What the Tech? App of the day: Forest

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(ABC 6 News) – Going unplugged is easier said than done. Even when you’re trying to focus on a project without needing your phone, notifications and plain old curiosity make us pick up the phone for just a peek. That peek can cost us hours thanks to the endless feeds from TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media apps that earn revenue based on how long their users stay engaged.

What we all need is a little motivation and maybe a roadblock. “Forest” is a smartphone app for iPhone and Android devices that can prevent users from using apps that demand attention. The app asks you to set up any focus times you need such as work, study, nap, and exercise. Then you select only the apps that can interrupt you during that time.

For example, when I’m writing I choose to only allow myself to use and see notifications from apps that help me write. Evernote, Canva, Google Docs, Amazon Music, and Feedly. All the other apps are silenced when I open the Forest app. There’s a timer that allows me to set a focus time to get the work done. 10 minutes, 30, or several hours.

When I tap the timer all of those notifications are blocked. If I think about opening an app, all I can see is the Forest app screen and icons for the apps I chose to allow. The only way for me to open TikTok, Instagram, or other apps is to turn off or give up on the Forest screen. When I do the Forest app encourages me to stick it out but if I hit cancel I’m a quitter. And it has real-world ramifications.

Forest plants a tree for each user who keeps their head down and completes their allotted time. If I give up, my little virtual tree never grows. Forest says it has planted over 1.5 million trees around the world. Not bad.

That also means there are hard-working people who manage to unplug long enough to get their work done (or take a nap). Forest is a free app but for $2 you can contribute to the app as well as get additional features. If you’re having trouble staying off TikTok when you should be working, give it a try.