We’ve all been in this situation: we need to get things done today. That easy for history class. That last piece of code to finish a ticket. That budget planning for the next vacation. But our phone is constantly nagging us about a post you commented on Facebook, or the likes you received on your Instagram post. Our high school friends keep writing on Telegram about the latest meme. Amazon is asking us to check the latest deals.
It is very hard to do actual work with the amount of services, messaging, and social networking going on inside our phones. If you need a little push to stop your mind from using the phone and get back to business, then Forest might be a good addition to your list of apps.
If you are not familiar with the Pomodoro technique, then you can read more about it here. Although this app is not exactly a Pomodoro timer, you can see some elements of it crawling into the app.
The premise of Forest is the following: you define a period in which you want to get work done, and a virtual tree will blossom during that time. However, this will only happen if you don’t use any other app in your phone during that time. Failing to do so means that your tree dies. Immediately. No questions asked.
Forest will present you a small onboarding with some information about what it is and how does it work. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about it. Upon completion of it, Forest will show you the main screen with a small tutorial about how to start the timer and change the type of tree you want to grow. You are probably smart enough to figure everything out by yourself, especially if you are familiar with these kind of applications. However, it is never a bad idea to have a small tutorial for newcomers, so kudos to the developer for that.
Forest works best by giving it access permission. This means that Forest will be able to check if you have changed to another app while the timer is on. In case you do so, your phone will start vibrating and will send you a notification about coming back to the app immediately if you don’t want your tree to die. I can understand that this might be giving too much information to an app, but not granting this permission will mean that you will be able to cheat.
If your tree dies because you left the app, you will be left with a lifeless log in your forest. You can remove this if you don’t like the look of it, but you will need to either pay coins to do it, or watch a video ad.
However, if everything goes well and you manage to control the impulse of using your phone, you will be rewarded with a glorious tree. Its gloriousness depends on how much time you decided to stop using your phone, from 10 to 120 minutes.
This will start filling your forest, giving a meaning to the app’s name. Every period you complete will not only grant you a tree, but also coins. These can be used at the store to buy new kinds of trees to plant. Every purchase you make will make next purchases more expensive, and, combined with the fact that you get coins in a really slow way, getting everything that is available at the store will take a very, very long time.
If you want to keep things more organized, then you can also add tags to each of your periods. Stuff like “work,” “social,” or “study” are available by default, but you can also add your own custom tags (with the pro version). This will help you keezp a record of the time that you have concentrated doing different activities. All of the activities that you make will then be available in the timeline navigation item.
As many apps and games these days, Forest is provided for free, but offers a pro version for those interested. At $1.99, the pro version is really affordable and it brings benefits such as ad removal, sync between devices, custom tags, and whitelist.
This last option is particularly clever, since there’s people that actually use their phones for valuable stuff, such as working or studying with it. So, for some people, using Slack or Outlook would actually constitute a working activity. Forest lets you whitelist these kind of apps so that you can stay away from social networks and other useless activities while actually getting work done with your phone.
However, the most interesting option that you get with the pro version is the ability to plant actual trees. Through an alliance with Trees for the Future, you can plant trees in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Not only are you improving your concentration in activities that matter to you, but also improving the conditions in which other less fortunate people perform activities that matter to them. It’s a perfect example of a win-win situation, and the cause is a really commendable one.
There are several options at your disposal, primarily aimed at improving the core experience of the app. Some of the options available to you are notification mode, keeping the screen on while the app is on the foreground, turning on sound effects, configuration of planting reminders, and advanced detection. This last option provides some workarounds for common problems with the app, such as notifications being wrongly interpreted as leaving the app.
If you have the pro version, this is where you will be able to configure things like custom phrases and app whitelist.
Forest combines a gameified experience with cute graphics and solid performance in order to help you use your phone less and do more work. Its functionality is just as advertised (provided you give it the appropriate permissions) and its pro version actually helps you to do good deeds for other people. If you find yourself struggling to keep your phone down and work, then it doesn’t hurt to check this out.