Remember how back in March I told you about my bad habit of procrastination? Well, when you’re a procrastinating achiever like me, you’ve got to have a way to combat that procrastination, and the best way I’ve found to do that is with lists. The more specific those lists are, the better. Write down a task as soon as I know it needs to be done, check it off when I’m finished, review the list regularly to make sure I’m not forgetting things. If I did not have a to-do list and a calendar that sent me automatic reminders, I would probably wander around, forgetting so many of the things that I could or should be doing. But the problem with procrastination and lists is that sometimes you see the things on the list and just don’t do them. There’s no motivation to get done the things that are on the list, and so things that are not urgent, and not important get shunted and ignored…and maybe eventually fall off the list.
This is where a great app can step in. For the last two years (on Saturday!), I’ve been using an amazing app that uses a technique called gamification to motivate its users to cross things off of their to-do lists and develop good habits. You’ve probably heard of gamification before, and maybe even experienced it. The gist of gamification is that if we can make processes in our lives similar to a game (a video game or tabletop RPG), where we can measure our level and earn achievements, then maybe it will make it more fun and motivating to go out and do the things that need to be done. This app is called Habitica (it used to be called HabitRPG), and it’s awesome.
It is an RPG (a Role Playing Game) done in the style of an early-90s video game, in which you are the main character and your tasks are all the things that you need to get done in your life. They are divided up into Habits (things you should or should not be doing regularly), Dailies (stuff you need to get done either daily or on a fixed schedule), and To-Dos (Bigger projects that need to be done, but aren’t recurring). You get to write all your tasks, and how difficult they are for you. Harder tasks give better rewards, and better streaks of accomplishing dailies or maintaining good habits rewards you even more too!
But because I’m secretly a hoarder of digital things, my favorite part is the rewards. For each task you earn both experience points (XP) and gold, mana points (MP), and occasionally items. XP helps you level up, MP lets you do cool stuff, gold helps you buy all the stuff that you want, and the items are the kind of things that it’s harder to buy. At the beginning you’re going to use gold to buy equipment. You’ll go through the various levels of equipment which make you a stronger character, until you reach your max equipment. My character is a mage (wizard), so most of my equipment is geared towards increasing my Intelligence, and all my skills will be based on that. Intelligence also increases your max mana points – the things that let you use cool skills in boss fights, which in my case are magical abilities – either sending a ball of fire at a monster, or giving my party members a temporary boost in intelligence so THEY can do more cool stuff.
Items are the things I want the most in my silly collector heart. They are eggs, hatching potions and food. You can use a hatching potion to hatch an egg, and food to feed to the pet that hatches. If your pet gets enough food, they become a mount. Since I’ve been at this for nearly two years, I’ve already hatched all the pets, grown them to mounts, and then re-hatched them all once. Since having a stable full of all the pets and not being able to use the eggs, potions and food I get in drops is no fun, I decided to release them all and start over. It is an awesome and ridiculous and slow process. It’s possible to buy eggs and food and whatnot, but that ends up costing “real money” (which I’ll get to in a moment).
I mentioned a party earlier. As in real life, it’s easier to try and keep yourself accountable and motivated if there are other people working with you. My party currently includes my brother Ben, Nicole, and my friend E. Our four characters together cover all the classes – Ben being our sneaky rogue, Nicole our strong warrior, and E the healer who is constantly fixing us up during tough battles. Together we go on quests which reward us with gold, XP, the occasional special equipment, and in the case of pet quests, cool eggs that won’t drop in the regular course of the game. They can’t see my to-do lists, and I can’t see theirs, but while on quests, if you don’t do your dailies, the bosses are likely to hit harder and potentially kill your friends, and nobody wants to be the one who made everyone lose all their gold!
The app itself is free. But if you want a slightly cooler experience, it’s possible to pay a subscription and get access to another level of cooler stuff with the gems you earn by subscribing. Want to have rainbow hair? You’ll need to pay in gems. Want a pet quest for that super adorable cuttlefish pet you’ve heard about? Gems required. Need a background for your character, or are you itching to have a panda face? Gems it is. I used the app for about 18 months before subscribing, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it all, I did feel a renewed sense of enjoyment in using the app once there was more freedom of expression and a wider availability of quests.
So – has it helped me and my procrastination problem? Yes…I think so. It’s nice to have one central place where I can record my achievements of various types. It’s also a place to keep my to-do list and see which items are growing stale with abandonment. Which habits I tried to start and am failing to keep up as well. The changes in color on tasks based on how well they’re being done is a great visual reminder, and good motivator for me to eventually get things done. I do also feel like it’s a good motivator in general, especially when I’m doing a quest with my party. I have to get all my dailies done, or else they might be injured by the monster due to my neglect. If I didn’t think it was helping (or it wasn’t fun), I wouldn’t have kept at it for two years. And the fact that I switched from free to paid subscriber probably says a lot as well.
Nearly all images on this post (except for the labelled one of my character) courtesy of the awesome Habitica Press Kit.