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May 7, 2018

Forest: Stay Focused helps keep you off your phone when work needs to be done

by John_A

App Attack is a weekly series where we search the App Store and Google Play Store for the best apps of the week. Check out App Attack every Sunday for the latest.

We all have the internet and our smartphones to thank for our short attention spans. Tasks that normally take a few seconds can often take double the amount of time when you find yourself checking your phone every few minutes. This week we have an app that will help keep you focused on your work instead of mindlessly scrolling through your social media accounts.

Forest: Stay Focused — for iOS and Android — is an app that’s specifically meant to keep you productive. By planting a seed in Forest, you’ll watch it gradually grow into a tree. But if you leave the app to answer a text message or check Twitter, then the plant immediately dies and you’ll have to start over again. But you aren’t faulted the first time you exit out to access a different app — a banner that pops up warning you that your tree is going to die. If you do it a second time, you’ll have to start over.

Setup is simple: after creating an account, you set a timer and begin your task. Depending on how long you set the timer, you’re able to see it count down as the tree grows above it. You’ll also see different encouraging phrases at the top that change every so often to remind you to keep going, like “Put down your phone!” or “Don’t look at me!”

The interface is not only clean and simple, but also very cute. You can set the time on the homepage by moving your finger along the dial to either increase or decreate the time. You’re able to set the timer for up to two hours for longer tasks, or as little as ten minutes for smaller ones. Once you tap “Plant,” the timer will start — but you do have ten seconds to cancel if you change your mind.

I’ll admit I’m the type to check my phone even when I don’t have any notifications. I’ll be focusing on a task one minute and the next I find myself checking Instagram even though it looks the same way it did five minutes ago. But when I have Forest open, I feel terrible knowing that swiping out of the app will kill my cute little tree. To keep you in the zone, there’s also calming music you can add in the background like “Rain in the Forest,” which might make you so relaxed you’ll find yourself feeling a tad sleepy.

But to complete the experience, I also suggest downloading the browser extension. That way, when you can’t access social media or other distracting sites on your phone, you won’t be able to use your laptop instead. It also helps to make sure you’re not cheating. The extension works the same way it does on your phone — but this time you can add specific sites to blacklist. If you try to access the site, you’ll receive a message letting you know your tree is still growing and the amount of time you have left. On both the app and the chrome extension, you can of course end it by pressing “give up.”

When I had the entire ecosystem set up via my phone and my laptop, I was able to get the most out of the app. It allowed me no choice but to focus on what I was doing because I physically couldn’t access the sites. At times, however, having the option to give up was definitely tempting; especially having used chrome extensions that force me to stay locked out of sites based on the time frame I originally set.

You’ll earn currency every time your tree fully grows without any interruption. This can be used towards unlocking more options such as a lemon tree, flower tree, or even cherry blossoms. There are also more quirky choices like a pumpkin, mushroom, or a rafflesia. While this feature seems minor, I found myself wanting to earn as many coins as I could in order to purchase the sunflowers. Thankfully, there are no micro-transactions for this app to let you cheat the system either.

For those who want to help towards a cause, you can use your coins to plant a real tree instead. In partnership with Trees for the Future — a Maryland-based nonprofit organization that works with farming families in Sub-Saharan Africa — you’ll have the option to plant one tree for every 2,500 coins you earn. While that might sound like a lot, it could rack up quickly for those who spend most of their days checking off one thing after another on their to-do lists.

Other features include graphs that track your progress throughout the week. You’re able to see a timeline of the plants you’ve grown throughout the day and how long it took to grow them. You can also see an illustration of all the trees you’ve grown and, sadly, all the trees you’ve killed as well. Swiping through gives you the complete history of past weeks as well.

If you need a little extra encouragement, there’s also a collaborative feature available. You can create a room and invite friends and family members to join you. If any one of you exits the app when the timer is running, then the shared tree will automatically die — talk about not wanting to let the team down.

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