I’m self-admittedly addicted to my phone.
In the age of digital connectedness, we’re bombarded with notifications and distractions all day.
The reason we keep reaching for our phones to check Facebook and Instagram even though we just did that a minute ago is the hit of dopamine we get when that little notification dot is lit up.
Our brains literally reward us for opening the app when we see that notification.
It’s gotten to the point that I feel physically upset with myself when I realize my hand is inching towards my phone to check for notifications.
It’s honestly disgusting.
But how many of us are like that?
Attached to our phones as if we need them to survive? As if every notification and hit of dopamine is the reason we live?
A good many, I’d wager.
I started looking for some way to stop myself from being on my phone all the time.
There are many apps out there to do that. First I started by trying to disgust myself by seeing how much time I really spent on my phone using RescueTime and QualityTime, but it didn’t do much beyond the gross feeling of knowing I’d spent 4 hours on Chrome reading Fanfiction the day before.
It was missing something.
The way any habit or addiction is built is by being rewarded for a behavior.
In the case of our phones, the tiny hit of dopamine is the reward.
I needed to replace that reward for checking my phone with a reward for not checking my phone.
I’m not good at self-reward, like giving myself time on the phone after spending X amount of time off it.
Then I found the Forest App.
I spent $1.99 on the premium version of an app that forces me to stay off my phone in exchange for a virtual reward at the end of a period of time that I choose.
It’s planting virtual trees.
This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the Forest App. I’ve included screenshots of the Forest App before in some of the Journey to Magnificence posts:
- 1: I Started the Thing!
- 3: When Plans Go Out the Window
- 4: Trying Out a Magic Notebook
- 17: Time Tracking is a F*cking GAME CHANGER
First, you choose a time to stay off your phone.
Then you can pick the kind of species of tree to plant. You can unlock other species with the coins you receive for successfully planting trees.
Different lengths of time allow different species. Unlocking new species costs 100 more coins after every new species until it costs 1000 coins.
So, for example, when you’re first starting out the first upgrade will be 100 coins, but the next one will be 200. The highest it’ll get is 1000 coins.
Under 20 minutes is a “shrub” variety, and over 20 minutes lets you grow bigger trees. The longer you plant a tree for, the more developed the tree becomes.
The highest you can go at one time is 2 hours, and 43 coins are the maximum you can get from one session (that goes 2 hours).
If you continue to leave your phone alone after the time’s up, it’ll continue counting the time until it hits 2 hours.
It also prevents you from closing out of the app without getting penalized. Going to your home screen will trigger a bunch of vibrations and warnings that your tree will die if you don’t go back into the app.
You can, of course, kill the tree yourself if you want to do something else on your phone before the time’s up, and that leaves you with a bunch of dead trees on your forest screen, like this:
I know there are many apps out there designed to help keep you off your phone. The Forest App is the only one I’ve tried that ties a virtual reward to staying focused.
In fact, it also offers real-life rewards.
The developers partnered with Trees for the Future to plant a real tree in exchange for 2500 Forest App coins.
So far, I’ve planted one real tree.
While I can sing this app’s praises all day long, I also want to share what I don’t like about it.
I wish it would go past 2 hours for focus time. I think they put that cap on there so as to not game the system overnight. At one point I tried overnight planting, but it capped out at 2 hours.
The increasing cost of unlocking new species is also daunting. While I think it’s supposed to be a motivator to continue planting, it also makes the goal of having the entire selection of species a very far-flung achievement.
But maybe that’s the way to do it – the longer I stay off my phone, the faster I’ll be able to accumulate a huge variety of species!
In the end, though, I totally think that the premium version of this app is a steal at $1.99. Two bucks to take back some of my focus during the day?
FYI none of the links here are affiliate links. I just really like the Forest App!