Need help getting off the grid, temporarily.
March 15, 2012 10:06 PM   Subscribe

I want to disconnect myself from the internet in order to focus. But we have wifi and I have a Macbook, so my distractions follow me wherever I go. Is there a clever way I can cut myself off from the internet for a few hours at a time?

Yes, I know, I should just develop self-control, but when it comes to resisting the web I am Odysseus tying himself to the ship's mast. I need to totally prohibit my internet access on for my computer for a set period of time.

Basically, I want the 21st century equivalent of locking yourself in a room and not coming out until you finish some set task. (In my case, writing.)

I thought of using an /etc/hosts file to block all sites, but that's easy to undo. I've also tried some browser plugins with limited success – they're too easily disabled. Part of the problem is that it's so easy to press the little Chrome icon and instantly distract myself. I like the idea of physically unplugging the router, in that it requires me to get up and consciously decide to plug it back in, allowing plenty of opportunities for self-control to kick in. But I can't simply turn off the wifi because my girlfriend may want to use it.

Help restrain my web addiction! (he says to the web)
posted by deathpanels to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Can you use a limited-rights account? Give your girlfriend the admin account, and then you can just disable DNS in the network preference pane, and you'll need her to re-enable it for you.
posted by pompomtom at 10:09 PM on March 15, 2012

Best answer: Have you tried Self Control? You may be more techie than me, but as far as I can tell, there's no way to disable it (though if you did have two computers available I guess you could get around it that way).
posted by raccoon409 at 10:10 PM on March 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Is there any way for your girlfriend to connect to the router via LAN rather than WiFi? This way she'll also be around the router which means she'll see you coming to turn the WiFi back on if you do feel some sense of weakness.

For me, I find that my internet procrastination habits are entirely reflexive. I use LeechBlock to block most of the websites that normally suck up my time from Firefox. It's dead easy to undo, I still have access to the net via Chrome or Safari, and it doesn't really present a barrier at all. But I find that when I open up a new window and go to Metafilter and it throws up an error telling me the website's been blocked until [whatever your block condition is], that tends to be enough to jolt me out of my habits and remember that I want to be working right now.

Before you write off easier solutions like Self Control or LeechBlock or blocking hosts files, give it a whirl first and see if your procrastination is as reflexive as mine is. If that doesn't work, maybe you could change the WiFi password to something only your girlfriend knows and she has to let you go online when you're in "work mode"?
posted by Phire at 10:17 PM on March 15, 2012

Response by poster: Self Control looks promising. I think I'll give that a whirl matched with some better scheduling to give myself clear blocks of time.
posted by deathpanels at 10:20 PM on March 15, 2012

I also like heading to cafes that do not have wifi (fewer and more far between these days, but there are some around for sure - I think in part to cater to folks who need an internet time out!). This way there is really no option for getting online since there's no wireless signal.
posted by cupcakemuffin at 10:21 PM on March 15, 2012

I use for the Mac. It was free when I downloaded it, but now it's $10. Still, you can specify how many minutes you want the internet connection shut down, and it does what it says. You can't bring back the interwebz without doing a restart, and even then the app throws a fit if you try to restart before the time limit is over. Now that my MacBook is approaching its 4th birthday, the threat of a time-consuming restart just to get web access keeps me in line. :)
posted by huxham at 10:22 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not exactly what you are asking for but a friend sent me a link to "Written? Kitten!" ( awhile ago, but I have yet to try it out. Granted I am more of a dog than cat person, but sometimes dangling a carrot enhances our ability to focus.
posted by katemcd at 10:24 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Freedom. Totally worth the money.
posted by kestrel251 at 12:29 AM on March 16, 2012

Follow on question - do any of these programs have a setting that allows you to block everything except a few websites, as opposed to blocking specific sites?
posted by yarly at 4:06 AM on March 16, 2012

Self control has a blacklist (or possibly a whitelist, can't remember which), rebooting has no effect. Freedom turns off the internet but a reboot will leave it deactivated.
posted by epo at 5:06 AM on March 16, 2012

So, if *all* you have to do is writing, I suggest getting off your laptop and getting onto an Alphasmart. If you write regularly, this will be the best $170 you ever spent. I know several novelists who write the entirety of their first drafts on these, because they have endless battery life, are damned light, and offer NO distractions.

For me, the Alphasmart is also kinder ergonomically, and somehow soothing in its simplicity.

You can often find them dirt cheap on Ebay, too!
posted by artemisia at 6:20 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could try Randall Monroe's method.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:45 AM on March 16, 2012

Yarly- As I recall Self Control works that way. A blacklist is "you can use everything on the internet but...." and the white list is "you can not use the internet except for ..."
posted by raccoon409 at 8:07 AM on March 16, 2012

You might also like Quiet, which doesn't block the Internet but is nice for limiting distractions on your computer.
posted by naturalog at 9:13 AM on March 16, 2012

What am I missing? Go outside. Go camping. Go for a drive. Go for a bike ride. Leave the Macbook at home. There are tons of places with no internet access or where it's impractical to use.
posted by desjardins at 10:08 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Low-tech idea. Not sure where you are, but if your city has underground public transit w/no cell & wifi reception, ride it back and forth for a bit! I actually look forward to commutes for this reason.
posted by manicure12 at 10:10 AM on March 16, 2012

Oh, reading fail on my part. If your task is writing, go for a drive and dictate your ideas into a digital voice recorder. Go to a park and write in a physical notebook. Go to a library, leave your card at home (so you can't use the library computers) and write there. I mean, writers used pen and paper for thousands of years and still managed to finish books.
posted by desjardins at 10:11 AM on March 16, 2012

« Older What have been your experiences studying IxD at...   |   20 Something-Experience Lane and the Memory Lane Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.