Put this white button on your desk and kiss distractions goodbye

It’s time to get some work done – but before you open up Excel or your email, maybe a quick check on the ol’ Facebook? And Instagram, of course. Any maybe YouTube, while you’re at it. And why not a quick browse through Twitter?

A few hours pass, and that blank spreadsheet or email is still staring back.

There must be a better way. (Other than disciplined self-control, which is a bit of a toughie.)

Saent, a humble white button that looks like a tiny frisbee, feels your pain. With one brisk tap, all of your distractions are shooed away.

Distractions as a reward

The internet’s most distracting bits aren’t actually gone, though – they’re just cordoned off until you’ve done a bit of work.

The Saent – pronounced “saint” – button links to software on your computer via bluetooth and blocks various websites, programs, and the like for a set amount of time. After that window comes to a close, the user is granted a block of time to binge on all of the internet’s greatest distractions.

Saent was built around the Pomodoro Technique: the idea that multitasking – despite its buzzword status – is actually not the best way to get work done.

“97 percent of people perform worse when they multitask, which really means task switching – for example, do 3 minutes of email, work on this document for 5 minutes, check Facebook for a few minutes, oh, a new email, and so on,” says Tim Metz, co-founder of Saent.

“They make more mistakes, things take longer and you’ll generally feel more exhausted and unfulfilled going through your day like this.”

The Pomodoro Technique is a method of working where, instead of doing four different things simultaneously for 100 minutes, a user works single-mindedly on each of them for 25-minute blocks.


Within the Saent application, a user sets their desired work window – be it 15 minutes or 50 – and then with a bang (or remorseful tap) of the Saent button, anything unrelated to work vanishes into a digital ether.

Not only is the Saent button a one-press solution to your distraction problems, but it’s also a touch-sensitive hub for getting even more work done. The company has opened up Saent for 3rd-party developers who can use the device to, for example, quick-launch Slack with a swipe to the left or open a new email draft with a pull down. Saent is currently only available on Mac and PC, but the developers are aiming to have an Android/iOS version in the future.

Embracing hardware

At first glance, the Saent button is not necessarily vital to the overall functioning of the service – after all, the actual blocking and rewarding is all done within the software.

“The software works great on its own, and many people have challenged us on the need for the device,” says co-founder Russell Haines. “But it’s that physical part that is really the mental trigger, a totem that the user can use to make a physical [and] real commitment to focus.”

The button has also been key in differentiating Saent from any number of similar apps, Chrome extensions, and services. The company ran a successful Indiegogo campaign last fall, raising more than US$60,000.

Each Saent device retails on Indiegogo for US$45 and includes a one-year subscription to Saent’s “Premium software plan,” which is still in development – Tim says it may include advanced features like personalized work plans and challenges (e.g. checked Facebook too many times today? Try for a complete Facebook detox tomorrow).

As is, the software still offers more options than you might expect. Users are given graded reports about their productivity, challenges to strive for, and can even check a leaderboard to see who among their Saent-using friends are the most productive.

Crowdfunding woes

While Saent’s funded Indiegogo campaign may seem like a success, it hasn’t been a flawless one. After gaining an initial seed round of around US$110,000 last year for the initial development of Saent, the company sought crowdfunding to pay for its first production round. As a subsequent Medium post by Tim titled “34 mistakes we made during our crowdfunding campaign” might imply, not everything went as planned.

The original goal of US$100,000 proved too ambitious, but donors were forgiving when the Saent team bumped it down to US$50,000. But then, after raising the required funds, a single issue with Saent’s touch interface snowballed into one problem after another.

“To be honest, the issue was more of a ‘risk,’ but at the end of the day, we are designing this product for the long haul, and we needed to be super confident all was good,” says Russell. The issue/risk required bumping back Saent’s delivery date – the devices are now due to arrive to backers in April instead of January.

To maintain the faith of their funders, the Saent crew wrote the Medium post linked above, and also launched a status page to include regular updates. Vaporware is a real fear on crowdfunding sites, and Saent’s founders are determined to prove that their offering is a real one.

While the Hong Kong-based startup is neutralizing the final risks before shipping its devices out, it is also eyeing future investment and expansion. Tim says the company aims to raise US$500,000 in its next round, and already has US$200,000 of that committed.

It may have been a bit of a roller coaster, but – barring any last-minute catastrophes – the Saent team seems able to bring their product through the crowdfunding doldrums and into the world, where it can be welcomed with open arms by the Twittering, Facebooking, everything-but-working distracted masses.

Article source: techinasia.

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