My neck, my back, my productivity app

October 10, 2018 — by Jayne Zhou and Megan Chen

In this day and age, distractions are so plentiful when students are trying to focus. We are both chronic procrastinators, and nothing can keep us away from scrolling aimlessly through Instagram or replying to Snapchats when we have lots of homework to do.

We blame the internet for our late nights staying up doing homework and tutorials spent studying for tests the following period. So, what better way to solve this problem than with a productivity app?

We both downloaded one called Flora to motivate us to look at our phones sparingly when studying and doing homework.

The app allows users to grow virtual plants by not leaving or closing the app. For example, if you stay focused and don’t leave the app for 5 minutes — powering off doesn’t count — you can grow a flower or a tree. You can even grow plants with your friends if both of you stay on the app. Eventually, you can grow a whole garden of virtual plants.

Our initial problem was that there was nothing keeping us from leaving the app. And soon enough we were back on Instagram.

Then came a sad notification that our plant had died. When we returned to the app, we were met with a glaring red screen and an angry dead tree.

This was certainly enough incentive for us to keep our plants alive.

Flora also provides different varieties of plants that unlock after spending a certain amount of time being productive and growing a garden. Each time a new plant is unlocked, the user travels forward on a world map, gradually increasing the time needed to unlock each plant.

We ended up making a competition out of it; we wanted to see who could grow the prettiest, most plentiful garden. We found that this made us the most productive. One downside of the app is that it allows you to choose the time you want to spend without your phone. This mean we could choose a mere 5 minutes and grow a full tree. The app doesn’t have any rules that say “you have to take at least an hour to grow this tree,” or anything like that.

The app also allows users to take a break from growing the tree, subtracting from the total time being productive. Because Flora still allows users to leave the app and eventually grow a tree, it doesn’t force users to stay on the app. Sometimes, it can’t even detect that you’ve left the app, which is a pretty glaring shortcoming in their system.

Even with these problems, though, we found that opening our phones with an initial intent to go on social media was often prevented by seeing the countdown as a reminder to stay productive.

Although the app relies on a user’s motivation, it serves as a helpful reminder that they shouldn’t be using their phone, while also rewarding them by unlocking new plants for their gardens.

The bottom line is that while Flora may not be be the best productivity app,  it is worth trying out. You’ll thank yourself when you’re not having to do AP U.S. History homework at 3 a.m. because you’ve been on and off Instagram all night.


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