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.)
⁃ 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)
Images via Unsplash
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.
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).
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