It’s a situation almost all of us will be familiar with: You sit there working away, deep in concentration, only for an email to drop into your inbox, or your phone to buzz with an incoming call or text. It can be enough to not only break your concentration, but lead you off on a tangent which can last hours.
And so it’s no surprise that there are many ‘concentration app’ products for maintaining the right mindset for working in today’s communication-saturated world. One Berlin company, however, says that it has come up with the perfect solution. OFFTIME is an alpha-stage Android app which promises to manage and filter your calls and texts as well as your Internet activity; not only during working hours but also in your free time.
Because if you work hard, then you need to play hard as well. But how many of you regularly check your work emails during downtime?
Alexander Steinhart is a psychologist and part of the team behind the project. He believes that as much as a problem it can be when your work tasks are interrupted, overextending yourself with work can lead to burnout and depression – and using a platform like OFFTIME can help in preserving your mental wellbeing as well as let you be more effective during work.
Alongside Alexander, another of the four founders, Michael Dettbarn, also has a background in psychology, and they say this leads to a more nuanced approach to filtering your communications, such as allowing ‘away messages’ and whitelisted callers.
Alexander said: “When you look on trams, on the metro, everyone is constantly checking their messages, and most of the time there isn’t much new stuff; it’s just a habit. From a psychological perspective [the reason] is quite clear, because we are effectively trained to love new information.”
It’s a similar effect to junk food, he argues, where in the past we had it sparingly and loved it, but now it is so ubiquitous, we have come to realise that while kebabs are nice, we need to have a healthy and balanced diet. It’s now the same with information – you really have to take it upon yourself to to save yourself.
The founding team, which also includes Andreas Bernhard and Matthias Fellner, began working on the product in earnest in November last year when they entered the hub:raum accelerator, and they are still based in betahaus. Having been bootstrapping up till now, they are currently looking to raise money through a crowdfunding campaign which is also being used to see if OFFTIME will work at all. Alexander added: “For us, it’s a good test [to see] if our idea flies or rather should die. … We’re still trying to figure out what’s a valid proposition, what our target groups are.” Hence they haven’t settled on a business model.
They plan to start looking for major investors on conclusion of the crowdfunding campaign, while an iOS version is in the works. In the meantime, there is plenty of competition in the form of Concentrate, which offers different profiles for using a computer that can blacklist websites or automatically open word processors; Anti-Social, which blocks social media websites; while RescueTime gives out a readout of the websites you have visited during the day. Not all of these are available on mobile, however.
And Alexander is confident OFFTIME can enter the market successfully thanks to its academic DNA: “[It's really important] having psychology as a core in there; to really see what people need in order to make them more creative and focused, as well as being able to recover more and increase their wellbeing. It’s more than an app, it’s more like part of a movement of its time.”