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How Growing Trees Can Solve Your Procrastination Problem

March 28, 2017

As the school year continues, it becomes increasingly difficult to sit down and do some bulk work without using one’s phone to procrastinate. The app Forest, by developer ShaoKan Pi, helps to remedy this problem by having you grow a tree.

George is a student that goes to Xavier and plans to do his homework when he gets home from practice. After having read this article last week, he became interested in Forest and decides to try it out today when he’s doing his homework. Upon starting the app, he is greeted with the Forest home page—a simple timer that he can adjust, telling him how long it will take for his tree to grow.

He decides to plant a tree that requires thirty minutes to grow. If he leaves the app before time is up (such as starting another application, like Snapchat), the tree is aborted. However, if George remains diligent and doesn’t leave Forest for the entirety of its growing time, he will be rewarded with a strong and healthy virtual tree.

Every tree—fully developed or cut short—will be added to your very own virtual forest so you can view your progress overtime.

You can organize how your forest is organized by day, week, month, or year. This image shows the amount of trees I planted in December of 2016—month of midterms. Turns out it’s far easier to do well on exams if you study more than the ten minutes allotted in homeroom.

Indeed, the basic premise of Forest is quite simple. Stay off your phone for a certain amount of time and receive a tree. But, Forest isn’t just some glorified timer. What differentiates it from a standard timer is how it turns studying into a game.

Consider this situation without Forest: When I’m studying, my phone suddenly lights up with an Instagram notification informing me that “9_BushDid_11” commented on my post. After opening my phone and reading it, I realize his comment is so funny that I have to reply to him. After replying to him, I realize I want to visit his profile to see if he posted anything new that was also funny.

One of the tree species that is available to grow. Sliding the scrubber around the tree changes the time it takes to grow.

It’s important to note these decisions are made instantaneously using the rationale “I’ll stop after this one—it won’t take long.” Before long, I’ve spent a good thirty minutes on Instagram browsing funny posts without even realizing it.

Now consider the same situation, but this time with Forest: I open my phone after receiving the same notification, and immediately I am brought to the Forest homepage that shows the remaining time my tree needs to grow. And it’s this wall—even if it’s thin—that makes me consider what I’m about to do.

“Is it worth losing this game? Killing this tree? After all this time I’ve kept it alive?” In this situation, the tree lived. In this situation, instead of opening Instagram, I put my phone to sleep and resumed my place in Julius Caesar. In this situation, I completely avoided procrastination because I concluded that killing a tree was not worth reading a simple comment. I could always read it later.

Leaving the world of hypothetical situations, this app has personally been a tremendous help in terms of improving my grades. I stay focused when I’m doing my homework or studying for exams. Because I can see how much time I put into schoolwork, in some cases I even realized I spent too much time on a particular subject and was actually able to cut down the amount of time I spent on homework. My grades have improved because I am more focused, more attentive to what I’m learning, and can study more in a shorter period because I’m no longer concerned with going on my phone at all when I’m studying.

On the App Store, Forest costs $1.99. It can be downloaded for free on Android, Chrome, and Firefox at the cost of some features. I’ll leaf this review on this note:

If you decide to pick up Forest, just remember that your forest can look like the Amazon, or it can look like the Sahara. Ultimately, the decision to kill a tree when faced with the desire to go on your phone is up to you. Forest is simply there to make the decision easier.

Photo courtesy of ShaoKan Pi

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