As I sip a cup of strong coffee in order to get by on only four hours of sleep, I am going to appear somewhat hypocritical in my sanctimonious advice on how to cope without chemical aids. The thing is, I'm desperate to avoid a future like this:
Except for the music. I've always wanted the world to turn into a musical.
20% of scientists have been regularly taking Ritalin, Modafinil and other meds in order to improve their alertness so that they can be more productive, according to a voluntary poll. By chemically altering their experience they can make it so that the only thing that matters to them is that big, fat load of maths they have to work with all day, and Facebook fades into insignificance.
I have a bit of a problem with concentration. The more interesting the internet becomes as the years go by, the less work I have managed to do in a single sitting. I have to have the dreaded bells of impending deadlines ringing in my head in order to get anything done nowadays. However, I really don't want to have to pop pills to keep up with everybody else. I have a personal distaste for mind-altering substances because I think they are too passive. I'm really proud that I will get to the end of my dissertation without having to share the credit with lab-created chemical muses.
Recently I have found that one way to fix the concentration problem without resorting to pill-popping or even unplugging the internet is Ommwriter for mac. Ommwriter gives you a serene, snowy backdrop on which to write your essay while ambient music plays in the background. The ambient music and the serene, quiet virtual space focuses my entire experience on writing my essay, and helps me to reflect more deeply on it as well. It's sort of like running away to the Himalayas and becoming a hermit for a while in order to sort your head out, but with all the convenience of the digital age.
The only problem is that Ommwriter doesn't retain the text formats of my half-finished dissertation. So for that I simply use Pages as normal, but I have ambient music playing in the background from still stream radio. One thing I love about ambient music is that it stimulates and relaxes me at the same time, leading to an all-round sense of wellbeing with no come-down that I can tap into whenever I please.