You’re surrounded by more distractions than at any other point in human history.
Your phone pings, buzzes and bleeps. Push notifications barge their way onto your screen.
So finding a way to block these distractions is something 90% of people need so that they can stay productive.
The average person spends (wastes) 2 – 3 hours per day on social media.
And once distracted it can take up to 23 minutes for your brain to settle back into a flow state.
I’ve tested a number of different focus apps over the years to block distracting websites.
And after one disappointment after another I finally found one that works.
Introducing the Freedom app.
Freedom is a distraction blocking/focus app for PC, Mac, tablet, and smartphone.
This means you can block apps and websites across multiple devices.
It even works on Linux and ChromeOS via the Freedom extension for the Chrome browser.
Okay, not everyone wants to use Chrome (and I get why) but at least you have the option of using Freedom if you want to.
So it’s also not as restrictive as say Focus, which is only available for macOS.
It’s also extremely affordable, but we cover that in more detail a little later.
What can it block?
So, your standard distraction blocking apps will limit what websites you can visit.
Freedom does this via a system called blocklists:
You can choose to simply ‘Block All Websites’ or use a pre-defined list like my ‘Social’ block list.
- You can block entire categories of websites such as ‘Shopping’, ‘Dating’, and ‘Politics.
- Or you can simply block individual websites.
I used the second option because it allows me more…Freedom.
See how that works?
You can add a device to your account by clicking on ‘Add a device’:
So, all your Internet blocking is taken care of with just one or two clicks of a mouse.
But can also block specific desktop app, which is great news for all the email inbox junkies reading this.
You know who you are – you drop everything the split second an email notification appears on your screen.
And then emerge an hour later, “…frustrated that you’re behind schedule.”
Which is entirely your own fault…even though you hate to admit it.
Speaking of schedules, you can also set up recurring blocked out times of your day:
Anyways, Freedom app blocking works in much the same way as their Internet blocking does.
First you need to set up what apps you want to block by clicking ‘Manage Blocked Desktop Apps’:
Then tick the boxes for the apps you want to block:
Just make sure the app you want to block is actually active when you use this feature e.g. Outlook or Thunderbird.
And then simply start your Block Session.
Which we cover next.
Blocking sites and apps
Blocking sites or apps with Freedom is as straightforward as you could want it to be.
It to each chunk of blocking as a “session”.
Sessions can be preset (25 minutes to 2 hours), custom or even scheduled:
I typically block everything out for an hour on good days, or 2 hours when I really kneed to knuckle down and get stuff done.
What if you accidentally start a session blocking sites you genuinely need?
Well you can pause the Freedom session if you like, or login to the website interface and unblock a specific website.
They do offer a ‘Locked Mode’ though for the hardcore types who don’t want to be able to quit.
Just use that wisely, especially if you typically use blocking sessions that are longer than 2 hours.
Believe me, there’s nothing worse than blocking things out in ‘Locked Mode’ only to realize you’ve used the wrong list and now have to find something else to do for the next 4 hours.
What happens if you “accidentally” open one of your blocked sites?
You’re greeted with a friendly message from Freedom:
I actually smile when this appears because it means I’ve gotten distracted and almost ghosted over to Facebook or YouTube.
So I know Freedom just saved me at least 35 minutes of wasted time.
Freedom also comes with a a number of browser extension apps that help you make the most of your block sessions.
These include the ability to temporarily pause a visit to a distracting website, limit the amount of time you can spend on distracting websites, insights(reports) on how much time you spend online along with being able to do the usual job of blocking distracting sites.
What I love about Freedom is that it doesn’t get in my way until I specifically want it to.
And when I do want to start a session it takes me three clicks and then I can forget about it until it notifies me that my session is done.
There’s no complicated web-based interface, or having to leave a browser window open.
Or constant crashes.
Or any of the other crap I’ve had to put up with when using other focus apps or distraction blockers.
I’ve seen several people complain that Freedom doesn’t have a Pomodoro feature.
Which seems like a weird complaint for two reasons:
- It’s not a Pomodoro time management tool
- It’s default time setting is 25-minutes
But during periods when I need complete and total concentration I simply run Freedom first and then start my free Pomotodo timer.
And that solution works perfectly.
The Freedom productivity app is also regularly updated, and the neat thing is that the updates are pretty much automatics, so there’s very little thought required on your part.
I have to be 100% honest here, I only found this feature while putting together this review.
Even though it’s probably been there for years.
It’s a set of ‘Focus sounds’:
This is a playlist of background noises that you can play while you’re working.
These are split into three main categories: offices, nature and coffee shops.
Now, I typically use a Spotify playlist of movie soundtracks, but I tested the ‘Coffee shop’ sounds today and it was oddly relaxing.
It also managed to keep me focused.
So these are ideal maybe for people who need background noise to help them keep on track.
The only downside is that you have to run the focus sounds from an active web browser window.
What it costs
Freedom, alas, is not free.
You can give it a test drive for 7 uses thanks to their “free trial.”
But you have to pay for it after that:
So at worst you can try it for an entire month for just $8.99.
And that’s still a hell of a lot cheaper than something like Focus which costs $19 per month for the basic version.
Now the other thing is that you can get a yearly subscription for Freedom for under $40, or $3.33 per month.
To be honest, I forgot I was on a monthly subscription until today…so upgraded to an annual plan while writing this.
So choosing the annual subscription saves you (and me) $83 per year.
Oh and Freedom comes with a whole pile of “Perks” in the form of discounts or extended free trials for a whole variety of tools and services ideal for creative types.
That’s really just the icing on the cake though.
- Is a combined website blocker and app blocker
- Anyone can use this app – it’s that intuitive
- Productivity sessions can be tailored to your exact needs
- Doesn’t slow your desktop or mobile device down after installation
- Works across multiple devices and Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS
- Far more affordable than most other app blockers
- Freedom does experience the odd toolbar crash – but it doesn’t actually kill the process.
- Focus sounds feature is only available via a web browser.
Wrapping it up
If I sound like a bit of a Freedom fanboy, it’s because I totally am – I use Freedom every day to block online distractions.
When I spend money on tools I expect them to get the job done and without causing me any further headaches.
Especially productivity tools.
How effective is it?
A large project that would normally take 10 hours of my day can be completed in half the time.
And all by simply blocking out distractions from apps and websites that don’t actually make me any money.
So I really do hope you find Freedom as useful as I have, and this review along with that.