Woman making serene gesture with her hands while she works at a table with a laptop.
Image: © fizkes/Stock.adobe.com

How remote workers can use the Serene app to focus

12 Aug 2022

Tried the Pomodoro technique, noise-cancelling headphones, mindfulness and still can’t concentrate at home? The Serene app might be for you.

Serene is not just for those of us who are easily distracted. It’s for anyone who needs to carve out time for deep focus periods at work.

The app has several features that enable a user to harness their “productivity superpowers” using three different techniques.

Before we get to those, it’s important to flag that Serene is currently only available to MacOS users. According to its website, it is coming soon to Windows. In the meantime, Windows users may want to check out Serene alternatives, such as Freedom, RescueTime and Forest.

Using Serene is relatively simple. Its three techniques for enhancing productivity are distraction blocking, focus tools and planning tools.

It claims that, unlike other productivity apps, it tackles the underlying causes of distraction. Most of us, whether we are working from home or in an office, can imagine what these distractions might be. (Think children, housemates, partners, pets, other websites and more.)

For those who work from home, Serene is particularly useful. It can be tough to discipline yourself into a productive routine with no other colleagues around you to make you feel as though you’re at work.

Here are the features Serene offers to help.

Day planning

Serene’s day planning tool can help you single out what tasks are most important each day. If you’re the sort that gets easily overwhelmed without managerial guidance, it could prove to be a lifesaver.

At the start of every working day, Serene will prompt you to type in your goal for that day. It will then help you to break that goal into a series of clearly defined sessions.

When each session starts, the app will give you a little refresher plan of action to help you get through each stage. It will block distracting websites during the times you need to focus on getting your work done.

It has a session planner for these tasks which acts as a sort of Pomodoro tool. It blocks out every distraction for a set time while you focus on sending that important email.

Focus music

Taylor and his team have built music into the app, informed by research which found that ambient and classical music boosted concentration more than silence. Upbeat tunes were more effective while slow music was found to be better for intense concentration.

Taylor said he planned to eventually integrate AI-generated music into Serene. For the time being, he put together a focus playlist available on Spotify.

Phone silencer

That said, some silence can be golden. While music can help workers focus, constant email and phone alerts are neither musical nor are they conducive to concentration.

Serene has a phone silencer that is activated when you are in the middle of focus periods throughout your working day. There are a few extra steps you need to go through to make the phone silencer work from the desktop app. Luckily, the website has a tutorial that walks you through the steps.

This requires creating an IFTTT recipe using the popular automation platform which creates ‘if this then that’ workflows. Serene’s guide will take you through the process, which requires the minimum of tech savvy, for both Android and iOS devices.

Once you’ve tested the automation and it works, you’re good to go and your phone will automatically go on silent when you enter focus mode on the desktop app.

Website and app blocker

Serene’s website and app blockers work in tandem with its focus session planner and phone silencer.

When you download the app, it will first ask what apps you find distracting. It will then automatically shut down notifications from desktop apps so you can complete your focus sessions uninterrupted.

You can use the day planning feature to decide how long your focus periods need to be. Then it’s a case of clicking the focus button to automatically blocking distracting websites and apps. Your phone will be put on aeroplane mode for the duration.


If you like the sound of Serene, you can try it for free. You get 10 free hours of focus sessions (or 600 minutes.) Once you download the app and set the timer, it will start subtracting minutes from the allotted time.

After the free trial, Serene costs $4 per month. For this price, you get unlimited use of all features.

You can download Serene for free directly from the website.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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