Gadget addicts know this too well: No amount of willpower will ever get our prying eyes and hyperactive thumbs away from our smartphone screens. So how about an app that will break the cycle for us?
Offtime blocks certain phone features like email, texts or social media for set periods of the day. But it doesn’t block everything, or pick random apps to lock down.
“It shows which activities and apps are used often and with which contacts you interact the most,” says Michael Dettbarn, co-founder of the Berlin-based developer. “Considering we can’t imagine our everyday lives without our mobile devices anymore, the question is not IF we should use our smartphone but rather HOW.”
Besides the obnoxious habit of paying as much, if not more, attention to our phones even when there is a real friend or colleague sitting across from us, Dettbarn says our devices are fundamentally reorganizing our priorities — and we don’t even know it.
“The way we’re using apps and communication on our phones today is not obvious, and it’s causing emotional and psychological pressure on a subconscious level,” he says. “We’re losing more and more focus and can’t differentiate between the bits of information and the kinds of functionality that really matter to us.”
Enter Offtime, which blocks calls, texts and notifications for a chosen period of time. You can still choose people whose messages will be allowed through, but the idea is to refocus you on the task at hand, whether that’s work, family or friends. To help, intuitive analytics track your app usage, showing you what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, and how long you’re doing it for.
The app lets you set what features, apps and contacts will be disabled or blocked for the duration of the “offtime.” You can set a custom auto-reply to be sent during your break and see what you missed when it’s over. Who knows, Dettbarn says, maybe you’ll start a trend of greater acceptance among your contacts to get off the grid.
But don’t think of it as unplugging — if anything, the app means to foster greater connectivity in your life.
“It’s not about the decision to be either online or offline,” Dettbarn says. “It’s about customizing the way you want to be connected for each context of your daily life.”
Offtime is free, though currently only available for Android devices.