Productivity apps are largely subscription-based these days. They either require a subscription immediately upon download (some might give you a 7 or 14-day trial) others are free but require a subscription to access all features. I would argue that most people are becoming fatigued with subscription services like these, between streaming services, monthly boxes, and apps, it’s all a bit much and quite costly. Some apps may be worth it though, but you wouldn’t know unless you try. I love trying out productivity apps, actually, one of my guilty pleasure pastimes is to browse the App Store for new productivity apps to try.
So I will be doing just that and will be reviewing productivity apps, both free and paid and will report back as to whether or not they are worth it. The first app I have decided to review is ‘Forest’ an old favourite of mine that I have been using for years. Keep reading for a detailed review.
The Forest app is essentially a Pomodoro timer with a fun twist. How it works is you pick a tree to grow and if you stay focused for the set amount of time, you get to add that tree to your forest, otherwise, it withers. But, when it withers it stays in your forest as an eyesore but also as a reminder that you did not stay focused for that session. The Pomodoro technique is already a well-proven method for time management and productivity, and the Forest app gives you just that so it is effective as long as having a cute forest of productivity trees is appealing to you. It can be very motivating when you complete a tree and also motivating when you cause a tree to wither. I found I wanted to spend more time being productive so I could make more beautiful trees and kind of bury the withered tree, in a forest of flourishing and beautiful trees. The app has a lot of great features that will help you organize your time tracking and your forests. You can tag your sessions, for example, ‘homework’, ‘studying’, ‘reading’, ‘chores’, or whatever works best for you.
Another motivating feature is the coins. Every time you complete a tree successfully you get a certain amount of coins, which you can spend to unlock various kinds of trees. You can also gain coins by completing achievements, these will give you a hefty chunk of change. For example, the first achievement you’ll get is to reach a total focused time of four hours. I gained 200 coins for that, and I’m excited to spend it on a whole new type of tree. There are all kinds of realistic trees and plants you can buy, like Lavender and Sunflowers. But there is also a lot of fun and crazy frees, like the Doggo Tree and Sundae Tree. As you grow your arsenal of trees, you can dedicate one type of tree to a particular tag making it easy to visualize how much work you do in the various sectors of your life or how much of each type of work you do (depending on how you set up your tags). You can also just filter your forest based on the tag if you’re hoping to get that visual without dedicating tree types.
The app also has the ability to play an ambient sound to help with your focus. the default that the app comes with is a forest sound. But you can also spend your coins to unlock new sounds.
The app works smoothly and the user interface is aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate. In order to use the app, you should have a device that is running iOS11 or later. The app is available on the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple Watch, although the Apple Watch app is very limited. You can only view your forest for the current day. Forest is also available on Android. The app also offers several widgets, which is nice for easy access and tracking.
Forest is a free app but there are features that are unlocked when you purchase the full version which is a total cost of $2.79 (CAD). Most notable if the ‘deep focus mode’ and ‘stopwatch features’. When ‘deep focus’ is activated it really restricts your phone use, you won’t be able to open any other apps or your tree will die. I use this feature often especially if I really need to devote all of my attention to something and I know that I won’t need any other iPhone apps to do so. The stopwatch feature is probably one of my favourites, essentially it keeps track of your productive time as opposed to setting a countdown timer for a period that you want to work within (i.e. 25 minutes). I use this for tasks that I am dedicating focused time to but I am not exactly sure how long it will take me. There are also in-app purchases, but not quite pay-to-play. For example, you can between $1-3 for Sunshine Elixir which triples the number of coins you will get from planting trees.
I have to say, I honestly haven’t tried any other apps quite like this, as I mentioned in the introduction to this review I have been using this app for many years and I think it was one of the first of its kind. While browsing around the App Store I have noticed that there are copycat apps out there, but considering how the free version of Forest is not very limited and the full version of the app is so inexpensive, I really don’t see why anyone would consider an alternative.
The only real problem I see with the app is that you actually have to remember to use it in order for it to be effective. The app does have the ability to set a reminder to use it, this is hard for me though because I work based on my partner’s schedule which is very erratic. But of course, none of this is the app’s fault and is just user error, if you will.
One of the most incredible things about this app is you can spend 2500 coins to plant a real tree through ‘Trees for the Future’ (note: each user is limited to planting 5 real trees, due to cost constraints for the company). This is still an amazing feature that makes your personal productivity truly impactful.
If I had to give this app a rating I would say 5 stars out of 5, but officially I will say 4/5 because there should always be room for improvement. At the end of the day, would I recommend this app to you, a close friend, colleague? Yes, absolutely yes. It is a great app, especially if you use it consistently.
I hope you all enjoyed this review! Stay tuned for more productivity and self-development app reviews. Until then, thanks for reading and keep on keeping on!