While I can't say for certain that I have adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, I know, for the past several years, I have been both blessed and cursed with the ability to switch my mindset from one area to another very quickly. If my goals and ambitions were a wooden sculpture, this would be like me trying to carve a statue with a whittling knife.

sculpture photo by Len Williams

The biggest opponent to my daily productivity is the constant task switching that I do in my day to day. Focusing on one task at a time has really been a challenge. While working on something, the thought "I wonder what's happening on twitter" creeps in. Then while taking a "break", I remember that "thing" I need to accomplish. I then begin working on a different project.

Then the phone rings... "Hey can you take care of this user? Thanks!"

Now I'm three levels down into my task inception and I left my totem at home. By the end of the day I've made several more jumps and lots of progress in many directions but just like my whittling metaphor, the cuts are numerous but all very shallow.

The struggle is ongoing but I have a new tool to help with it

In my yearly interview with Francesco D'Allesio, he mentioned the anti-distraction app Forest. This app, entices you to not look at your phone as an onscreen tree grows.

forest screenshot

Every day, you are tasked to build a small forest. Each session is a tree. The look of the tree is determined by how long the session was. Shorter session will result in a bush, while longer sessions a tree of varying length. You will also receive an in-app currency that you can use to change the type of trees grown or (once you have accumulated enough currency) you can plant a real tree somewhere in the world (Hooray for feels!)

Less Random Thoughts

Remember when I mentioned that twitter and other social medias were a trigger for me to start working on something else? It's almost impossible to open Tweetbot without killing the tree that I'm currently growing. Of course there isn't anything from actually stopping me, but the reminder is enough to encourage me to show the discipline required to focus on the task at hand. This prevents the flood gates from opening.

The Pomodoro Method

Along with the remedy for distractions, Forest acts as a great pomodoro to do focused work.

The pomodoro technique is the process of working for set amounts of time (usually 25 minutes) and then taking scheduled breaks. There is often a set goal of pomodoros you would like to complete.

Forest allows you to track, not only your total time for the day and week but also how many sessions you were able to complete (and not complete).

Limitations of an iOS Anti-Distraction Tool

Forest is a great iOS anti-distraction tool. The only problem is that it is, well,


IOS has limitations that cannot be overcome. When you turn on forestit cannot do any kind of prevention. It can "punish" you with the death of your tree, but it can't switch you off of those bad tasks. This also does not prevent you from just distracting yourself with other devices (iPads, laptops, television).

Do not download this app (or any app) with the notion that this will create discipline in you. It won't. It can, however be used to help train your mind to focus on the task at hand and fight the urge to distract yourself with your phone.


While forest hasn't become a secondhand thought to my workflow yet. It is very much a tool that I plan to use regularly until it does. It has also given me inspiration to look into other applications on different platforms to keep me focused on the task ahead.

Forest - iOS $1.99