Two things are destroying my brain. The first is my internet addiction. I’ve been a high-functioning internet addict since I first got access to the World Wide Web at 9 years old. But things worsened dramatically after my first smartphone purchase “for work” three years ago – it’s been like being an alcoholic and having a bottle of whiskey strapped to my arm at all times. I’m now 5% human, 95% internet addiction.

The second is the fact that I’m a freelancer. As anyone who has freelanced knows, it’s a constant juggling act. The most decadent, Marie-Antoinette-being-fed-grapes-on-a-chaise-longue luxury I can give myself is spending an entire day on one article. This almost never happens: I’ll be in the middle of writing something when I get an email asking me to rewrite a few paragraphs of a second article because the tone isn’t critical enough, I’ll start on that and get an email from the accounts department of a magazine asking me to resubmit an invoice because I left a blank row in the table (!!!), then I’ll get a text about posting social media to push an article I’ve written that’s just been published. The very art of freelancing is the art of withstanding — nay, savouring — constant interruption.

My focus is now the worst it’s ever been. So what to do? Sure, I could internet detox, but given my job, this isn’t realistic. So instead I decided to harness my cruel mistress, the Interweb, to fuel my willpower. I decided to use online resources to cultivate focus and productivity. Because as everyone knows: you’re only as good as the number of to-dos you’ve checked off today. Joking. (But not really.)

I used:

Pomodoro (free app for the Pomodoro Technique)
Checky (free app for shocking you at how often you check your phone)
Timewaster Timer (free browser extension but also not: put $5 on this via Paypal and every time you go on Facebook for over an hour, you’ll pay a $1)

A photo by Gilles Lambert. unsplash.com/photos/pb_lF8VWaPU

Images via Unsplash

POMODORO

Do you like achieving goals in short, terrifyingly focused bursts of concentration? Then this bad boy’s for you. The Pomodoro Technique is about working in 25-minute periods. You focus on one thing and just that one thing for the 25 minutes, like a pre-Internet human being. Then you get a five-minute break. Then you start again. After four pomodoros, you get a longer break.

How is it?
This was probably the most effective tool I used. I’ve never worked with such concentration. My only issue was that since you have to unlock your phone to use this (it doesn’t function on a locked screen, at least on my iphone 4s), it upped my total for how often I checked my phone on Checky (see below). But aside from this — and the fact that sometimes you’ll unlock your phone and get side-tracked by a juicy group Whatsapp exchange — it comes highly recommended for the admin side of freelancing. However, I found this less useful when, say, spending two hours on an in-depth piece. When I’m writing a long essay, taking a break every 25 minutes breaks my flow.

CHECKY

If you like low-self esteem, you’ll love this this fail-safe method for destroying your confidence. Sure, you think you’re pretty cool now. But wait until you see how many times a day you check your phone, you desperate loser.

How is it?
The shame. THE SHAME. Even if I deduct 24 checks for a day’s worth of Pomodoros, I still seem to check my phone around 25-30 times a day. Gross. But in my defence…it’s my alarm clock. It’s my clock because I don’t own a watch. It’s my Instagram hub. It’s where my podcasts are. It’s my everything. OK, that’s sad. New autumn resolution: smartphone-free Sundays.
Still. A frustrating factor about the app is that it’s not all that nuanced. It doesn’t differentiate between a productive use of your phone (unlocking it to make a phone call) and unproductive (spending 20 minutes lying in bed with a hangover hearting friends’ ironic holiday snaps on Instagram).

TIMEWASTER TIMER

Stops you from going on Facebook too long by timing you — if you spend over an hour a day on the service, it charges you $1.

How is it?
Not so great. I don’t spend a lot of time on Mark Zuckerberg’s digital baby anyway. I just compulsively interrupt myself by clicking back onto it every few hours. I want to be able to set my maximum time on Facebook or better yet, set how many times I can visit it per day. Unless you work in social media, no functioning adult should need to be on Facebook more than once a day, surely — though yes, Facebook messenger is a different story.

This experiment taught me that a) My internet addiction is even worse than I thought and b) Luckily, the internet can be used against itself, like a hungry cannibal.

Whether or not you stick with using these apps, the costs (basically nothing) vs. benefits (loads) means it’s worth giving them a try, if only for your busiest weeks of the year. So skip the smug Goop Internet detox and get on the internet productivity bandwagon. You’ll be all the saner for it.

Headerpicture: Internet Addiction by Shutterstock