Saent FAQ


NOTE: This FAQ was published in February 2016 and is no longer completely up-to-date. For accurate information about using Saent, please visit the Knowledge Base or contact support@saent.com.

This is a Frequently Asked Questions overview masquerading as a blog post; we’re getting closer and closer to shipping Saent, and quite a few things have changed since we originally launched our crowdfunding campaign. We’ve also been doing extensive testing of the product with a select group of our backers, and here are a few of the questions we’ve regularly seen pop up.

What is a focus session?
The core concept underlying Saent is a rhythm of work, break, work, break, and so on, where “work” is represented by focus sessions during which distractions are blocked. The purpose of a session is to have you deliberately work on something (e.g., spend 30 minutes on a logo design) without getting distracted or interrupted.

The reasoning for this is that it takes at least 10 to 15 minutes to get your mind into a truly focused state (often referred to as flow). Moreover, even the shortest interruption (glancing at your phone, going to the toilet) throws you out of this state and forces you to start from scratch to build up your concentration.

Why can’t I pause a session?
Of course, things do happen that require you to stop work suddenly — the fire alarm in your building goes off, you spill coffee all over your desk, a family with a screaming baby sits down next to you at a coffee shop, or you suddenly have an urgent need for the bathroom. But because of how the idea of flow works (described above), these interruptions cause a break in your focus, and so they end your Saent session, no matter what. Research shows it’s simply not possible for the majority of people to truly get right back into focus after a short pause in the middle of a session, which is why after an interruption, Saent makes you reset and start over.

Obviously, sometimes these interruptions are beyond your control, but this strictness with regards to sessions also helps you get in the habit of fully preparing yourself before starting a session. The idea is for you to deliberately think about what you want to accomplish in advance, make sure you’re ready (e.g., you’ve got all the materials you need, have been to the toilet and poured that second cup of coffee) and then get to work by starting your Saent session.

How does Saent know if something is distracting?
There are several mechanisms in place to make Saent smart about what is a distraction and what is not, as well as keeping the work you have to do to “teach” Saent to a minimum.

Categorization

The foundation for identifying distractions is categorization: when you visit a site or use an application on your computer that Saent is not familiar with, it will ask you to categorize this source as Good, Neutral or Evil:

  • Good: always productive and related to work.
  • Neutral: sometimes useful and productive, but sometimes distracting (e.g., a news website might be useful when doing research, but a distraction when you’re trying to finish that overdue report).
  • Evil: always a distraction and never related to work.

The Master List
As you can imagine, it would be quite annoying if you had to categorize every possible site and application you use. This is why we’ve created a centralized “Master List.” Every time a Saent user categorizes something, this sends a “vote” to the central list, which is further organized based on your profession.

If a source you visit is present on the existing Master List and matches your profession, Saent will assume the source is the same for you too, reducing the need for you to categorize sites and apps. However, you can always “overrule” the Master List by recategorizing. And for sources that are not yet present on the list, you will be prompted (either during or after your session) to categorize them. Added benefit: your vote will contribute to the Master List and help other Saent users in the future!

Granular domains
Sometimes parts of a domain might be Evil, while others might be beneficial. As a marketer at Saent, http://facebook.com might be a distraction, while http://facebook.com/getsaent might actually be part of your work routine. For these situations, Saent supports granular domains, so that you can make very specific distinctions between what should be considered Good and what is Evil.

How about my privacy and the data you collect?
All this talk about categorization and a Master List might sound a bit creepy; clearly it involves us storing your data. Our policy on this is quite simple: you always have control over your data, and we only use your data to benefit you and improve Saent. We will never sell your data to third parties.

In the upcoming public release of our software, this means you can opt out of everything and run Saent entirely locally. Doing so does mean you can’t benefit from certain personalized features, such as the Master List and Challenges, but it does ensure you are not forced into sharing data with us. Moreover, you can request at any time an export of your data and/or removal from our servers (with a 7-day grace period, which allows us time to process your request and gives you an opportunity to change your mind).

Later this year, we will also be adding an option that allows you to choose where you want to store your data (in which region of the world), so that you have full control over which legal jurisdiction you feel most comfortable with when it comes to your privacy and data.

Finally, we believe that some of the data we collect can be very useful to advance academic research related to work, motivation, productivity and so on. So there’s an option to share your data anonymously with our research partners. This program is 100% opt-in (in other words: the default setting is, “no, don’t share”) and you are under no obligation to participate.

Can I relate categorization to specific activities?
Several users have indicated they would like to be even more specific about categorization, so that the qualification of certain sources depends on which activity (e.g., writing, answering emails, doing social media management) you’re currently engaged in.

The bad news is that Saent doesn’t offer this functionality — yet. The good news is the new conversational interface we’ve developed will make it much easier to implement this functionality than what was possible with our original UI. Based on the data and feedback we collect in the months ahead, we’ll certainly be adding this feature to the software.

What’s the difference between normal and Monk-mode?

Normal mode and Monk-mode are two different ways Saent can behave during a focus session. As explained above, the main purpose of a session is to get you to work uninterrupted on one task at a time. Monk-mode is stricter, but creates circumstances in which there’s a much higher chance you’ll actually do real “deep work.” As a reward, you earn more points in Monk-mode than in Normal mode.

Here’s how it (currently) works…

Normal:

  • Allows visits to Evil sites up to 2 mins.
  • Allows visits to Neutral sites up to 5 mins.
  • Awards one point for every minute of work completed.

Monk-mode:

  • Doesn’t allow any visits to Evil sites.
  • Allows visits to Neutral sites up to 2 mins.
  • Awards an additional ten points for every block of 10 minutes you complete in Monk-mode.

Can Saent determine whether what I’m doing is actually productive?
The short answer is “not yet.” :)

The longer answer is that currently this is too complicated, as well as a bit creepy even if we could do it; first we’d have to be checking the actual content of your Word document, emails, sites you visit and so on. Then we’d have to analyze that and determine whether what you’re putting in there could be considered “productive,” (which would be difficult unless we knew exactly what kind of work you’re meant to be doing).

In theory, this means you could open a Word document, type lorem ipsum a million times and Saent would consider this productive and award you points. Until perhaps a few years further into the future, there’s always a way to cheat the system. But really, who are you are you actually hurting if you cheat? And who wants to type lorem ipsum a million times anyway?

We believe tracking time spent uninterrupted on sites and in applications considered Good, with distractions automatically blocked as Saent does, is a pretty good indicator of whether you’re engaged in meaningful work. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great step in the right direction. And Saent does detect when you’re idle. So if you literally do nothing and move away from your computer, Saent will end your session.

Can my boss use Saent to track what I’m doing?
We’ve had this question phrased in two ways:

  1. From concerned employees.
  2. From excited bosses.

The answer is “no.” First and foremost, we don’t store an exact copy of your browsing history, and the data we do store nobody else besides you can access. (Things like the Master List and the number of “votes” each source gets are stored anonymously and in aggregate, so there’s no way for us to know who was browsing Reddit while at work).

Secondly, the Saent score is not only based on focused blocks of time. You also get points for using productivity tools, completing challenges, and working in smarter and healthier ways. This includes taking sufficient breaks, not working seven days a week and going home on time. Our score therefore reflects a lot more than merely hours worked, and we will refuse to work with companies who want us to remove elements from the score that they perceive as “disadvantageous” for the company (e.g., rewarding an employee for taking breaks).

Can I use the Saent software without the hardware device?
The Saent software certainly works without the hardware, but the device provides a much better overall experience. It helps you build better work habits faster by adding a tangible element to the process and providing visual feedback on your desk.

Until the second half of 2016, the Saent software will be in a perpetual beta and completely free to try out. During that period, the hardware can still be ordered at a discounted price of $49, which includes 12 months of premium software subscription. This premium subscription will begin in the second half of 2016 when we launch the Premium version. Anyone who hasn’t purchased the hardware at that point will be forced to choose between free or starting to pay for Premium.

What will be the difference between free and Premium?
We’re still working that out. Rest assured that the free version of the software will still offer the core features of Saent. You’ll be able to work in timed focus session and block distracting sites using the free version. The Premium version might have features like Challenges, integrations with other apps, and more detailed reports on how you spend your work time.

Can I still use the hardware if I don’t subscribe to the Premium version?Yes, the hardware will still work with the free version of Saent.

Why does Saent only work on my desktop? My mobile devices are also big distractions.

We’re still an early stage startup. This means we have to make difficult decisions about how we prioritize our development resources. We have tons of great ideas about what we want to build, both for the current platforms (Mac OS X and Windows) as well as for other platforms and devices, but we can only take it one step at a time.

We certainly see lots of possibilities for Saent on smartphones, tablets and even watches. But we believe the desktop is (currently) still where people do their most important and demanding work, which is why we’ve started there. In the near future, we’ll certainly be releasing mobile apps and other solutions as well.


Ready to give Saent a try?

Download the free app now to start working smarter, being more focused, and developing better work habits.

You can download the free version of the Saent app now by clicking the image above.

Or buy your Saent button (now shipping!) with a 12-month subscription to the Premium Saent app included!