Introducing the new FocusTime

focus

Today we’re launching an exciting new version of FocusTime to help people be less distracted at work.

We’ve added integrations that let your apps and devices take actions that support a positive work environment. This makes it easy to create the best conditions for focus, on demand and at the right times.

For example, when you are in a FocusTime session, you can:

  • Silence your phone, including notifications
  • Set your Slack presence to ‘away’
  • Post a do-not-disturb note to your calendar, group chat, or company social network
  • Block access to distracting websites

Everyone’s work situation is different so we’ve added integrations that connect to a lot of different services so you can find the right combination of actions that works for you.

New integrations that support your productivity

FocusTime is now connected to IFTTT (If This Then That), Zapier, and Slack. We expect to add more integrations in the future, but here’s an overview of where we are right now.

IFTTT (If This Then That)

IFTTT connects hundreds of apps and devices together. Combined with FocusTime, it can do some REALLY interesting things to set up a good environment for sustained focus. Their support for devices and home automation is particularly interesting, enabling things like silencing your Android phone, dimming your Philips Hue lights, even adjusting your Nest thermostat so you’re more comfortable while you’re focusing (which can be a nice bit of motivation on it’s own!)

I have an ORBneXt light sitting on my desk that glows blue when I’m in a FocusTime session. It’s a nice way to let other people know I’m in the zone, and it’s also a subtle reminder to me to stay on track.

zapier

Zapier is similar to IFTTT in that they both connect multiple services together, but Zapier has more of a focus on business applications. If you want to post a do-not-disturb note to your coworkers, Zapier has support for Slack, HipChat, Flowdock, Basecamp, Yammer, and many more.

I have a Zap set up connecting Trello and FocusTime that’s proven to be really useful for me. I manage the things I’m working on in Trello, but I have a special list for really high-priority tasks that are “On Fire!”, like critical bugs. Whenever a new card gets added to that list, a FocusTime session automatically kicks in so I can devote my full attention to the problem.

slack

Seems like Slack is a common fixture in most offices these days. It’s really great at keeping people connected, but it can be a bit of a monster when you’re trying to focus. We added a Slack integration that will automatically set your presence to ‘away’ and optionally post a note in the channel of your choice letting people know you’re stepping away for some concentration, and when to expect you back.

slack-explanation-animation

Are work distractions really that big of a problem?

Yes.

Multiple studies have shown that it can take between 15-30 minutes to fully return to a task after an interruption (that’s not counting tasks that are completely abandoned). The problem with even the most optimistic of those numbers is, most people get some kind of interruption roughly every 5 minutes This is a huge deal, because it basically means no one can get into a solid state of flow.

So essentially no one is working at their peak potential. Why aren’t more people up in arms about this? I’m not  sure, but I think it’s because after a while, that level of distraction starts to feel normal. And the alternative – simply unplugging – doesn’t feel very good. We’re conditioned to be ultra-responsive, and that’s become a general expectation in many offices. But the levels of interruption are clearly reaching unsustainable levels.

We’re connected to all these apps and devices that constantly spew information at us, but they have no awareness of whether or not we actually WANT that information at a given time. That seems like something that should be fixable, so that’s what we set out to do. My hope with FocusTime is that we give people a way to disconnect “just enough” so they can get back to more solid levels of focus.

What we’re launching today is a really good start, but there’s a lot to explore in the future, and I’m really excited to see what other ways we can find to turn down the noise, and get people prepped for focus.

I’d love it if you’d give the new integrations a try and let us know what works well for you, and what you find missing that you wished was included.


8 Comments on “Introducing the new FocusTime”

  1. Irene says:

    On the FocusTime page, I see this:

    “Schedule your focus sessions
    You can plan out periods to focus in advance, then connect your calendar to FocusTime and automatically start FocusTime whenever an event tagged with a certain keyword (example: #FOCUSING) starts.”

    How can I do this with iCal? I would love to utilize this.

    • Robby Macdonell says:

      The way that I see most people handling this is linking iCal to a Google Calendar, and then using IFTTT’s (or Zapier’s) Google Calendar connection to consume the data.

  2. Nathan Rein says:

    I’ve been waiting for this! There’s only so much you can do by piping alerts to IFTTT via email notifications — sometimes it just doesn’t happen quick enough. Automated highlight posts are great, too. Thanks!

    • Robby Macdonell says:

      I hope it works MUCH better than the email notifications. Pretty much every trigger should be near instant except for the daily summaries, which run on a polling model (every 15 minutes or so). This was a MUST for the FocusTime integration, because we really wanted that “hit the button > magic happens” experience. Let me know what recipes you find the most valuable!

    • Nathan Rein says:

      An idea for down the road — integrate IFTTT more deeply with the alert mechanisms, i.e., create an Alert action in IFTTT (not just a trigger). If I could use IFTTT conditions to trigger a RescueTime alert, I can see using that a lot.

    • Robby Macdonell says:

      So by that do you mean using RescueTime as a general notifications platform? That’s interesting. Can you give me some examples of alerts you’d like to pipe into RescueTime?

    • Nathan Rein says:

      I guess that does amount to a kind of general notification platform, now that you mention it.

      Well, let me give you a specific example of something I’ve been doing that I’d love to be able to expand on. Right now, I have one of my offline time options set to “meeting.” I set up an alert to trigger after logging 0.1 hours on “meeting”. This alert launches a Google Form that I set up to log each meeting I go to. I have the same thing set up to log classes I teach.

      This has been a huge help to me. But obviously it’s limited — it can only launch once per day, and the only way to trigger it is to spend a certain amount of time on an activity. It would be great to be able to programmatically trigger it after other sorts of events.

      I realize this isn’t exactly what RescueTime is built for … so I guess what I’m envisioning would represent a change in focus. But wouldn’t it be cool?

    • Nathan Rein says:

      One example of something I’d love to see, for example, is to launch some kind of a logging form when a FocusTime session ends. This could be a nice, comprehensive solution for the pomodoro technique — launch a 30-minute FocusTime session, then force me to record a few notes when it’s over.