Sophie and Jessica used Flora for five days to find out if it would help them to concentrate better while studying. (Maddi Shinall)
Sophie and Jessica used Flora for five days to find out if it would help them to concentrate better while studying.

Maddi Shinall

Technology in control: a Flora review

WSS staffers Jessica Doyle '19 and Sophie Stephens '19 review Flora, an app that keeps track of how long you stay off of your phone, to see if it helped their productivity.

May 8, 2018

Jessica

MONDAY

As soon as I downloaded Flora, I was asked to sign up with Facebook, so if you’re not into that kind of thing, I can tell you off the bat that this is not the app for you. I signed up anyway and was immediately presented with a tutorial on how to plant fake trees to monitor how much time I’ve been focused (or at least not using my phone). I typically swipe past the tutorials, thinking “I don’t have the patience for this; I’ll figure it out on my own”. That was probably a mistake.

I was presented with a blank dollar amount, something I was unaccustomed to with free apps, along with a timer set at 25 minutes. Not sure what to do, I hit the start button, because what do I have to lose?

Apparently my first tree. 0-1 Jessica.

Bummed out by my first loss, I decided to put the app away and deal with it after school. I continued to put off finding a solution to my procrastination habits and didn’t even attempt to deal with the app until I finished my homework. On the brightside, I did finish my homework, so at least I was kind of focused, which is the whole point right?

After unsuccessfully trying to find a video tutorial for Flora newbies, I made a rash decision to invite my friend Sophie to plant a tree with me. What a fun virtual bonding moment! I hit the start button on the timer, went to my homescreen and opened up my Canvas app (wow so studious) and was notified within five seconds to check on my newly planted friendship tree. I opened up the app, and to my amazement, BAM! Another tree, gone.

Ok, I thought. So maybe I actually need to keep the app open and stay off my phone. Crazy concept, I know.

TUESDAY

I had a decent amount of homework today, but was able to stay pretty focused and finished most of my homework by 8:30 pm. (Except for writing this journal entry. I procrastinated this. It’s currently 9:20 pm.) The real struggle started after leaving school. It’s hard for me to get back into the swing of homework after taking a break and since I have the choice to set the timer, I didn’t bother starting my homework for awhile. So I ate dinner, watched a short YouTube video, and eventually got back to the books.

According to the app I stayed focused for one hour and 15 minutes. I planted two trees and started to plant another one, but took a break so I could depart school. I’m pretty sure I lost that data because the time ran out before I started my homework again. I was able to stay off my phone for the most part while doing my homework, minus the time when I needed to set a timer to practice FRQs for the upcoming AP test. This is when I killed a tree–my only dead tree today. 🙂

Overall, I would give myself a ⅘ on focus today. I had a lot of work to get done, but I was determined to plant some trees and see how much free time I could end up with at the end of the day. I also studied outside for a while, which helped eliminate distractions. I discovered that not many people choose to spend time in the courtyard after school when it’s 70 degrees outside.

WEDNESDAY

It’s Wednesday my dudes. And I’m pretty much over this app. While using it does help me stay off my phone, I really don’t give a darn about how many trees I “plant.” I personally was much more interested in the incentives offered by Pocket Points than I am Flora.

If I want to go on my phone, all I have to do is not set the timer. I’ve only been setting it when I’m actually working on school work. You also have the option to go on your phone–it doesn’t just shut it off completely. Unless you find planting e-trees with a friend to be really encouraging, you’re probably going to go on your phone just as much as you would without the app.

I will say though that I am surprised I haven’t gone to Buzzfeed on my Chromebook or gotten completely off task for an hour. I usually resort to something like this when procrastinating, but I have become more determined to finish my homework ASAP as possible since starting this challenge.

THURSDAY

I don’t find using this app to be productive. I’m pretty much over it. It’s neat to see how much time I actually am staying focused, or at least staying off my phone, but sometimes things come up that I need to use my phone for.

The main conclusion I’ve reached is that phones can be distracting, but they can also be an asset. Restricting phone use once you’ve unlocked your phone has its drawbacks. I think doing this challenge has forced me to stay off of my phone more, stay focused and make sure I’m getting my work done, but most of my incentive is  because I want good results. I don’t think I will continue using Flora after this week is over.

FRIDAY

I didn’t do any homework today… whoops.

SATURDAY

Yay I made it five days! I managed to plant a couple of trees today, but after a while just thought screw it and gave up. It was bittersweet. I’d committed a total of 5.43 hours to using the app this week, but I knew it was time to say my goodbyes and move on.

CONCLUSION

I haven’t used Flora since Saturday and I don’t think I will use it in the future. Part of me wants to see how many trees I can get planted, but the other part of me realizes it’s an unnecessary stressor and that if I need to get on my phone, I’m going to get on it anyway. I was focused this past week, much more than I am currently, but I prefer to have phone access without risking the life of a fake tree or forgetting to set the timer.

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Flora app

MONDAY

Today I downloaded Flora and just started going through the “training” practice and learning how to use the app. The app is supposed to help you stay off of your phone to increase productivity, and I’m hoping to use it when I’m doing homework or studying. You set a timer for a minimum of 25 minutes, and if you stay off of your phone for that amount of time your plant “grows” in the app (mine is apparently an oak tree…). If you go on your phone before the timer goes off, your plant dies.
The training didn’t really help me learn how to use the app so I had to experiment with my first few sessions, which resulted in me killing two trees. I still don’t totally understand all of the features of the app, but it seems to hold me accountable. When you close out of the app the timer turns off, but other than that the app seems to lack in the accountability aspect. I hardly had any homework tonight, surprisingly, so I can’t tell if the app is actually helping too much with productivity. As I start studying for AP exams and get more homework the app may help me focus more. I’ve ended up only growing three trees today, but know I could have planted more if I had actually remembered to open the app or that I was supposed to actually be staying off of my phone. We’ll see if it actually helps me “curve my phone addiction” as the app promises.

TUESDAY

I’ve realized that even if I’m not on my phone I forget to open the app and start my timer. Since I’m not on my phone during the day because all of my time is spent at school, and I don’t use my phone in class unless it’s band (sorry Mr. Medd!). I could be “planting” many trees but I am not. The only difficult part is that if I do actually remember to set the timer and five minutes later I want to text my friend with a homework question, I can’t. It’s a little inconvenient, but I mostly blame it on my timing. Downside: I’ve realized the app wastes a TON of battery! Also, it is really hard for me to remember to start the timer if I have already started homework. I usually remember too late, and am already halfway done with homework when I remember to open the app.

WEDNESDAY

Today I only grew one tree. Even if I start the timer before starting homework, I find that if I’m in the middle of an assignment and the 25 minute timer is up, I have to go on my phone just to start the timer over and grow another tree. It honestly makes me go on my phone more often than just turning off my phone when studying, and is (again) a huge inconvenience. Since I didn’t have a ton of homework tonight I only set the 25 minute timer once, even though I was studying much longer than 25 minutes after I finished my homework. And with the homework I had tonight, using the Flora timer didn’t make homework or studying go any faster and didn’t make me any more productive than when studying without the app. I still ended up finishing my assignments as fast/slow as usual, and studying was just as tedious and painful. Also, going back to the accountability side of the app, the “break” option makes it way too easy to stop mid-timer and have no consequences, meaning I can turn off my timer every five minutes and not have my tree die, which makes it too easy to go on my phone more frequently.

THURSDAY

I again only grew one tree today, despite spending nearly two hours working on an English essay and even more time studying for tests. Today I found out that if any of your Facebook friends use the app and keep their updates on “friends” mode you can see their progress (I see you Jessica!) but otherwise nothing new came out of today. :/ If you reply to a text message without actually unlocking your phone, the time doesn’t stop. You also still get all of your notifications, so it is super easy to ignore the timer and go on your phone. I’ve pretty much made up my mind about this app, but I am finishing out the five days just for the purpose of completion.

FRIDAY

I didn’t end up growing any trees today, mostly because I forgot to turn the timer on in class and I didn’t do any homework tonight. I really didn’t like this app, and didn’t find it helpful in staying off of my phone while studying or doing homework. I wouldn’t say it is a waste of time to try out the app for yourself, but it just isn’t for me. Similar to Pocket Points, Flora has good intentions but doesn’t do much to actually help me be more productive and less addicted to my phone.

CONCLUSION

Overall, I would definitely not recommend this app. It is super easy to ignore the timer or open notifications without stopping the timer. It doesn’t really help me stay off of my phone at all, nor does it do enough to stop me from answering texts or emails. The consequences of stopping the timer without hitting “break” aren’t incentive enough to prevent me from just closing the app during the timer. The app is just NOT WORTH IT!!! It is a hassle to open the app every time you want to study, and when the timer runs out you have to open the app again to start another timer, which to me defeats the purpose of the timer in the first place. If you need help staying off your phone during class or while studying or doing homework, I would recommend saving time and not using Flora or another studying app. Instead, juust turn off your phone and put it somewhere out of sight so you aren’t tempted to check it every ten minutes.

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