I’ve always wanted to be more productive. I’ve tried Getting Things Done, :the Artist’s Way:, a dozen others. But not once have I thought about the importance of the tools you use for your system.
Until now I’ve used Evernote, storing to-dos, projects and tasks. Yes, it’s serviceable (there’s even the Secret Weapon for doing it) but there’s been something missing. I’ve dutifully entered my tasks into lists and notes. I’ve dutifully checked boxes, dotted i’s and crossed t’s. I’ve dutifully followed my plan.
With Habitica I’m doing it for fun.
Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) is an online task list, action reminder, and habit adjustment tool. It’s also a game.
As the (former) name suggests, Habitica is a gamified version of your average productivity tool. But instead of badges, measurements and merits you get swords, armor and healing potions. That’s because Habitica is an RPG themed, gamified, productivity tool. And it’s glorious.
When you start out you get a tiny pixel-chibi (for those of you who don’t know Japanese: a Chibi is a cute character that looks like a kid with an oversized head). It’s all retro-style pixel art, just like the old go-raid-a-dungeon RPG games of the early 1990’s. At the very start you get to give your character some visual attributes, like a bow in his hair, a skin color (like, you know, blue) and an armor. You also start out with a (purely decorative) knife and shield combination.
Then it’s time to add your goals. You get to choose exactly what you want to accomplish and decide how hard it is. No forced input from the game, it’s just you and your goals. And don’t worry, you can change your goals at any time.
Habitica offers three types of goals: Habits, Dailies and To-Do’s. Habits are things that you want to cement into routine (positive habits, like “Go for a walk”), or remove from your daily life (negative habits, like “Eat Junk Food”). Dailies are things that you want to do on a regular, timed basis, like “Reply to all Email before noon”. To-Do’s are, well, To-Do’s.
So you’ve got your goals written down. Now the fun part starts.
Your character, that little Chibi-you in the corner, is what Habitica is all about. As you complete positive habits, dailies and to-do’s your character gains eXperience Points and Gold. But do negative habits or miss your dailies and your character will get hurt and can even die.
It’s silly but it becomes very motivating to keep your character alive and get more XP, which lets your character level up, becoming stronger and more adept at fighting your tasks (in this regards the game becomes easier as time goes on – but the goals in terms of XP needed are continuously increased so it balances out).
Using your gold you can buy equipment for your character, role-playing game style. Replacing your fairly useless knife and shield with a dagger and buckler increases your character’s statistics (there are four: Strength, Intelligence, Perception and Constitution, each affecting the gamified portions of Habitica in some way). Then you get to replace those, as you collect more money, with better equipment, armor, helmets and so on.
And once you reach level 10 (which should take about a week or two, unless you cheat too much) you get to choose a class: Warrior, Wizard, Healer and Rogue. I’m not going to go into what they do but each class has its own special abilities that lets you do things in the game.
There’s also a strong social aspect to Habitica. You can set up a party and invite your friends to it. Once you have a party you get to go on quests, which are long term engagements to be productive together. In game terms it’s a boss, or a collection of objects, that you will affect as a group through the tasks you complete, or fail to complete. Each task completed hurts the boss but each task you fail to complete makes the boss hurt you and your friends, and knowing that your friends’ characters could die, and they would lose some of their precious stuff, due to your laziness creates a strong incentive to follow through on your goals.
And if you’re lacking for motivation there are discussion groups (called guilds) where you can find like minded people, be they life hackers, writers, athletes or pretty much any other groups (with a quarter of a million users, Habitica has guilds catering to numerous productivity goals).
So, is Habitica a game or a tool? Good question. Either. Both.
It’s more a tool than a game. There is no “goal” to the gamified portions. You could increase in level indefinitely (but the game lets you reset without losing any of your productivity tools). You could collect stuff very easily as there’s no one who checks whether you actually do what you’ve set out to do or just click on the “completed” icons. In that aspect the game is pretty boring.
But coupled with the productivity tool Habitica becomes amazing. It uses all the standard forms of gamified rewards, from collecting points a la frequent flyer/air miles, to badges (you get to collect pets, which you grow into mounts that you can display on your avatar), to purchasing rewards (more stuff for your character) but because of the RPG layer on top they become meaningful.
Where other gamified productivity tools limit themselves to displaying your measurements in different ways (a bar chart of how much you’ve slept is pretty much the same thing as a “good sleeper” badge), Habitica goes a step further. Since you can actually use your measurements to improve your ability to collect more of that measurement, Habitica lets you game the system. And that’s all right.
Habitica isn’t a game. It is a gamified productivity tool. It doesn’t matter what it offers you, or that it becomes easier to garner XP and Gold as you progress. By letting you use your achievements for something, and have something to collect in order to reach (illusionary, in game) rewards, Habitica becomes very, very motivating.
Habitica is more motivating than any other productivity tool that I’ve tried.
Since I started using Habitica a month ago I’ve moved all of my to-do’s to it. And I enjoy looking at the list. Instead of surfing the web when I’m bored or tired I find myself surfing to Habitica and checking if there isn’t some small thing I could do right now that would give me another tiny reward that’s a step towards the big reward that I can plan and wish for.
Yeah, it’s a silly way to cheat yourself into being productive. The rewards offered by Habitica aren’t real (although you can set up real rewards, for example 100 gold to go out and binge on ice cream) but they still work. Especially for an old gamer like me.
And, most importantly, they make being productive fun!
- Adding a game layer to gamified productivity makes Habitica additively fun. You’ll want to complete your tasks.
- Since you’re the one setting up your goals, it’s possible to adapt Habitica to pretty much any productivity system out there.
- The social aspect makes Habitica stand out. Working with your friends creates a positive group experience that’s even more motivating than the base game.
- It’s quite possible to use Habitica to set up long term projects and break them down into smaller pieces.
- You’ll need some self-discipline not to make your goals too easy or the game will run away with you. But that’s done in goal creation – you tax your willpower once and then the game helps you.
- There is a risk of being too enamored with Habitica and burning out. Fortunately there are others to talk to in the open guilds and resources on the Habitica wiki that teaches you how to avoid that.
Who’s it for?
I’d recommend Habitica for the following:
- Anyone who likes games, especially role playing games, and wants to be more productive.
- People who get a strong incentive to be productive from social pressure.
- Youths, and parents who want to get their kids to do their chores.
- Anyone who’ve failed to increase their productivity through regular means and wants to try something different.
All in all, I’m a big fan of Habitica. That may change in the future but for now, Habitica is my preferred productivity tool.