For Writers

Staying Focused with the Flora App

The Flora app was one of my favorite productivity tools before the pandemic. After a year of use, it’s now my favorite tool to help me track my time and stay focused in other ways, too. And now I’m using it to help me navigate the increasingly foggier days in self-isolation.

I started using the Flora app back when I was still in college. I was looking for a free alternative to the super popular Forest app, and Flora drew my eye with its focus on flowers over trees. Not to mention that it had the same functionality, more or less, and it had overall positive reviews on the app store. It was also free, so why not take the plunge and download it?

Well, I inevitably fell off the wagon. Then I got back on, and then I fell off again. My use waxed and waned with my workload, as you might expect.

Enter the novel coronavirus. I suddenly had lots of time on my hands. Initially, I was happy to waste hours running around on Sandibel, the island my boyfriend and I were developing in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The New York Times was promoting letting yourself relax, so I felt justified in doing so.

But after a week—or possibly longer—of being stuck inside, I started to realize I was done relaxing, and I was ready to start working again. Not only that, but this was my chance to prove to myself that I could hack it as a full-time writer/freelancer. I should be taking advantage of that!

How the App Works

After logging in through your Facebook account—which is currently the only way to register—you’ll be walked through how to grow your first plant on The Grand Tour by staying focused for five or more minutes. This translates to not opening any other app or closing out of the Flora app. (If you like to have music playing in the background, make sure you’ve already got it going before you “plant!”)

Once the time has elapsed, the app will reveal what you’ve grown, and the plant will appear in your garden, where it will stay for seven days. On Sundays, the app will add up how much time you’ve spent focusing during the week and display your flora.

You can now continue on The Grand Tour, unlocking native flora from countries around the world as you work. It’s exciting to discover what exotic plant you’ve just grown, and satisfying to see your hard work paying off in the form of a colorful digital garden!

Within your garden, you can see how many hours you’ve spent focused and your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly stats. You can also share your plants to social media and assign tags to your focus sessions.

But the most unique aspect of the Flora app is the ability to plant real trees in rural communities by signing up for Flora Care. As of this blog post’s publication date, you can pay an annual fee of $1.99, $3.99, or $9.99 to have a tree planted every 120, 60, or 24 hours you’ve stayed focused, respectively. Or, if you’d rather, you can also place a bet against yourself using real money. If you close the app during your focus session, it will charge you, and your money will go towards planting a real tree.

How I’m Using the Flora App Now

The Flora app already has a way to tag activities, but there are only six tags. I like to get a bit more specific and dig into which of my works in progress I’m making headway on.

This is why I’ve started a running list of flora and tasks I associate them with. Roses represent Writer’s Atelier, passion flowers represent my historical romance series, and so on.

In the screenshot below, you can see I’ve grown lots of nymphaea lotus flowers and a few oak trees. These represent the number of focus sessions I’ve spent editing my to-be-traditionally-published novel Earhart & Noonan’s Last Grand Adventure, and how many focus sessions I’ve spent reading for pleasure.

screenshot of the flora app

Is this a perfect system I’ve developed? No. I can really only work in my pre-determined 25-minute sessions for this to be an accurate way to measure time (which is fine, since I am a fan of the Pomodoro method). And the Flora app doesn’t have a stopwatch function, so I’ll be interrupted every 25 minutes to start a new focus session should I choose to devote a larger chunk of time to the task at hand.

But do I love this system anyway? Yes! So much yes! It’s manageable, it uses tools I already like and am familiar with, and it’s suitable for work and play.

What about you? How are you managing your time working from home while social distancing?

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