The last two weeks have been insanely productive for me because of two small changes. Want to hear what they are?
Of course you do.
Forest and Streaks.
No, I’m not talking about streaking through the forest (as invigorating as that may sound), but instead my two favorite new apps. Both of these were recommended by Sean McCabe, so if you hate them, blame Sean.
The pomodoro method is one of my favorite ways to work. I start by writing a todo list down on paper. Then I choose the top item, work on it for 25 minutes, take a quick break, then move on to the next item.
Forest builds on that timer idea with a fun twist: For every 25+ minute chunk of focus time, you plant a tree in your forest. If the time you commit to is less than 25 minutes, you plant a bush instead. While not as stately as an evergreen, it’s progress.
If you stop focusing and do something else with your phone, the tree dies. Then you have a dead tree in your forest.
Create on the computer, consume on the phone
I’ve long been a believer of creating and consuming on different devices, so when it’s time for focused work I sign out of social apps and quit Slack. Then there is nothing on my computer to distract me. Then I start a tree growing session in Forest. Now for the next 25 minutes my phone is locked from use (unless I want to kill a tree).
Usually sometime in the 25 minute stretch I’ll press a magic key combination: “CMD + T, FA, Enter” to end up on Facebook…except I’m logged out so I’ll close the tab, remember I’m supposed to be focusing, and get back to work.
Make a commitment
The other powerful aspect is committing to focus for a certain amount of time. Even if I only have 10 minutes before a meeting I can get a lot in if that is focused time. So I make the commitment to myself (and my small grove of trees) to make something happen in that small window.
I even have accountability from friends on how much focused time I had that day. Because Sean and Ashley (another forest loving co-worker) are friends in the app, they can see my stats and forest. That also means I can brag to them about how much I got done!
Tracking and stats
The final feature I love is being able to see which days were more productive than others. Or to set a goal to have more hours of focused time this week compared to last week.
As I use it longer it will be fun to see stats month to month!
The more focused sessions you have, the more coins you collect. Get to 500 coins and you can unlock new types of trees. I just got a treehouse (obviously).
I just started using Streaks two weeks ago after having dinner with Sean. I’m a huge fan of building habits based on not breaking a chain of days on a task. My app Commit (which has since retired as I focused on ConvertKit) is based on this principle. The same principle I used to write 3 books in 9 months!
Streaks follows the same principle, but has a lot more functionality. First you define a task you want to do every day (mine is writing), and then set the your interval, icon, and any reminders.
I have three streaks going:
- Skip breakfast
- Publish every Monday
Yep, that means you can set streaks for particular days. Writing and skipping breakfast (intermittent fasting) happen every day. For publishing I am going for consistency, so I just need to make that happen every Monday.
A couple notes
First, you might notice that my streaks are relatively short. Other than publishing, I’ve been breaking the streaks each weekend. I don’t mean to skip writing on the weekends, I’ve just been busy at a conference or with family. That’s going to stop. For skipping breakfast, I’m more flexible. If skipping breakfast means missing weekend family time, I’m going to cheerfully break that streak for a day. We’ll see if I change it later to just be a weekday habit.
Second, I’m famous for writing 1,000 words a day (for 600+ days in a row!), but this streak is simply to write. As I try to rebuild my writing muscle I chose to set the bar lower. Simply write, for any amount of time, and it’s considered a success! That makes the habit easier to form and keeps the bar lower.
This is my fourth Monday in a row publishing a blog post. It wouldn’t have happened without these two apps and a renewed focus on simple habits to create more than I consume.
What works for you?