OFFTIME – An App that Will Cure Our Smartphone Distraction and Increase Productivity
Typically, I’d have looked at my phone at least ten times by the end of this post. The level of smartphone distraction is very high – especially with folks working from home, working alone.
That has changed and, ironically, it’s because of an app I started using about a few weeks ago.
OFFTIME is a simple app that helps you focus on things away from your smartphone – like work, family, playtime etc. I installed this for two reasons: 1) it showed up on the Play Store’s New apps list and 2) I was battling with an acute sense of lack of productivity and felt it had to do with all these distractions.
As such, it’s not something new. We’ve had these kinds of apps for a long time now. The concept of a time off, away from smartphones (and digital electronics), is not novel either. They call it digital detox. Honestly, I haven’t tried more than a couple of these myself. But I did try out OFFTIME and it stuck. Most likely because it was the right app at the right time but there’s definitely more to it than just that.
The Setup is dead simple
OFFTIME works by blocking all communication and activity on your smartphone that can distract you. This means no calls, no SMSes, no IM messages, no app access. You can interact with notifications and the control center widgets but that’s as far as you can go. Anything that involves opening an app won’t work.
Getting started is easy. You pick the amount of time you want to lock yourself out of your smartphone and just hit “Start”.
But then, we are not doing an extreme detox, are we? We want to limit access to some things – a call from family and one app that we probably need to use (to me that’s Google Keep). That’s where profiles come in handy.
Profiles will help you control the detox
Profiles are good for setting up exceptions and the way your phone activity is handled during off time. Profile settings enable you to decide what to do when a call is blocked (should you send an SMS to the caller? If yes, what should go in the SMS?). Profile settings are useful to set up exceptions to apps that can be accessed during off-time. And to calls from specific people.
But profiles go beyond this too. Logged data about smartphone usage (during off time) gets saved in the profiles you setup.
Exactly one profile is free. To setup multiple profiles, you’ll need to buy the PRO version (in a pay-what-you-like system).
I use two profiles: one for working from the office where I block calls from everyone and one for working from home when I block calls from everyone except my family (who live away from where I do).
Reporting after an “offtime”
The data-logs and reports are the killer features that OFFTIME provides. At the end of an ‘offtime’ session, you are presented with a lot of useful data:
– messages you’ve received
– calls that were blocked
– the number of times you tried to access some app (but weren’t allowed to)
– other notifications that need to be handled
It’s a brief but complete summary of whatever you missed during the offtime.
The Deal Breakers: Schedules, multiple profiles, logs
But the reporting doesn’t stop there.
This is where OFFTIME becomes much more than a digital detox. OFFTIME actively tracks a number of things related to your smartphone usage:
– how many hours have you used your phone
– what apps do you use most
– how long do you use some apps
– how many minutes of calls
– how many times have you called
– and all these reported daily, weekly, monthly and yearly
There’s a smart “score” that goes down as you spend more time with your phone and that can help you regain control over smartphone distraction/use.
Peter Ducker said, “What gets measured gets improved.” I can see that happening with my smartphone distraction just because I can see the numbers – from 4.5 hours of use every day to 2 hours and downwards.
OFFTIME is not a groundbreaking app that will totally cure you of smartphone distraction. It’s the resilient app that gets it done slowly but effectively. It’s definitely worth a shot.