a post-doc at Carnegie Mellon. It costs only $10 and works for both Mac and Windows computers. Even for such a simple application, $10 bucks is well worth it. The productivity gains from using it are astounding. Just to let you know, I gain no financial benefit from advertising it like this. I just happen to love the program so much that I feel it’s necessary to share it with you to help you be a better grad student. There is a trial version available, so even if my glowing review didn’t convince you to purchase it, you really have no reason not to at least check it out. You can thank me later when the timer expires.

Please feel free to tell me what you think in the comments! Also, if you like what you’ve been reading here, why not sign up at the top of the page to receive emails every time I make a new post. Thank you for reading!

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Written by Taylor M.

January 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] Regain Your Freedom. Email isn’t the only thing that is a time-waster. Read this to learn how to regain some of your freedom from the internet. […]

  2. […] Regain your Freedom. Feeling distracted by the internet? Read this to learn how to regain your freedom. […]


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