You’re at the computer attempting to finish a pressing task, but somehow you’ve ended up on Instagram again, watching cute animal videos. When you get home, you begin to look up a dinner recipe on your phone and once again, you find yourself reading a news article, and suddenly 40 minutes have passed. How did all this time slip by? You constantly find yourself behind on all your tasks at work and home, but it’s hard to tear yourself away from your screens.
Many Americans struggle to set healthy boundaries with their screened devices, which may affect their relationships, physical well-being, and mental health. However, there’s a simple solution to cutting your screen time and maintaining focus. Freedom is an application that uses a timer to block distracting websites or apps that take away from the task at hand. But how can users make this app fit into their daily schedule to minimize distracting screen time and enjoy productive, fulfilling days? Here’s how:
How Freedom Works
- Freedom’s application combines productivity timers with customizable block lists. Users set up sessions that will automatically block particular websites, apps, and their notifications within an allotted time; these can be pre scheduled or created in the moment.
- It’s possible to customize several different block lists depending on the work you want to accomplish and adjust the length of your timed sessions. At the beginning of your timed session, the selected block list is activated, forcing you to focus on your work and avoid wasting time on other websites.
- Before you download and install the application, Freedom requires you to create a profile with your email on their website and gives you the option of a free trial of seven sessions if you want to test out how you like the application.
- After signing up and selecting a payment plan, you can download and install the app for Windows or macOS from the Freedom dashboard.
- Once you follow the on-screen prompts and finish the installation, the Freedom app icon will always be visible in your Windows taskbar or macOS menu bar, and automatically launch when you start your device, working in the background.
- The mobile version operates in a similar fashion to the desktop version. After you download the app on your phone, login to your account. Freedom operates on both Android and iOS cellphones and blocks both apps and websites on your Safari browser.
- For more information on downloading Freedom for your devices, check out our Quick Start Guide.
How to Manage Your Screen Time with Freedom
The highlight of Freedom is the custom block list feature, which makes managing screen time easier than ever. After creating a new block list, your dashboard will save it for future use. Here’s how to make your own:
- From the Freedom dashboard, select My Blocklists, then Add Blocklist.
- Enter the name of your new block list and type in the URL of the site you’d like to block.
- Click Add Site, then Save at the bottom of the field. You can add multiple websites or select suggested choices from Freedom.
- Before you begin a session, you can select as many Blocklists as you’d like to activate during a session and block you from accessing a site or receiving its notifications.
- To control the settings, you can login to the Freedom dashboard in the browser of your choice. On the left of the dashboard, a menu named My Devices will show every device where Freedom is installed, such as your laptop, computer, or phone.
- Below My Devices is an option labeled Locked Mode, which locks all your block lists during a work session, so you can’t edit the lists to access a distracting site.
- To the right, you can select My Session to set your timers, and you can later view your recorded sessions from Session History.
- You’ll be able to select your block lists from below on your sessions to select which devices will be affected by the session blocks, so you won’t be able to escape to social media on your phone when the sites are blocked on your laptop.
Organizing Your Days with Freedom
One of the best things you can do for yourself is create a daily routine that keeps you feeling happy, healthy, and focused. This will look different for everyone, depending on one’s schedule, personality, and interior clock.
It’s a good idea to limit morning screen time and focus on yourself in the morning to start your day right. For example, in the first hour of your day, your Morning Blocklist can automatically block your email, news sites, and social media while you workout, meditate, eat breakfast, journal, or do whatever you need to prepare for your day.
Once you arrive at work, you’ll be able to access your email and important sites, but that doesn’t mean you have to block distracting websites from 9 to 5. Many people benefit from the Pomodoro method, in which you spend 25 minutes focusing on the task at hand, and then five minutes taking a break. After four Pomodoros, you enjoy a 15-minute break, which could be spent checking your newsfeeds or taking a stroll around the block. You can choose to activate your Work Blocklist for 25 minute bursts to help you focus and accomplish big jobs by breaking them up into smaller, doable chunks.
When it comes to eating, it may be tempting to multitask by having lunch while you answer emails or check a social media site, but when we use a screen during mealtimes, we tend to eat 30-60% more food, according to Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers. Studies show that being present with your food will help you feel more gratitude and more fully experience the flavors.
Once you arrive home, it may be tempting to binge your favorite show, but a Creativity Blocklist may help you focus on creative projects you’d like to accomplish, from painting to journaling to weaving. Studies also suggest that the blue light from screens can disrupt our circadian rhythm, so it’s best to keep screens off an hour before bed. A Bedtime Blocklist may encourage you to spend that time reading with a cup of tea, listening to calming music, or doing some relaxing stretches to encourage a good night’s sleep. Of course, you always have the option to choose to deactivate your Blocklists for evenings you want to have a movie night or watch a cooking YouTube tutorial.
Maximizing Productivity with Freedom
Freedom can help users build self-discipline, waste less time, and maximize their productivity, whether you’re an accountant, a writer, or an economist. London-based artist, musician, and designer Bill Tribble is passionate about making technology a force for good in the world, and he uses Freedom to limit his distracting screen time and spend more time offline outside of work.
“What I’m finding recently is that I can carve out more space for offline things that matter to me like reading books, playing with my son, and building my own instruments. Meditation, walking, running, and cycling do the most for me – in that order,” Tribble said. “Making space to just disconnect and remember everything that really matters to you is so critical to wellbeing, but so easy to miss. I’m also pretty rigorous about focus in my work – I tend to block out all notifications for periods of focus and hide everything that’s not relevant to the task at hand.”
By using Freedom to block distracting sites and notifications, users like Tribble and Ottawa-based fiction author and storyteller Marie Bilodeau have found there’s nothing in the way of their own productivity, except their own willpower. Bilodeau uses a notebook where she writes statistics on her timed writing sessions, and uses Freedom for optimized productivity.
“I can tell you exactly what’s written in my “what worked” column every time I have a good session. Two things: 1 – phone was in another room, and 2 – Freedom was on. If those two elements are not met, I am doomed to at least half the word count,” Bilodeau said. “I am my biggest distractor to writing. So I have to cage myself. No Internet. Focus on words. So I leave myself notes, peppered all around my desk. They help remind me what I’m trying to accomplish, and what my goals are. Rarely are those goals “doomscroll through social media for half the day.”
Additional Tips and Tricks for Managing Screen Time
For those of us who work on computer screens, it can be difficult to tear away from a screen after spending hours staring at one. However, there’s always ways to incorporate healthy habits and tools that allow our minds to take a break, which helps us restore motivation and memory.
Move a Little
Going on a short walk around your neighborhood or workplace can boost creativity and help you focus when returning to work, helping you to finish tasks quicker. By breathing fresh air, waving to a friendly face, and listening to the birds, your body can also enjoy a bit of movement that can help tension from sitting at a desk for a few hours.
Read a Book
Would you still like to learn something new without having to strain your vision? Give your eyes a much needed rest and check out a new book from your local library to improve cognition, inspiration, and even productivity. Even 15 minutes of reading a day can help you learn something new from a professional source, or escape to a fantastical world that boosts your imagination.
Try Habit Stacking
Consider your daily habits. Do you check social media while you sip on your daily morning coffee? When you’d like to replace old habits, it can be easier to do so through a concept called “Habit Stacking.” Basically, you pair a habit you’d like to implement with an old one.
For example, you can decide “After I pour my cup of morning coffee, I will meditate for one minute on gratitude in my life.” Invented by Atomic Habits author James Clear, this method can be effective when the cue is specific and easily achievable. To help keep track of your habits, you can even try out the Habitica app, a fun game which grants rewards when you accomplish a task for the day. Happy stacking!
Conquer Your Screen Time Once and For All
It’s easier than ever to find resources to help manage your screen time, from books like Stop Scrolling to apps like Habitica and Freedom that maximize your work productivity so you can spend more time offline cultivating your relationships, exploring your passions, and trying new hobbies.
If you’re ready to cut down on your wasted screen time to boost your productivity and enjoy a more fulfilling and healthier lifestyle, download Freedom and start managing your screen time today, so you can put down your phone, shut your laptop, and get outside! There’s a big beautiful world to enjoy.
Written by author Lorena Bally