I am pretty fascinated with productivity, data analysis, and habit building. That puts me in very good company. In fact, I’m feeling like I should be more successful, what with all my habits. Original post:
It makes no sense.
Habitica is a productivity website/app for organizing based on role playing game software. Instead of a paper list of things to do which you cross off, with Habitica you create your to-do lists online, and when you click to check items off, you are rewarded with “points”. These points build up until you achieve the next “level”. Also, as you meet your real-life goals, you collect “money”, “pets”, and “food” to feed your pets. Feeding the pets is not mandatory, like a Tamagotchi (thankfully). The money buys accessories to jazz up your avatar.
Let me be clear – the points, levels, pets, and food are all completely virtual. Imaginary. Very low-fi pixellated graphics, at that. The to-do lists you create are real – your own real life.
Totally meaningless “points” and pixellated tiny “pets”, yet somehow this is meaningful enough affirmative feedback to make a difference? Yes. Yes it is.
It makes no sense, but it works.
I got into Habitica hesitantly; an Icelandic blogger mentioned it, and I thought “why not”. Coincidentally, I then read the popular and amazing book by Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit. The insights about how our brains, memory, and reward mechanisms function explain to me why Habitica works, so damn well.
The Power of Habit explains why Habitica works
There’s limited satisfaction in checking off or crossing off a to-do list item on paper. One “should” feel satisfaction and accomplishment for having moved one step further towards the life one wants to live, right? Our brains don’t work like that though. The future big payoff is meaningless. The very small incremental difference of checking off the same thing on Habitica, for an imaginary and slightly ludicrous reward? Well, that makes the brain sing. Sometimes you’re tired, and you just can’t summon up the big picture in the context of which your tiny accomplishment today is in service of. Click for points? Satisfaction. I’ll do it again tomorrow, and all the other tomorrows, until it’s a habit. Automatic.
The key is there is a reward. Something just external enough to go beyond your own mental pat on the back, and it doesn’t matter that the “reward” is completely imaginary.
There is so much in The Power of Habit, possibly the best book I read in 2016, that if you care about self-improvement and want to become more effective, just read it. Forming habits takes work, willpower, and requires reward. The brain wants to form habits all the time, because once an act is habitual, it takes less mental effort. The hard part is directing the show, to form the habits that you want to have, that will lead to a more successful, fulfilling life. The point is to automate the actions that you wish to repeat. Habits that you want to have won’t form without intentionality. Enter Habitica, intentionality in three columns.
Habitica’s basic format (the Tasks page) is well-designed and adaptable. The three columns are: Habits (that you wish to build to increase points, or bad habits that will reduce your points- who would put those?), Dailies (if you fail to complete, your “life force” suffers), and To-Dos (projects and one-offs to tick off). You can organize your lists with tags and headers, indicate the difficulty of each item, and set schedules or deadlines. You can break tasks down to checklists, fiddle with the font size and categories (tags). Continue reading Habitica has changed my life.