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In the era of social media, smartphones, tablet computers, smartwatches, and nearly ubiquitous connectivity, it’s very difficult not to get distracted. Recent events have only compounded the situation because the only thing more distracting than an abundance of digital distractions is that same litany of side-tracking tools compounded by the close proximity of a snack cupboard. To stay on track and in the zone what many of us need is some tough love. Freedom is here to offer exactly that.

Choose your poisons

In order to get the most from Freedom you’ll need to install it on your laptop or desktop, smartphone, and (if you have one) tablet. Once you’ve done so you can create sessions, which are timed windows when the app will prevent you from accessing a pre-defined list of apps and websites you know tend to devour your time and slay your productivity.

That list can include everything from Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok to messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal. If you’re really smart you’ll also include your default web browsers, and then only use others without bookmarks or other shortcuts saved for research and the like. If you find the internet as a whole distracting and can do without it for stints, you can even block the whole of the cat-laden world wide web for an allotted period.

Freedom really shines in its granularity. You can set recurring windows of distraction-free time, and if you find yourself over-riding its lockdowns too often you can remove that option and force your own hand. Even better, the app supports Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and even ChromeOS, in case you’re the kooky sort who uses a Chromebook. There’s also a Google Chrome extension you can install which also works on Microsoft Edge, but of course, is no good on Firefox or Safari.

work freedom

Track your progress

A premium subscription to Freedom also includes the option to play white noise and other distraction-killing ambient noises, from those of a cafe or office to those of a forest or (if you’re longing for the “before times”) even those of an office. And if you’re a fan of the quantified life, you can peruse your session history after the fact to see which devices you blocked distractions on and for how long, and annotate each with words of encouragement or detailed notes on what you achieved.

The team behind Freedom has even gone so far as to encourage fans to ask it for any features they don’t see that they’d like… and considering the nature of the product, if your suggestion is sound you can bet Freedom will make it a priority and implement it before you can say, “Sorry I came to bed so late, darling, there was someone on Twitter who was mistaken about something trivial.”

The price of freedom

It may seem perverse to pay someone to keep you off your devices, but if you’ve ever had a looming deadline go flying by while you’ve fallen down a Facebook-shaped rabbit hole leering at the various successes and failings of your high-school nemeses, you’ll understand why the business model may have merit. Freedom forces upon you the self-control you (quite understandably) might otherwise lack… paying for it only makes it more likely you’ll adhere to its metaphoric cracking of the whip. Plus, depending on how much value you ascribe to a reclaimed hour, it could literally pay for itself in mere days.

As with most things in life, buy in bulk and you’ll save. A month-to-month subscription to Freedom will set you back around R100 a month, but you can cleave that down to around R40 if you’re willing to fork out for a full year upfront. If you’re even less commitment-phobic, you can secure lifetime access for approximately R2 000 which, yes, seems insane at first blush… but keep an eye on it and you’re sure to be able to secure it for less — Freedom routinely offers discounts on its lifetime plan, including a recent December 2020 special that cleaved the usual fee in half.

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