Forest ($1.99) Gamifying otherwise menial tasks is perfect for procrastinators and those who are easily distracted. With Forest, you choose a species of shrub or tree, set the time, and tap Start. As you work, the tree will grow from sprout to full-blown plant. But if you leave the app before the timer runs out and the tree grows up, your tree will wither away and die. Is the virtual world not enough to motivate you? Grow enough trees and you can exchange your virtual achievements for real trees planted in a real forest, which means your focus contributes to a better environment for us all. As you grow virtual trees, you can add them to your forest and create your own beautiful landscape within the app. The more you focus, the more species of shrubs and trees you can unlock. Keep track of how well you've focused over time with the built-in pie chart and learn to strike a balance between work, rest, and play.
Freedom (Free) It's easy to find yourself mindlessly scrolling through images and videos on social media when you need to be working on something productive. With Freedom, you can prevent yourself from wasting time on addictive apps—such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook (with some workarounds; it's apparently difficult to block the Facebook app)—by blocking them from yourself. Simply set the amount of time you want to block your social media accounts or favorite websites and accept that focusing on the task at hand is the only distraction available until that timer goes off. Use this app in combination with the Pomodoro app to create spurts of focused time with fun breaks in between.
Tide (Free) This elegant timer is all about soothing you into a focused state. It uses the Pomodoro technique, which means you can set the time for 25 minutes and once it's done, you'll get a five-minute break before beginning again. Of course, all its times are adjustable to your preferences, but the time reward is a great way to continue working and focusing throughout your day. While you work, you can listen to the soothing sounds of rain and birds, the indistinguishable chatter of a coffee shop, or even soft instrumental pieces. The daily quote at the bottom of the app is meant to help you keep working toward your goal while the timer keeps you on track.
Focus Keeper (Free) If the traditional Pomodoro technique is helpful for you, then this app will easily track your rounds. Work for 25 minutes at a time with a short break at the end of each session. Repeat that four times and you'll get a longer break. You can set how many rounds you want to complete in a day and your overall goal. Check out the graph after your first week to see how beautifully you focused each day. To unlock special features—such as the ability to customize timers, use different ticking sounds, and designate your own color theme—you can go Pro ($1.99). Focus Keeper is simple, straightforward, and designed to do what it sets out to do: help you stay focused.
Productivity Challenge Timer (Free) This app doesn't want to hear about any of your excuses. In Productivity Challenge Timer, you start out as an Unrepentant Slacker and work your way up the ranks as you focus day in and day out. Want to take the weekend off? Too bad—you'll start losing your rank if you slack. Set up four projects with the free version and unlock 18 achievements. This app also uses the Pomodoro technique. If you love challenging yourself, this app is right up your alley, but if being harassed isn't your thing, that's OK too. Just visit Settings to turn on the app's Judgement-Free mode. Otherwise, prepare yourself to be insulted into a productive human being.