Are you making yourself sick just trying to keep focused on the work at hand and not click over to Facebook to check on your “friends?” Struggling with the guilt you feel two hours after googling a single address, once you realize that you’ve followed the rabbit down the hole and are now tagging photos of the fearsome Mudmen of Asaro?
Yeah, me too.
But there may be a solution. It’s a neat little productivity application called Freedom that actually turns off the Internet, keeping you locked away from its distractions. All you have to do is click on the Freedom icon, tell it how many minutes (or hours) you want to be “unplugged” and away you go—actually getting some work done. When the time is up, you’re reconnected. It’s sort of like when Mom used to say you had to finish your homework before you went out to play.
While Freedom is running on your computer, the only way to get around it is to reboot. And then hang your head in shame. Even your Twitter feed isn’t worth the humiliation.
Freedom was developed by Fred Stutzman, a graduate student studying Human-Computer Interaction at the University of North Carolina, who says he created it because he needed to finish his dissertation. Even though you can ask Freedom for up to eight hours of Internet silence, Stutzman recommends starting out with short bursts of productivity and working your way up to total cold turkey. It takes some getting used to.
What if you actually need to be on the Internet to do your work—perhaps researching or using an online app—but don’t trust yourself to stay away from the social sites? If you’re a Mac user, check out Anti-Social. It’s similar to Freedom, but focuses only on shutting out social networking sites. And you can input other specific sites you wish to avoid. (Wikipedia? The Internet Movie Database? HGTV Dreamhouse Sweepstakes?)
Freedom is good for Windows XP, Vista and 7 as well as Mac OX X 10.4, 10.5 and 10.6. You can download it immediately for $10 or select the free trial. (For the firm managers out there, yes, volume discounts and customization are available.) Anti-Social is $15 and there’s a free trial offer there, too.
Now, get a grip and get on with that brief! Your “friends” will still be there when you’re done.
Merrilyn Astin Tarlton has been helping lawyers and law firms think differently about the business of practicing law since 1984. She is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, among the first inductees to the Legal Marketing Association Hall of Fame and Adjunct at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.