Forest App

Those who have followed this page for awhile know that sometimes I talk about my own journeys with becoming more self-aware of my own needs and what’s going on in my own body, since I didn’t start to really know that any of that would be helpful or necessary until a few years into adulthood. You could say that I became an OT because, on some gut level, I recognized that I needed an OT…so I made it into myself. 🙂

One tool that I have used on this journey is my phone. I have used a few dedicated apps, and also the built-in apps that are in most every phone (like notes, reminders, timers, etc). I thought I would explain a little bit about three of the apps that I use, this week.

To be 100% clear, these posts are all about how I use these apps for myself and only myself. I do use apps and technology as part of my OT practice, and there is some overlap here! I will talk about that another time.

In the past, I used a timer app called Forest quite heavily. Its functionality is very simple: you choose a tree, you set a timer, and then if you leave your phone alone (and on the app) for that duration of time, the tree grows in your forest.

[Image description: An image from within the Forest app. In the center of the screen is a sapling growing, with a timer beneath it counting down to 0. Above the sapling it says, “Put down your phone.” End description.]
You start out with one type of tree, but as you do more timers, you earn more coins, and you can use the coins to buy different types of trees!

I used this one a lot for making myself focus for chunks of time at work. This is because once I get started on one thing, I’m usually good at finishing it, but while transitioning between one thing to the next thing, I often get distracted—and my phone is a good distractor. My mental thought process might sound like this: “I finished writing that report, so now I will take a 5 minute break and read a social media website.” But the 5 minute break would quickly grow, as I wasn’t fully aware of how much time was passing, or didn’t feel like I was truly getting the amount of rest out of my break that I wanted. Then, because I also have difficulty getting started on new tasks, I would struggle to transition back into the flow of work.

So using this app helped me because I was able to set a large or small timer, depending on lots of factors—how tapped out I was feeling, how long I anticipated this task to take, etc—and then work uninterrupted for that length of time. When I came to the end of the timer, I would take a break using the app’s break feature, and then go right back into planting a new tree. If I came to the end of the timer and was still motivated to keep working on whatever I was doing, I would get excited because in the app, your tree gets fuller, fluffier, and more alive the longer your timer is…so rather than earning a 45 minute, mildly fluffy tree, if I kept working past my timer, I might earn a 60 minute, very leafy tree. It felt like my effort above and beyond was being tangibly rewarded.

[ID: The screenshot shows an image from the Forest app from a past month; it is labeled June 2021 and shows that I planted 35 trees in that month. They are a variety of trees, some are orange and red like autumn leaves, some are pine trees, some are purple and flowery, and some have twisty trunks. It shows other statistics on the page like how much total time I spent using Forest to focus and on which days I was most likely to do so. End description.]

Sometimes I needed my phone to be accessible to me even during my timer. I was glad that the app had that as a feature. For example, if I was expecting my husband to text me important information, I could leave it with the feature enabled that leaving the app wouldn’t hurt my tree, so I could go to my text messages and then back into the app. You can also enable a more strict feature, where if you leave the app then your tree will die! I kept it on this mode most of the time, because it was an external reinforcer for me not to just get distracted and leave the app.

The app also has white noise functionality, so you can play white noise during the duration of your timer if you want to, too. I liked this feature, especially when I used the timer for a hobby instead of for my work—writing fiction, for fun—because I do that best with a gentle background sound, like music playing or running water, and the app could produce the running water sounds.

I’m the type of person who goes through a lot of phases. Something will work really well and be really motivating for me for a long while, and then suddenly stop. It was the same for Forest. It stopped being motivating to me after awhile. But, just because something isn’t the right thing for me forever and ever does not mean that it isn’t good for me for when it was! And that’s exactly how it was with this app.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you more about my current favorite app!