7 Ways to Use Freedom to Do the Things That Matter Most

Freedom was created by our CEO Fred Stutzman in order to help him avoid distractions and be more productive while writing his PhD. However, since releasing the new Freedom platform, our diverse and talented Freedom community has found many ways to use Freedom other than just to improve their productivity at work.

Instead of us coming up with ways to use Freedom, we figured we’d step aside and let our users share the many ways that they are using Freedom to live happier, healthier, more fulfilled lives.

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Freedom was created by our CEO Fred Stutzman in order to help him avoid distractions and be more productive while writing his PhD. However, since releasing the new Freedom platform, our diverse and talented Freedom community has found many ways to use Freedom other than just to improve their productivity at work.

Instead of us coming up with ways to use Freedom, we figured we’d step aside and let our users share the many ways that they are using Freedom to live happier, healthier, more fulfilled lives.

PRODUCTIVITY AT WORK

  • “In my first two hours of trying out Freedom I was blocked from the internet 4 times; from that point on I have been an avid user. I had no idea how often and how unconsciously my fingers directed me to my distraction sites (Twitter, FB, news) by habit rather than intention. Like keeping the junk food out of the house, Freedom removes temptation, and makes it so much easier for me to stay on the tasks that future-me will be grateful I got done.”
  • “I’m a journalist and author. I use Freedom when I’m writing.I find it indispensable to achieving the concentration necessary to produce as a writer.”
  • “I’m a freelancer and freedom is necessary for me to get things done. The equivalent for work without ‘freedom,’ in physical terms, would involve setting up an office cubicle in a bar full of friends. It is conceivable that someone would ignore the fun socializing surrounding them and focus on work tasks, but it’s intuitive that the spatial division of work from leisure is conducive to effective concentration.”
  • “Freedom has helped me to stop stealing from myself. Since I get paid by the billable hour, I’d say that I had a positive ROI from buying a lifetime Freedom subscription within 48 hours.”

 

FOCUS AT SCHOOL

  • “It is a miracle when I put Freedom on I am just all of the sudden able to write 500 words per 45 minutes easily. Best investment for grad students worldwide.”
  • “We use freedom to help children not be distracted whilst doing homework, but still have access to the internet for research. Also to stop the permanent Instagram and Snapchat addiction.”
  • “I am a college student with ADHD and I have really struggled not to waste copious amounts of time on the internet. This service has allowed me to access all my homework and study material while successfully blocking all the distractions!”
  • “My fellow procrastinator: if you have four essays to submit by next week, this is the app for you.”

SLEEP

  • “I set up my Freedom to begin at 10 pm and end at 1 pm. Since I have done that, I have consistently gotten a good night’s sleep and without the temptations of Facebook and Youtube. I am also able to get my freelance work done before lunch.”
  • “I have been able to successfully shut off the internet on all my iDevices and Macs from 10 PM to 7 AM. It has helped me focus more on sleeping better and generally limit my use of technology before bedtime.”
  • “At first I thought the app wouldn’t be much use to me but, how wrong I was! Using it has given me at least an extra hour of sleep (probably closer to two hours) per night because I block all internet access at 9 PM instead of deliriously and mostly aimlessly surfing the net until 10.30 or 11 PM with minimal productivity.”

BREAKING THE ADDICTION:

  • “I have been addicted to the internet since I was 13 (22 now). If you had asked me a year ago if I thought I’d ever get over my internet addiction, I would’ve said you’re crazy. The internet is my favorite pastime. All of the projects I gave myself became overwhelming. I felt like I could never be finished using the internet because I never ran out of things to do. My non-internet to-dos piled up for 3 years. I feared I would never get to them because of my addiction. I decided to take on this problem of my own accord and Google how to block the internet. That’s when I discovered Freedom. To me, it was clearly the best choice. I never pay for digital services, but this was a must. Now I don’t use the internet every other day. I can only use social media twice a week. I have been able to focus on other things. One of my biggest problems is gone for good.”

AVOIDING THE CONSTANT MEDIA BARRAGE

  • “Freedom has put a stop to my mindless flicking through news websites. Now if I have time to look at my phone, I read an iBook, or I just put the phone down when I realize it was just picked up out of habit.”
  • “Freedom app helps me get on with meditation instead of mindlessly thumbing through FB, the news on the American Election (in the vain hope there might be a silver lining somewhere), and the mind-numbing violence that occupies the front pages of my country’s newspapers. Thank you for the freedom.”

SPENDING TIME WITH FAMILY/ MINDFULNESS

  • “I don’t use freedom for work. I use it for after work at home with my kids. I used to unconsciously look at Facebook, Instagram, etc. constantly – much to the detriment of my family’s home life. I’ve only been using Freedom a few days but it’s stopped me from browsing social media mindlessly and has helped me be more present with my wife and kids. I’m hoping it will help me retrain myself to stop checking social media constantly and break the habit of mindless phone use.”
  • “I am using Freedom not just to stay productive during my work time, but also to unplug from social media for Shabbat. It’s not practical for me to turn off my phone entirely, but using Freedom helps me stick with my intention to abstain from social media during the day of rest.”

MENTAL HEALTH

  • “I have ADHD and I’m in nursing school. When I’m having trouble studying or writing, Freedom is like my “nuclear option” — a strange choice of phrase, I know, but a weapon of mass obstruction is sometimes what it takes to push out distractions and get my head back in the game, so to speak.”
  • “In a few days, it has already significantly decreased my depressive feelings caused by checking Facebook too often!”
  • “I’ve only had it about a week, and already my mental health is improving and my productivity is way up. By pre-scheduling sessions with Freedom, I also stop myself from the temptation of distraction when I know I’ll be most susceptible (like evenings and mornings). Little by little my habits are changing. Thank you for what you do, Freedom! I’m more mentally present and becoming more productive and aware of my own mental health.”
  • “To be honest – I used this app to get through a break-up. Removing the temptation to check my social media sites even tho there was a high potential for seeing bad behavior and comments by others has been a great, stress-free option. I set up a 23h 55m block on repeat so I don’t have to deal with that nonsense. I also use it to focus on work and at-home projects. My house has gone through a major transformation! It’s also the BEST app for people with ADHD who have trouble focusing.”

ALL OF THE ABOVE

  • “ I block the entire internet from my phone before bed so I don’t lose sleep mindlessly scrolling apps and online while in bed. I allow myself a small window during the afternoon to check my Facebook, if I miss it, I have to wait another 24 hours. It’s been a little rough not being able to check social media constantly but I’m feeling better. I’m getting more done in my life and feel I am now living in my home/with my family instead of the vast space of the Internet. It’s freeing. I see a light at the end of my Internet addiction tunnel and I really can’t say thank you enough. From, One honest-to-goodness internet addicted mama”

 

Are you using Freedom in a way not listed above? We’d love to hear how Freedom fits into your daily schedule in the comments below.

Fiction Writer Deborah Willis on Becoming a Writer, Distractions, and Retraining Her Brain

At Freedom we love our users – not just because they use our product but because they’re cool – cool people working on cool stuff. Academy Award-nominated screenwriters, best-selling authors, editors, designers, star TV actors & writers, academic researchers, and entrepreneurs – the Freedom community is packed with curious, creative, and efficient go-getters. We love to share their stories and advice, because how better to learn about productivity than from the productive?

This week’s Freedom spotlight goes to award-winning fiction writer Deborah Willis. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, Willis’ stories have received various awards and have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Virginia Quarterly, Lucky Peach, and Zoetrope.

debbiehigh_res002.jpgAt Freedom we love our users – not just because they use our product but because they’re cool – cool people working on cool stuff. Academy Award-nominated screenwriters, best-selling authors, editors, designers, star TV actors & writers, academic researchers, and entrepreneurs – the Freedom community is packed with curious, creative, and efficient go-getters. We love to share their stories and advice, because how better to learn about productivity than from the productive?

This week’s Freedom spotlight goes to award-winning fiction writer Deborah Willis.  Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, Willis’ stories have received various awards and have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Virginia Quarterly, Lucky Peach, and Zoetrope. Her first book, Vanishing and Other Stories, was called one of the best books of 2010 by NPR and praised by Alice Munro for its “range and depth…clarity and deftness.” Her latest collection of fiction, The Dark and Other Love Stories is set to release today, so be sure to check out her website at deborahwillis.ca to learn more!

How did you reach this point in your professional life? What led you to do what you do today?

This question feels almost impossible to answer because I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about nine years old. I loved to read as a kid, then studied English and Creative Writing at university, then worked in an independent bookstore for seven years, and am now an editor with Freehand Books, a small press based in Canada. But being a writer, or doing any creative work, is never a linear career trajectory.

The most important part of my development as a writer, I would guess, is that I’ve always been fairly quiet, an observer by nature. I also had to develop some skills that weren’t innate to me: the ability to stay calm in the face of insecurity, to trust my own voice, to keep working even when the result may end up being very different from what I’d envisioned. Being a writer requires a mix of self-erasure and self-confidence, and you have to accept a lack of material security while also busting your ass within the capitalist economy. Basically, writers seem to constantly walk the line between having a career and having a vocation. I feel that I’m still learning how to manage these contradictions, just as I’m always learning about the craft of writing itself.

What advice would you offer less experienced writers – especially in regard to staying productive, motivated, and focused?

I remember feeling a few years ago that my brain was changing. I was having trouble focusing while reading books, and would even switch from reading one book to another to another in the span of half an hour—just the way a person surfing the internet skips from one link to another. It truly scared me, and I decided to retrain my brain, because I knew that the ability to focus was essential not only to my work, but to my happiness and sense of self. So my advice to other writers would be to monitor your own mind, to be honest with yourself about your current capabilities, and take action to restore or improve your concentration and focus. I continually have to do this, because new distractions always seem to be conspiring against me.

What excites you most about your industry?

In this Trump-ified world, what excites me most about books is that they are objects that require thoughtfulness and deep consideration. Books are an antidote to the rushed conclusion, the simplified answer, the slogan. Well, Mein Kampf repudiates everything I just said, but I still maintain that, in general, reading is incredibly challenging, far more active for the mind than passively watching a screen. So it encourages me and gives me hope when people are willing to put the time and effort into reading because it shows empathy and deep engagement with the world.    

I also like to think that reading hones a person’s imaginative abilities. And now that we’re witnessing the mass rage that globalization has engendered, we need all the imagination we can get. I hope we can use our big, empathetic, emotional, rational, complex minds to think up alternative ways of running our communities—alternatives that might allow for more global stability, happiness, diversity, environmental stewardship, and kindness.

When are you most productive, and how does this shape your daily working routine?

I’m most productive in the mornings, which is when I write creatively. In the afternoons, I do my editing work, catch up on email, and, you know, take a nap. And I reserve the evenings for exercise and cooking, hanging out with my partner and our cat, and seeing my family and friends. Keeping the body and spirit healthy seems to me to be central to keeping my mind focused and calm.

What resources or tools do you use daily and have found most beneficial to your writing or creative process?

Writing is wonderful because it requires so few expensive tools. I have a notebook, pens, books and a laptop, and with those, I can create whole worlds! I also use Freedom every day when I write. I turn it on in the morning to block my biggest distractions and leave it on for most of the day.

What project are you currently most excited about?

I am currently most excited about my forthcoming book, The Dark and Other Love Stories, a book of eleven stories about love in all its guises. One story is about an intense friendship between two girls at summer camp, another is about a man who adopts a pet crow, and another is about a man whose girlfriend is leaving him so that she can star on a reality show and try to win a seat on the first manned mission to Mars. The book isn’t all about romantic love, but is about the bonds that tie us to each other and the world.

What are your biggest distractors?

I’m embarrassed to admit that celebrity gossip is my downfall. And I’m also not embarrassed to admit it, because I can justify it by telling myself that gossip is the study of character—what makes a person succeed or fail or sell-out or humiliate themselves are all interesting subjects for a writer. I’m also deeply interested in the public’s reactions to a celebrity gossip story because it enables us to take the moral temperature of our times. And celebrity gossip, if it’s delivered with some intelligence, tells us a lot about the social and economic system in which we live. The celebrity ecosystem is an exaggerated version of the hyper-capitalist world wherein we all attempt to survive, so it’s fascinating to watch these beautiful creatures navigate its treacherous waters.

How do you stay motivated and continue to push yourself?

My curiosity drives my writing, as does my desire to put good work into the world. I feel so grateful when someone reads my stories, so have a strong sense of responsibility to readers. If people are willing to give me their time, in return I want to do my best to give them something beautiful, funny, and meaningful.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2017?

My goal for this year is to complete a draft of a novel. Even if it’s a terrible draft! Terrible writing can be improved upon, whereas blank pages are dead ends. I tell myself that every damn day. This project is so big and unwieldy that accepting that my draft will probably be bad—that drafts are allowed to be bad—seems to be the only way to get myself to sit in my chair and work.

To learn more about Deborah Willis or where to find her books and stories, visit deborahwillis.ca!

How Freedom Can Help You Study For Your Exam

Studying. An inevitable and often dreaded part of school life. Whether studying for a high school quiz, the LSAT, the GREs, or finals, we’ve all experienced the strain, stress, hard work required.  

Today, studying can seem harder than ever – not because the material is harder, but rather because we have to fight off the entire internet and our impulses every time we sit down to study.

With a few clicks and buzzes, studying can quickly turn into binge-watching and distracting conversations.

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Studying. An inevitable and often dreaded part of school life. Whether studying for a high school quiz, the LSAT, the GREs, or finals, we’ve all experienced the strain, stress, hard work required.

Today, studying can seem harder than ever – not because the material is harder, but rather because we have to fight off the entire internet and our impulses every time we sit down to study.

With a few clicks and buzzes, studying can quickly turn into binge-watching and distracting conversations.

“With a few clicks and buzzes, studying can quickly turn into binge-watching and distracting conversations.”

But with Freedom you can make those time-wasting online tangents a thing of the past!

Freedom enables you to block your most distracting websites, apps, or even the entire internet across all your devices for a set period of time.

Freedom also allows you to schedule blocks to help you commit to studying ahead of time, or even schedule recurring blocks for specific times or days to help make productivity a habit.

HOW A LAW STUDENT USED FREEDOM TO STUDY FOR THE BAR EXAM

But don’t take our word for it, a perfect example of this comes from one of our users, Katie, a law school graduate from Delaware. Katie recently reached out to us to say thanks and explain how she has been using Freedom to study for the bar exam.

We loved her story and wanted to share her experience and technique with other Freedom users – so we asked her a few questions:

What about Freedom was most useful to you while studying for the challenging bar exam?

“First, some background about the bar exam. There are both multiple choice and essay questions, and time pressure is huge for both. The entire exam is basically a reading comprehension test, but you have to be able to organize your essays really quickly and efficiently, which is where Freedom is most useful. When the Internet is ‘on’ there are a million things pulling me away from focusing on the question in front of me. I want to be able to start to sustain focus as if it was exam day, not work on my essays in the background while doing other things. When I start a session, it’s just the workbook of essays in front of me and my word document. Sometimes I catch myself trying to open browsers when I forget that I’ve started a session, but I don’t get far.”

What is your work process with Freedom?

“Basically, I have a white noise app that I set to brown noise, a word document, and my study materials (paper). I usually do about one hour sessions and then take a break, which is great because I really work through that entire hour. Sometimes, if a particular assignment is timed (i.e., a portion of the bar is a 1.5 hour essay), I’ll set the session to last the duration of that assignment.”

What have you been able to accomplish with Freedom blocking your distractions?

“So much more! I’ve been able to actually sit and think about an essay question instead of just giving up early and moving on because there is no real alternative when you don’t have the internet to fall back on. For example, instead of superficially answering a prompt and rushing through, knowing I won’t be able to waste time online until 45 minutes is up ANYWAY, means that I go through some thought process vaguely resembling “might as well finish this one right and then you’ll get the internet.” It’s really, really great. I wish I had this in college, to be honest.

ALSO, Freedom is really great at helping me focus on the narrow legal issue of what I’m working on. Legal research is typically done online, and it’s often the case that one thing will tangentially relate to another and so on and so forth. I’ve found that I can do all my research at once, collect all the cases that I think I need, download them, and then go into offline mode and actually write without continually finding more information that keeps pulling me in different directions.

On a non-professional level, Freedom is also great for when I want to read or journal without the nagging distractions of the internet, too. I like reading for fun, but sometimes it’s hard to put the book down when I feel like there’s a million things I want to google, or news to check, or whatever, Just doing a thirty minute session can be really great.“

Thanks Katie for the great story and congratulations on your success!  We love to hear how Freedom works for so many different professions, activities and needs.  Effective studying is crucial to millions of students of all ages and disciplines and no matter what you’re trying to learn, you can use Freedom to stay focused and committed.

J.T. Ellison: Productivity Advice, Work-life Balance, and A Million Books in Print

MEET J.T. ELLISON (AGAIN!)

Known for her dark psychological thrillers, J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen critically acclaimed novels, including WHAT LIES BEHINDWHEN SHADOWS FALL, and ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS. She is also the coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter.

With over a million books in print, Ellison’s work has been published in twenty-five countries and thirteen languages. Her latest thriller, FIELD OF GRAVES,  is set to release this June 14, and has already received rave reviews – (read the first chapter – here!)

 

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MEET J.T. ELLISON (AGAIN!)

Known for her dark psychological thrillers, J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen critically acclaimed novels, including WHAT LIES BEHINDWHEN SHADOWS FALL, and ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS. She is also the coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter.

With over a million books in print, Ellison’s work has been published in twenty-five countries and thirteen languages. Her latest thriller, FIELD OF GRAVES,  is set to release this June 14, and has already received rave reviews – (read the first chapter – here!)

With over 30 novels and short stories written and published, we figured we’d let her tell you how she finds the time and focus to make it all happen!

Did you miss Part 1 of the interview? Check it out here!


 

What advice would you offer less experienced writers – especially in regard to staying productive, motivated, and focused?

First, to respect your work and respect your time. Whether you have fifteen minutes a day or fifteen hours, you must test things to find your perfect time to write, to touch your story, to think about it. Give yourself mental space for this—you can’t have your email open, and Twitter, and Facebook, and be trying to write. In a perfect world, you’d have a separate computer just for writing, not connected to the Internet. Since that isn’t as realistic as it once was, you need something to separate your writing time from your business time. That’s why I use Freedom—it’s a signal, a proverbial knock on my brain’s door that says, Hey, it’s time to go to work now. I turn it on and know I can’t access all the things, and it allows me to settle into my work and focus.

I also use Brain.fm or Rainy Mood to set a nice background hum. I’m a private worker; I don’t like cafés (I get lost building stories around the strangers I see), so the background of a brain wave or thunderstorm really sets the mood. I am a fan of deep work, which is why I suggest finding that time of day that allows you to create. You control it, not the muse.

However you do it, respect that time, nurture it, help it work for you. If you don’t respect your time, no one around you will either.

I also love metrics. I use a combination method, we call it the Stars and Bars: one part Excel spreadsheet, where I can track my time and annual word counts, and one part monthly planner with a star system—every 500 words gets a silver star, travel days are marked in red stars, green means I’m editing… it’s a fun visual reminder of what’s happening project-wise. I do an annual review every year that breaks down my non-fiction and fiction writing, plus social media and other metrics. I’m a little obsessed.

But the very best advice I can give is read. Everything. In and out of your genre. If I’m not reading, I’m not creating.

“However you do it, respect that time, nurture it, help it work for you. If you don’t respect your time, no one around you will either.”

What excites you most about your industry?

People are reading at unprecedented levels because there is a delivery mechanism to fit every lifestyle. Authors have so many choices now, whether to go traditional, go indie, sell direct to readers, partner with distributors—it’s much more business oriented than it used to be, which is both a blessing and a curse. I think there is a story for every reader now, too, which gives so many authors the chance to reach new readers. We’re all working together to get books into the hands of as many people as possible, and it’s a glorious time to be a writer.

What project are you currently most excited about? 

Ten years ago, I wrote a novel that landed me an agent but didn’t sell. I put it in a drawer, wrote the next book, which did sell, and was on my way. A friend wanted me to have a story in an anthology last year, and I was short on time, so I pulled the old novel out, thinking I’d strip it down to a couple of short stories. But when I read it, I realized it wasn’t half bad. So I rewrote it, bulked it up, fixed a few glaring issues, and my publisher loved it. FIELD OF GRAVES is the prequel to two of my series, Taylor Jackson and Samantha Owens, and it comes out June 14. I couldn’t be more excited about this book, allowing the readers to see where it all began. This one means the world to me. It truly got me my start, in every way.

What are your biggest distractors/what’s on your Freedom block list?

The usuals: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Gmail, Lifehacker, and most of the news networks. I leave ABC out in case there’s something major that happens or I need some historical research. It’s too easy to see a link, then another, then another…. I (try to) set regular times to work on social media, and that’s most often in the morning and right after I shut down for the day. It’s not unusual for me to book 4–5 hours on a Freedom session, and now that I have it on my iPad and iPhone, too, I can truly cut myself off from the distractions.

How do you find your work-life balance?

I’ve always been blessed with a husband who truly believes in the creative process. He’s always been supportive of my alone time to work. We don’t have kids, and as I tell my friends who write and have families, that makes a difference. I work too much, absolutely. As my husband says, we have a huge advantage: We get to choose which 60 hours a week we work. My office is in my head, so there’s really no escaping it after a long day. Plus, I’m a voracious reader, so I go straight from writing books to reading books. I do make an effort to actually see my friends in person, and golf, and discover new wines. But I’m really most happy when my fingers are flying over a keyboard. It’s just in my blood.

To learn more about J.T. Ellison or any of her books – visit her website at jtellison.com

 

NYT Best-Selling Author J.T. Ellison on Her Latest Thriller, Afternoon Productivity, and Favorite Tools

Meet J.T. Ellison

Known for her dark psychological thrillers, J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen critically acclaimed novels, including WHAT LIES BEHINDWHEN SHADOWS FALL, and ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS. She is also the coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter.

With over a million books in print, Ellison’s work has been published in twenty-five countries and thirteen languages. Her latest thriller, FIELD OF GRAVES,  is set to release this June 14, and has already received rave reviews – (read the first chapter – here!)

 

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Meet J.T. Ellison.

Known for her dark psychological thrillers, J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen critically acclaimed novels, including WHAT LIES BEHINDWHEN SHADOWS FALL, and ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS. She is also the coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter.

With over a million books in print, Ellison’s work has been published in twenty-five countries and thirteen languages. Her latest thriller, FIELD OF GRAVES,  is set to release this June 14, and has already received rave reviews – (read the first chapter – here!)

With over 30 novels and short stories written and published, we figured we’d let her tell you how she finds the time and focus to do it all!

Also make sure you stay tuned for Part 2 later this week!


How did you know that you wanted to be a writer and what were your first steps in making this your career?

I have always written, and thought I would make a career of it, but my thesis advisor senior year of college told me I wasn’t good enough to be published, so I quit. It wasn’t until I moved to Nashville and suffered a series of bizarre indignities (I’m like a bad country song—moved out of town, lost my job, cat died, ruptured a disk in my back) that I was set back on the path. I discovered John Sandford while I was recuperating from back surgery, and the writing bug bit me again, hard. I wrote a terrible novella, sent it all over New York, got rejected by every house before realizing my novella wasn’t really a novel. Oops. I then set about doing it the right way. I learned everything I could about the industry, started blogging and placing short stories, landed an awesome agent, and then disaster struck—the book he took out on submission didn’t sell. I had to fight back a lot of demons from my early years when that happened. But all’s well that ends well. I wrote another book, it sold right away, and the first one that was turned down (“Field of Graves”) is actually coming out June 14 as a prequel to the series. Full circle, a decade in the making.

What is the biggest mistake you have learned from as a writer?

How many column inches do we have? I’ve made many mistakes, writing-wise, career-wise. It’s how we grow and learn, isn’t it? Career-wise, I’ve done my fair share of putting my foot in my mouth. I can be rather blunt, and I generally say what I think, and sometimes that’s not the most politically expedient way to get ahead. What I have learned is—if you’re a decent, kind person, nothing is truly fatal. I’ve never been one to miss deadlines—that will absolutely end your career in its tracks. I’ve seen it happen time and again, and it’s always heartbreaking.

Writing-wise, in my first series, I didn’t realize I was writing a series and had to dig myself out from under some serious constraints—a lead character who had no real family, no real flaws, and a job that meant she couldn’t go traipsing off to Italy for no reason. I had to teach myself how to write out of that box, and it was hard. Doable, obviously, but hard. For the second and third series, I made sure the characters had a lot more room to grow and change. Now that I’m transitioning to write different types of stories, I know how to set up a world that has all kinds of loopholes.

When/where are you most/least productive, and how does this shape your daily working routine?

I’m a bit of a night owl, so my best creative time is later in the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning. As such, I do business in the morning and do creative work in the afternoon. I’ve tried to shift this, but nothing I do works. I’m simply not a morning person. So I build my days around long afternoons. I also don’t make appointments or commitments outside the house on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, so I can reserve those days for serious, uninterrupted deep work. I work best at home, but I can write pretty much anywhere. Airplanes are my favorite, actually. Even though planes have Wi-Fi now, I prefer to stay unconnected. Maybe it’s the thin air, but I get some of my best work done at 35,000 feet.

What resources or tools do you use daily and have found most beneficial to your writing process?

I’ve always been an early adopter, so I have a tendency to try a lot of things, but in the past few years I’ve settled down with only a few specific writing tools: Scrivener, Freedom, Evernote, Wunderlist, and a Habana notebook. I live in Wunderlist and Scrivener—those two are open 24/7. I have all my research in Evernote, and I like to take notes, plan, and otherwise work from the Habana. That’s the topline.

The one constant from the past 6 years has always been Freedom. When I’m writing, Freedom is on. Period. That way, I have no excuse for not getting the work done. I’ve written nearly all my novels this way, over 1,000,000 words of story. I need the enforced focus; I don’t even pretend to be noble about wasting time online. I go down the rabbit hole doing research and checking numbers and talking to fans. It’s bad, and Freedom reins me in.

“When I’m writing, Freedom is on. Period. That way, I have no excuse for not getting the work done. I’ve written nearly all my novels this way, over 1,000,000 words of story. ”

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2016?

This is the year I try to fill my personal and professional wells. I bumped up my word count estimates this year, so I’m trying to write three full novels plus a short story, get ahead of the publishing game a bit. I also want to take a vacation—a real, live, don’t-work-at-all vacation. I co-host a literary television show, A Word on Words, in Nashville, so I’m gearing up for the second season of that. I have two original books releasing, and there’s touring and all the fun stuff attendant to that. So the real answer is—keep my head down, create a ton of stuff, and continue enjoying the ride.

If you’d like to learn more about J.T. Ellison or any of her books, click here.

Freedom Talk: Habits, Tips, & Tools

At Freedom we are lucky to have many of our users write about their experience with Freedom. From tweets to published articles – the Freedom community is buzzing with productivity strategy, advice, and experiments for a more focused, fulfilled life. 

Whether you need tips for working from home, an extra hour in your day, or help fighting your FOMO (fear of missing out), these articles have got you covered. They keep us inspired and learning, and we hope they do the same for you! 

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At Freedom we are lucky to have many of our users write about their experience. From tweets to published articles – the Freedom community is buzzing with productivity strategy, advice, and experiments for a more focused, fulfilled life.

Whether you need tips for working from home, an extra hour in your day, or help fighting your FOMO (fear of missing out), these articles have you covered. It’s not just about blocking sites and apps, it’s about making time for things that matter. These articles kept us inspired and learning and we hope they do the same for you!


8 PRODUCTIVITY HABITS OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL FREELANCERS | Gwen Moran

Working for yourself can be great – with more flexibility in your schedule, fewer meetings, and the freedom to decide how you use your time. However, with this freedom, comes a greater personal responsibility to remain productive and effective without the structure of an office. So here are 8 productivity tips from the most successful freelancers to keep you focused, organized, and the master of your own time.

9 SECRETS TO GETTING AN EXTRA HOUR A DAY | Rhonda Abrams

Regardless of your industry or position, we all could use an extra hour in our day. Whether you need an extra hour for work, play, or family – here are 9 tips from the most productive entrepreneurs to help you make the time you need.

5 APPS TO HELP SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTS FIGHT FOMO | Nicole Kobie

With the constant beckoning of social media newsfeeds and notifications, it’s become easy to experience FOMO (fear of missing out). This fear drives us to spend hours glued to our screens, while also having correlations to depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. Take the quiz to find out your FOMO score, and use these tips to fight back against FOMO.

LEVEL UP YOUR WILLPOWER STATS FOR A MORE SUCCESSFUL WORKDAY | Claire Autruong

When you wake up every morning, you have a limited supply of willpower to use throughout your day. This is why New Year’s resolutions usually only last a few months at best, and why it gets harder to say no to the donut the longer the day drags on. This article shows you how to think about increasing your willpower as a game and gives you all the tips, tools, and tricks you need to do it.

17 GREAT APPS THAT’LL MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER | Sean Kim

Sean Kim is a productivity nut – ready to try any app or technique promising to make you more productive and to get more done. Over the past few years, he has tried dozens of strategies and tools and after much experimentation he created this list of his favorite apps that keep him productive and focused.

PhD-writing expert, Amber Jane Davis, on staying focused, motivated, and connected

Women’s History month may be over, but we don’t think it’s ever a bad time to share the stories and advice of some of the brilliant women in our Freedom community that are using their freedom to shape the world every single day. 

Meet Amber Jane Davis. Political scientist, PHD coach, and hardcore academic. 

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Women’s History month may be over, but we don’t think it’s ever a bad time to share the stories and advice of some of the brilliant women in our Freedom community who are using their freedom to shape the world every single day.

Meet Amber Jane Davis. Political scientist, PhD coach, and hardcore academic.

Learning from her own personal struggles of writing a PhD while recovering from Lyme disease, Davis was able to create the six-week HappyPhD Online Course, which coaches PhD students through all the typical pain points of writing a PhD. Her course focuses on creating sustainable working routines, improving focus, handling the emotional toll, and staying motivated.

If you’d like to learn more about Amber, her story, or her classes – click here.



First of all, how did you break into your industry – how did it all start for you? 

I stumbled into academia by chance. I studied at the London School of Economics for a year, and I did much better than I thought I would. My mentor at the time encouraged me to consider staying in academia. At one meeting he even exclaimed: ‘I know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life: You’re going to be a professor! You are an academic if I’ve ever met one!’ That said, I didn’t plan for the future in that way at all: I gave applying for a PhD position a try on a whim after the LSE degree ceremony when someone mentioned a PhD opportunity to me. Shouldn’t I consider applying? I got the PhD position, and it was a good fit. The academic route became difficult after I fell ill with a chronic disease. There’s no way I could work a ‘normal’ job anymore. I needed something more flexible, something that would allow me to work on my own time. That’s when I decided to start my coaching business.

What are some the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in your industry and how have you dealt with them?

In my work as an academic coach I’ve not encountered gender challenges, but in academia I have, and the worst was probably the ‘two-body’ challenge of being in a long-distance relationship. How to make this work? When my boyfriend accepted an academic job offer in Chicago things got even more complicated. My (male) supervisor at the time was not too keen on granting me permission to leave and live with my boyfriend for a bit, even though my research was location independent. I remember thinking it was easy for him to say: his wife and kids had followed him to Italy. That wasn’t the case for me! I felt both of them were expecting me to conform to their view in which career trumps relationships, and no matter the choice I made the problem and sacrifice would be mine. In the end I decided to go to Chicago anyway, no matter my supervisor’s opinion (though ironically, the Chicago trip fell through in the end, but that is an entirely different story). It felt good to do what I wanted…and my supervisor came around when I was firm about it.

How do you stay motivated and focused on a daily basis? Do you have a routine, process, or place that helps to get into a productive flow? 

I have a routine. I work more loosely now, but when I was finishing my PhD I had quite a strict work rhythm. I started at 10:00 no exceptions and finished at 15:00 no exceptions. I worked in 45-minute chunks in the morning, and a 90-minute one in the afternoon, all with short breaks in between. This worked tremendously well, and it is that way of working, of working in ‘waves’ in which you really challenge yourself, with windows of relaxation in between, that I now teach my clients.

What are some of your biggest distractors that prevent you from doing some of your most important work and how do you conquer them?

The internet! I have a technique to get centered and concentrated, which I use to gently coax myself into work. Basically I ask what the next most important thing to do is (forget about long to do lists), and what I can get done in the next work session. Then I do it. Making it doable, and being curious about the work is what helps most.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

Working with people. It’s what I missed most when I was still in academia as an academic: the connection, not only on an intellectual level, but on a human one.

What resources or tools do you use on a daily basis that you have found useful to your process? 

I love my iMac and I tend to use Scrivener as my word processor, though I wrote my PhD in Word. I like DayOne too, for personal notes and reflections. It feels much more casual in use, so I write freely there. I use Freedom and an online timer to streamline my work sessions. Oh and Skype of course, for the coaching calls I do. All of those, and my little black desk to sit at, and a big mug of tea, probably jasmine or something herbal.

What advice would you give less experienced women that want to pursue a similar career path or that are simply just beginning their careers?

Find your people. I always thought the ‘It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know’ adage shallow advice, verging on the cynical. But I have come to realize that even in academia, when you’re in the field of creating knowledge and your work is mostly solitary, people matter more than anything.

What excites you most about your industry?

How smart everyone is. I like big brains.

What project are you currently most excited about?

That would have to be my online course. It helps academics, PhD students specifically, to createa work routine, and to overcome a range of common obstacles inherent to academic work. It is based on my own experience of having to finish my PhD in trying circumstances, where I learnt a lot about being more effective and efficient, and kinder to myself as well. I really poured my heart into that course.

Where are you currently based?

I’m in Amsterdam. Thankfully I can work wherever, though. Last year I spent two months in California, next year it may be somewhere else. I always enjoy a change of scenery.