So a weird thing happened to me. After basically ignoring 97% of the apps on my phone for the last five years, and questioning the value of apps in general, I fell in love with two just this past week. They're pretty fantastic, so I thought I'd share:
Forest: With everything I've been going through lately, it's no wonder I'm having problems focusing on my work. For a while I tried the Pomodoro technique, which works, but most often I'd forget all about it and slide back into anxious procrastination. Then I heard about Forest, which uses the same concept, but ties your working periods to a virtual growing plant. You just set the timer for how long you want to focus, the app "plants" a seedling, and if you can stay on task for the entire period without getting distracted on your phone, then the seedling grows into a tree. But if you get distracted, the plant dies...so you try really hard to stay on task. You can collect trees to build a forest and I find that oddly satisfying. Maybe it works for me because I like to garden and I can't stomach the idea of killing a tree! (I wonder if there are similar apps out there for people who would be more motivated by a tamagotchi-style pet.)
Also, the more successful trees you plant, the more points you earn, which you can use to "buy" other kinds of trees and plants to grow in your forest. So there's a gaming element to it, all of which gives me motivation and accountability to stay focused while I'm editing for a client. I also like the fact that I can set timers for myself that remind me to "plant" a tree so I don't forget to use the app. Forest costs $1.99 in the Apple store, but it's honestly one of the better 2 bucks I've ever spent. Last week I was barely able to work for longer than 15 minutes at a time without getting distracted by sad thoughts or logistic questions about my upcoming move. But since I started using Forest, I've been clocking hours of solid work time, which I so badly need to do at this point, if only for the distraction and the money.
I'll admit, I heard about Forest from Cupcakes & Cashmere, which is kind of a hate read for me, but they very occasionally introduce me to something new and useful., For whatever reason, it's almost always technology related, which I guess is just a sign that I tend to lag behind the times.
Skyscanner: I'm guessing I'm pretty late to the Skyscanner party as well, but I still think it's a great app to check out if you want to travel as inexpensively as possible. My best friend invited me to spend a weekend with her in Dallas this summer. Sounds like fun! Except, for obvious reasons, I'm trying to be careful with my money right now. To be honest, I don't think I understood how to use this app when I first tried it. I searched for flights to Dallas and it gave me a list that seemed no different from Kayak or any other airline ticket search engine. You fiddle and fiddle with your travel dates to lower the price, but it feels like you're shooting in the dark.
But then I noticed a bottom tab that said "Explore." I clicked on it, then entered the city where I wanted to go, and BOOM - a dozen upcoming flights appeared of various dates and lengths that were by far the cheapest of all the fares. I just filtered the results to show only the weekend flights, and within 15 minutes I had found and booked the best deal that also fit my schedule. The only trade-off is that you can't choose specific days to depart and arrive, but there were plenty of reasonable itineraries to choose from, and it wasn't hard for me to be flexible given the open-style of my friend's invitation. All I had to do was confirm that a time also worked for her and we were good to go.
So now because of Skyscanner, I get to see my friend and have something to look forward to, all without breaking the bank. Can't argue with that! So pro-tip, use the "Explore" feature on Skyscanner,
Have you found any good apps lately that are actually making a difference in your life?
Writing, editing, and doing science when I feel like it. Just a book without a genre.