Staying Focused with Forest

Sometimes, the desire to fiddle with the smartphone is too strong. Sometimes you need a little help avoiding that temptation. That’s where the Forest app comes in.

I found this in an online discussion a few weeks back, and I’ve used it a few times to good effect. The core concept is simple: make yourself a little less tempted to fiddle on your phone by creating a negative (virutal) consequence when you do.

Forest is, at heart, a glorified timer. What you do is set it up for some period of time–say 30 minutes–and then leave it alone. If you pick up your phone and try to change to a different screen, Forest sends you a notification that if you don’t go back, the tree you planted when you started the timer will die.

Obviously the tree is only virtual. But if it grows to maturity you do get some similarly low-value in-app coins. For me it’s not that anything about the whole thing is particularly important. It’s that the simple reminder — in the shape of the app running and the notification as I open email or Twitter — that I don’t want to be distracted helps my stay on track.

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