Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My greatest productivity tools: Freedom and Anti-Social

I grew up in the age on the cusp of the internet. I remember dial-up when I was in the 9th or 10th grade, chatting on IRC in the 12th, and the excitement of the internet in the mid-90s. This meant that I had a youth filled with books, but that I also lived through the transition to this digital world.

I now work on or with computers an incredible amount. Almost all my main resources for working in Greek and Latin are computer-based. A large, probably too large, portion of my time is spent sitting in front of a screen (usually two, for good measure) both for work and leisure. And this is unlikely to change.

What has changed is that I am quite prone to distraction. The internet is full of shiny. That's why, of all the software I utilise, the one that helps me the most doesn't 'do' anything, it stops me doing things.

The first is Freedom. Basically it shuts down the internet for you. And it's reasonably hard enough to circumvent that I just get on with work. This is the key, all controls are circumventable, you need to control yourself enough to restrain yourself from circumvention! But Freedom effortlessly just lets me turn off the internet for a pre-set period of time. Usually I work in blocks of up to 2 hours, set it for that long, work away, and then take a break from work.

But sometimes I need the internet. Well, that is not true, but sometimes I am using web-based tools to help me get my work done. Lately I am using Perseus Greek word study tool a lot - it helps me parse difficult forms in Basil's Against Eunomius, which let me tell you saves me about a thousand years of headaches.

At these times I use Freedom's sister program, Anti-Social. It is like a targeted version of Freedom, so you can block sites that you know are time-wasters - I don't need to check Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, every five minutes, and I don't need to be sucked into yet another game of 2048 (I have had a one-week obsession with it, trying to reach 4096). Anti-Social works on a black-list principle. My only desideratum would be a white-list option as well.

They are quite cheap, and if you like me struggle with distracticons, I highly recommend them. Also they are not paying me for this blog post.

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