Perhaps it's a common quality of only children, but I've long had a habit of turning little things into games. To this day, I'm always setting myself unnecessary but useful obstacles like, "New rule: Every time I enter a room for the next hour I have to do one thing to make it nicer." or "Challenge round! How many pieces of laundry can I fold and put away before this song ends?" And you know what? It works. It keeps me motivated and cheerful as I get more done than I otherwise would.
There are a variety of to-do list trackers which take a playful approach to productivity, but I found I did not stick with them after the initial charm wore off. I'd enjoy using them and would indeed find myself doing "just one more task" in the evening in order to score those few more points. Then I'd travel or get sick and once my schedule was disrupted, I would not return to them.
Over the past couple months, though, I seem to have found the one that has enough allure to get me back in the game even after a few days distraction. The key for me came in two parts: supporting habit-building and character advancement. HabitRPG, as the name suggests, is centered on building and maintaining habits defined by you. The core are your "Dailies" (though you can set some to occur only on certain days of the week). If you don't mark them off, your little character will lose life points that night. If you do, you'll gain experience and treasure, which increases as your streak of successful days grows. You also can list behaviors you want to reward yourself for engaging in or negative ones for which you want to penalize yourself. And HabitRPG also supports jotting down To-Do's, which bring a reward when checked off.
You set up the appearance of a cute little character and as you go about your day, marking things off your list, your character grows more skillful and, importantly for those of us who adore the character creation part of games, you can customize its appearance and powers. Those powers, for example, include its defenses against lost life points for missed Dailies and indulgence in bad habits, or its ability to extract greater rewards from completed tasks. My little rogue character is focused on that latter path, using ninja skills to glean a few more gold pieces from each task I ambush.
All good so far, but perhaps not compelling enough to keep me coming back, were it not for the sneaky inclusion of varying rewards and frequent, but not constant, extra treasure. These treasures take the form of eggs, hatching potions, food, and saddles. There are nine different kinds of pets that can be hatched from those eggs and ten different hatching potions creating their variations. This leads to a total of 90 pets to be collected, each of which can be fed its special variant food to grow into a mount. Sure, it's silly, but when making my bed and tidying the bedroom only takes a couple minutes and it has the potential for a treasure I haven't collected yet, I'm just more likely to do it.
HabitRPG gives me the pleasure of a microbreak playing a game (when I get a reward and take a minute to spend it), without actually leaving the context of my goals for the day or risking getting caught up for a long time in playing. It gives me a place to jot down trivial To-Do items (e.g., 'empty the paper shredder') where they won't clog up my main project planner. And it keeps the background hum of daily and weekly personal tasks from creating a sense of overwhelm when I'm looking at all my longer-term projects.
It's enjoyable and it really is succeeding in helping me shift my behavior in the direction I want to go. When games work better than more boring methods, it's a double win. Try out some fun and see if it turns out to be most functional too!
Want to learn more about the science behind gamification and its great potential? Check out Jane McGonigal's 2012 book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. It's available in print and as an audiobook. I listened to the version from Audible while getting things done around the house and working out; isn't that just like a sneaky little rogue?
Posted on January 28, 2015 | Permalink
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Whenever the Discardia holiday is short, or you have only a small amount of time to devote to its celebration, take heart; small efforts still add up. By regularly tuning your attention, even briefly, you are building mental paths that lead you toward where you want to be.
From now until 2016, I'll be helping you build that trail, just a little each day, with a tip or a question. These will go out on Twitter—at all hours since Discardia is celebrated around the world—but you can always see them here at Discardia.com on the righthand side of the page.
Join me in a year of Discardian Strategies and take a daily moment to consider how you can steer your life in the direction of less stress and more happiness. When that contemplation inspires action, leap on the motivation and take a few minutes to improve your world.
Anything which you do pretty much every single day, even if only for ten minutes, has the power to change your life.
As the year goes on, these moments of contemplation will prime you for minutes of action when opportunity falls in your lap. Stay tuned in to what you're learning makes things better for you and seize your chances to do quick little laps of upgrading your world.
From where can you steal those laps of 10-20 minutes? Anywhere you can grab the time, but watch especially for non-rewards that you can trade away. Things you still do which aren't as satisfying as they used to be can fall off your schedule to make room for greater joy.
Best of all, this reveals some of the magic of shifting habits: our focus casts a shadow. If you shift from the habit, say, of watching a particular half hour TV show that has grown dull, you’re gaining back not only those 30 minutes, but also all that other time you spend following information about the show online, complaining about episode plot holes with friends or co-workers, and simply thinking about what you’d watched or planned to watch. Whatever activity it is that isn't giving you want you need and want in your life, change your focus to what makes you happier and calmer.
When you make these small changes, day by day, week by week, month by month, wonderful things begin to happen. It all adds up to the life you've been wanting to be living.
Let's have a great year in 2015 with an even better one to follow!
Posted on December 21, 2014 | Permalink
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Beginning in one week, on this December’s rare one-day Discardia, I’ll begin tweeting 'Discardian Strategies' for a year. That's a tip or useful question each day from @Discardia all through 2015.
I'm looking forward to hearing what they inspire!
Posted on December 14, 2014 | Permalink
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