Productivity apps: Part 1 of…many?

It is February, which means I have a mountain of snow outside my door here in Canada, and an even larger mountain of tasks stacking up in my e-mail inbox. Since piles of snow and short days make me want to curl up with a good book – rather than a good journal article – I’ve been toying with some of the many productivity apps available on the web.

Top of my list was apps to block you from social media websites while you are trying to be productive.  If you are like me, steering clear of Twitter has been especially challenging in the past few weeks.  More importantly though, I was looking for an app that would keep me from checking my e-mail every five minutes while I am trying to write.

There are lots of apps for this purpose, designed for your phone or as a Google Chrome plug in — there are some good lists of apps here and here.

Today, I experimented with Forest (which I heard about on Twitter…oops.)

Forest lets you choose the website you want to stay clear of, and then uses guilt to keep you off them. Forest plants a virtual tree, which grows and flourishes as long as you stay off of your banned websites. Venture onto those banned websites and your tree dies. Stay productive and your forest thrives; keep venturing onto banned websites and you’ll end up with a forest of dead trees.

I found that the system of rewards in Forest added a fun game/challenge element that appealed to my competitive side. It also reminded me of the animated vine in the dashboard of my mum’s hybrid car that gets more lush if you drive efficiently.


In the first 45 minutes of using the app I definitely broke down and tried to access  my e-mail a few times – but I was faced with an “are you really sure?” warning that got me back on task more quickly. I think I would have been more successful had I not kept my phone nearby on my desk. I was waiting for a phone call and  kept inadvertently seeing notifications pop-up on my phone. If you are giving one of these apps a whirl, I recommend keeping the phone on silent, and out of sight.

I am curious whether anyone else has experience using these blocking apps for better productivity? So far I have only played with the free Chrome app for Forest, and I am curious to know whether the cell phone versions of these apps are better than the built in “do not disturb” function on my phone. Also, what other productivity apps have you tried?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s