This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Productivity tools

Get new good habits for this coming academic year – Habitica and Forest

I take a few minutes today to start writing again and introduce you to two great tools that have helped me manage my time and take control of my PhD: Habitica for planning your day and empowering great habits, and Forest, a pomodoro counter which aims at replanting trees with the coins you collected.

A – Habitica

Habitica is an app and website (for those who avoid smartphones like plague) made by and for the nerds like me. In the shape of a role-playing game (RPG), tasks and habits become quests for your character to improve and grow. The tool is fully customizable, and you can either write “Finish reading the pile of books sleeping on your desk” or even better, “Take down the mighty Reading dragon!”.

1. How does it work?

Similarly to Spaced Repetition Learning (SRL), Habitica engraves new habits in you through the power of rewards and repetitions. ‘Dailies represent regular repetitive tasks and habits. Missing a daily is not only detrimental for yourself but also for your character who will lose health and could ultimately die. You could always cheat… but do you really want to cheat yourself?

For instance, I have the bad habit to read comics as soon as I get up (if you’ve heard of Webtoon and such apps… you understand the pleasure and nightmare). Sometimes, I would come later for work just to finish reading the daily chapters and do my daily routines. Though I do not have a tight schedule and can manage my own schedule, it would mean I would leave late from work when I am most productive in the morning and late afternoon. I created an Habitica daily “Arrive before 9 a.m.” and would even give myself extra motivation with a “positive habit” that I would click each time I’d tick an office task on a productive day. The more I would manage to come on time or stay productive throughout the day, the more this habit would become rewarding. The cumulative reward system.

Habitica and MrPOcean, a love story.
On the left: My character, started in 2017 – Credits: Habitica

On the right: A typical habitica window (website) with my habits, dailies, to-dos and rewards

2. Playing together

One of the most interesting features of Habitica is the ability to do quests in group, a.k.a. a party. You can see the current members of my party at the top of the previous screenshot. You can enroll in quests fighting monsters and gigantic animals. Each time a party member completes one of his tasks, the monster takes damages. Each time someone forgets to do a task, each member takes damages. A great way to motivate each other and help each other. Even more interesting, each member can play different roles in the party. Habitica comes with a set of four classes, all with their unique abilities and pieces of equipment: mage (the damage dealer), warrior (the tank), healer (your personal medic) and rogue (gets more gold for completing tasks).

I picked rogue for the flexibility it gave me.

As you can see, I am wearing my hammerhead shark costume, riding my killer whale with my mantis shrimp… yes, you guessed right, I am a marine biologist. And yes, you can collect pets and mounts! In-game rewards.

  • Habitica pets – Cuttlefish – OceanFact
  • Habitica pets – Octopus – OceanFact
  • Habitica pets – Seahorse – OceanFact
  • Habitica pets – Blue whale – OceanFact

Habitica and the pets and mounts system
Many variations to collect and many more to come!

You can even contribute as the Habitica is open-source!

Do you wanna join Habitica? Are you already a member of this great community? Let me know in the comments below.

If you wanna join our party, we are focusing in collecting the marine animal pets and mounts at the moment. Send me a message in-game (@mrpocean) and I’ll add you to our party.

When we will be enough, we could even have our own OceanFact guild. 😀

Last, this months, two great challenges were released:

  1. September – Celebrate your Triumphs! From the “Official Habitica New Year’s Resolution” guild (click!).

This challenge will help you setup a new habits and stick to it for 30 days.

  1. It’s Dangerous to Go Alone! (Official TAKE THIS Challenge – September 2019) –> Click

This challenge will help you deepen your connections with friends and new people.

Rewards: Gems (the subscribers in-game currency) and unique pieces of equipments!

Some useful resources to get started (and check all the links I scattered around the article):

  1. Official guide:
  2. Blog:

B – Forest, the environmentally friendly Pomodoro counter

Have you heard of the Pomodoro technic? Neuroscience showed that the human brain is incapable of focusing more than 25-30 min at the time. Indeed, there is no point working non-stop for hours! Your productivity and focus will go down little by little. The Pomodoro technic helps to stay focus. With the help of a timer (your phone, an app, your kitchen timer), you manage your time to work by slots of 25 min with breaks of 5.

A usual full cycle is the following (you can always decide to come up with your own cycle):

25 min of work – 5 min break – 25 min of work – 5 min break – 25 min of work – 5 min break – 25 min of work – 20 min break.

It allows you to stay focus for 2h without your motivation going down.

Forest adds an extra motivation, similarly to Habitica. Your goal is to grow a forest. If you do not manage to stay focus, your forest dies, and you start over… The app is well made and takes control over your phone when in a Pomodoro session. If you leave the app for a split second, it will warn you and you will get a few seconds to get back to the app, leave your phone, before your forest starts burning. What else do you need to stay motivated?

In the premium version (about 2€), the group session becomes available. Each member of the session has to trust the others. If only one member would not stay focused, the individual forests of each member would die. You better team up with motivated peers!

As a reward for your consistency, you will slowly unlock different species of trees and increase the diversity of your forest (I am not there yet).

Do you use the Pomodoro technic daily? Do you use an app or a traditional kitchen timer?

Let me know in the comment below and/or tag @mrpocean on a picture of your timer on Instagram.


Additionally I heard of a few similar tools:

FocusMate puts you in contact with focus buddy all around the world and organizes working sessions.

Toggl helps track how much time you spend on each tasks.


Author of the article.

Pierre PhD student - CEO Ocean Fact
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